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Soccer has, as long as anyone can remember, served as a form of ritual combat onto which neighborhoods, tribes and even nations could project their most passionate enmities.
    -ESSAY: Soccer's New Wars: How globalization of the game challenges the tribalism that helps make it the world's most popular sport (Tony Karon, July 15, 2004, TIME)


Suppose, for a moment, you were a rather decent young man of the American Left and a fanatic soccer fan--I know, I know, but we're just pretending here--who one day had an epiphany that revealed to you that whatever the merits of "the beautiful game" on the field, in practice it is essentially evil. Now, suppose that despite your realization you still wanted to try and convince your fellow citizens that they should care about soccer and not dismiss it out of hand. You're stuck aren't you? If you write up your thesis honestly it tends to mitigate against your own purposes. Well, that's the dilemma that New Republic editor Franklin Foer found himself butting up against and while he conspicuously fails to resolve it satisfactorily, he's nonetheless written a useful and readable primer on the culture and geopolitics of soccer.

Unless I missed it, Mr. Foer never comes right out and states his "unlikely theory of globalization," which would not be surprising because we can state it thus: the passions that surround soccer and the social/political dynamics upon which it depends are the very ones that are most resistant to the ameliorative tendencies of globalization. As Mr. Foer characterizes globalization it is the idea that "once a society becomes economically advanced, it would become politically advanced--liberal, tolerant, democratic." We might more narrowly describe this process as Anglo-Americanization or the End of History, whereby the moral weight and real world success of our own Foundational principles is rapidly forcing every nation in the world towards liberal democracy (parliamentarianism), protestantism (religious pluralism), and capitalism (free markets). In a series of chapters -- each of which takes the form of a discrete essay on the soccer culture in one locale: Serbia; Glasgow; Vienna; Chelsea; Brazil; Ukraine; Milan; Barcelona; Tehran; and America -- he describes how central racism, ethnic hatred, anti-Semitism, hooliganism, and corruption are to the sport. Soccer makes use of these pathologies just as those who oppose globalization do and, while it may seem difficult to understand why they remain so strong, especially when globalization is so benign, Mr. Foer sums up the attraction in his discussion of Glasgow's soccer scene: "The city has kept alive its soccer tribalism, despite the logic of history, because it provides the city with a kind of pornographic pleasure." It goes without saying that there's significant internal incoherence to a book that is ultimately reduced to arguing that Americans are depriving themselves by not partaking of this un-American/anti-American pornographic pleasure. Though he does so accidentally, Mr. Foer ends up explaining just why we hate the game so much and why we're quite right to do so.


(Reviewed:)

Grade: (B)

  

Websites:

Franklin Foer Links:

    -EDITOR: Franklin Foer (New Republic)
    -Franklin Foer (Wikipedia)
    -BLOG: Goal Post (Franklin Foer and friends on the 2006 World Cup)
    -BOOK SITE: How Soccer Explains the World (Harper Collins)
    -ESSAY: Homage to Catalonia: When Europe's top teams clashed, an American fan confronted a painful choice (Franklin Foer, May 29, 2006, TIME)
    -ESSAY: Soccer vs. McWorld: The world's favorite game is actually a buffer against globalization (Franklin Foer, January 22, 2004, Foreignpolicy.com)
    -ESSAY: Gloooooooooo—balism! (Franklin Foer, Feb. 12, 2001, Slate)
    -ESSAY: The Talented Mr. Chávez: A Castro-loving, Bolivar-worshipping, onetime baseball-player wannabe, Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez is perhaps the world’s most openly anti-American head of state. With Latin America in the midst of a leftward swing, how dangerous is he? (Franklin Foer, May 2006, Atlantic Monthly)
    -ESSAY: Goal Oriented (Franklin Foer, 07.02.04, New Republic)
    -ESSAY: Should the Democrats Draft a General? (Franklin Foer, July 12, 2003, Washington Post)
    -ESSAY: Bye, Bye, Becks: Why England's soccer god got shipped out. (Franklin Foer, June 18, 2003, Slate)
    -ESSAY: The Joy of Federalism (Franklin Foer, March 6, 2005, NY Times)
    -ESSAY: Susan Superstar: How Susan Sontag became seduced by her own persona (Franklin Foer, January 14, 2005, New York Magazine)
    -ESSAY: Once Again, America First (Franklin Foer, October 10, 2004, NY Times)
    -ESSAY: Missionary Impossible: Hey, yuppie heathens— are you ready to be saved? Then meet Pastor Scott Rourk, who’s come up from Georgia to troll for your soul (Franklin Foer, October 18, 2004, New York Magazine)
    -ESSAY: The Source of the Trouble: Pulitzer Prize winner Judith Miller’s series of exclusives about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq—courtesy of the now-notorious Ahmad Chalabi—helped the New York Times keep up with the competition and the Bush administration bolster the case for war. How the very same talents that caused her to get the story also caused her to get it wrong. (Franklin Foer, June 7, 2004, New York Magazine)
    -ESSAY: The Goals of Globalization (Franklin Foer, December 2005, Review of International Political Economy)
    -ESSAY: CNN's Access of Evil: The network of record covered Saddam's repression with propaganda (Franklin Foer, April 14, 2003, Opinion Journal)
    -Economic Sanctions (Franklin Foer, Sept. 14, 1996, Slate)
    -BOOK CLUB: Bernard-Henri Lévy's American Vertigo (Alan Wolfe & Franklin Foer, Slate)
    -ESSAY: Slobodan Milosevic (Franklin Foer, Oct. 7, 1998, Slate)
    -ESSAY: Allergies (Franklin Foer, May 3, 1998, Slate)
    -REVIEW: of A TIME FOR CHOOSING: The Rise of Modern American Conservatism by Jonathan Schoenwald (Franklin Foer, Washington Monthly)
    -REVIEW: of Smart Jews: The Construction of the Image of Jewish Superior Intelligence. By Sander Gilman. (Franklin Foer, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)
   
-REVIEW: of
   
-REVIEW: of Gang of Five: Leaders at the Center of the Conservative Crusade By Nina J. Easton (Franklin Foer, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of GLASS HOUSES: Congressional Ethics and the Politics of Venom By Susan J. Tolchin and Martin Tolchin (Franklin Foer, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of WORSE THAN WATERGATE: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush By John W. Dean (Franklin Foer, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of RAMMER JAMMER YELLOW HAMMER: A Journey Into the Heart of Fan Mania By Warren St. John (Franklin Foer, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of DIVIDED BY GOD: America's Church-State Problem -- and What We Should Do About It By Noah Feldman (Franklin Foer, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of TO HATE LIKE THIS IS TO BE HAPPY FOREVER: A Thoroughly Obsessive, Intermittently Uplifting, and Occasionally Unbiased Account of the Duke-North Carolina Basketball Rivalry By Will Blythe (Franklin Foer, NY Times Book Review)
    -ARCHIVES: foer (Slate)
    -ARCHIVES: Franklin Foer (New York Magazine)
    -ARCHIVES: Franklin Foer (Slate)
    -ARCHIVES: "Franklin Foer" (Find Articles)
    -ARCHIVES: "franklin foer" (MagPortal)
    -AUDIO INTERVIEW: Darfur, Front and Center, in 'The New Republic' (All Things Considered, May 12, 2006)
    -AUDIO INTERVIEW: Soccer as Globalization: Franklin Foer—Author (Worldview, April 20, 2005, Chicago Public Radio)
    -INTERVIEW: Franklin Foer on the Blogosphere's War on the Media (Paul McLeary, 1/06/06, CJR Daily)
    -INTERVIEW: DCist Interview: Franklin Foer<>/a> (DCist, 3/28/06)
   
-AUDIO INTERVIEW: Glooooooobalization! (On Point Radio, July 01, 2004)
    -INTERVIEW: How Soccer Explains the World: An interview with Franklin Foer (Interviewed By Bradford Plumer, August 4, 2004, Mother Jones)
MJ.com: What do you think it is about soccer that makes it such a natural forum for political and social conflicts to play out?

FF: Compare European soccer with American sporting teams. Our teams represent such broad geographic areas, and don't really represent anything local. What truly differentiates a Yankees from a Mets fan? I'm not sure. But in Buenos Aires, everyone knows what separates a Boca Juniors fan from a River Plate fan -- there's a stark difference in class. Buenos Aires has something like eight different teams, so each team represents a distinct neighborhood, and when you represent something that local, you're representing very particular identities -- class, ethnicity.

    -INTERVIEW: Soccerworld: Franklin Foer, the author of How Soccer Explains the World, on what soccer has to tell us about globalization, identity politics, and the future of baseball (Atlantic Unbound, July 7, 2004)
    -ARTICLE: Franklin Foer Is Named Top Editor of New Republic (DAVID CARR, February 28, 2006, NY Times)
    -PROFILE: Brainy Young Things: At America’s highbrow magazines, the torch has been passed to a new generation of Baby Remnicks (Carl Swanson, April 10, 2006, New York Magazine)
    -REVIEW ARCHIVES: for How Soccer Explains the World : An Unlikely Theory of Globalization by Franklin Foer (MetaCritic)
    -REVIEW: of How Soccer Explains the World (Edward Rothstein, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of How Soccer Explains the World (Joe Queenan, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of How Soccer Explains the World (Kevin Holtsberry, BlogCritics)
    -REVIEW: of How Soccer Explains the World (Allen Guttmann, Boston Globe)
    -REVIEW: of How Soccer Explains the World (Michael Young, Reason)
    -REVIEW: of How Soccer Explains the World (Benjamin Wallace-Wells, Washington Monthly)
    -REVIEW: of How Soccer Explains the World (David Goldblatt, Independent uk)
    -REVIEW: of How Soccer Explains the World (Tony Karon, TIME)
    -REVIEW: of How Soccer Explains the World (Roger Holland, PopMatters)
    -REVIEW: of How Soccer Explains the World (Josh Lacey , The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of How Soccer Explains the World (Michael Agger, Mother Jones)
    -REVIEW: of How Soccer Explains the World (Gary Singh, MetroActive)
    -REVIEW: of How Soccer Explains the World (Ian Syson, The Age)
    -REVIEW: of How Soccer Explains the World (Jay R. Mandle, Washington Post)
    -REVIEW: of How Soccer Explains the World (df in Deutscheland)
    -REVIEW: of How Soccer Explains the World (Daniel Gross, Slate)
    -REVIEW: of How Soccer Explains the World (Jesse Berrett, SF Chronicle)
    -REVIEW: of How Soccer Explains the World (Nicholas Thompson, NY Sun)

Book-related and General Links:

    -ESSAY: Soccer's World Cup helps keep peace � or does it?: The sport's biggest event incites bellicose emotion, too (DANIEL W. DREZNER, 6/08/06, Houston Chronicle)
    -EXCERPT: from NATIONAL PASTIME: How Americans Play Baseball and the Rest of the World Plays Soccer By Stefan Szymanski and Andrew Zimbalist
    -REVIEW: of NATIONAL PASTIME: How Americans Play Baseball and the Rest of the World Plays Soccer By Stefan Szymanski and Andrew Zimbalist (NY Times Book Review)
    -ESSAY: Soccer's New Wars: How globalization of the game challenges the tribalism that helps make it the world's most popular sport (Tony Karon, Jul. 15, 2004, TIME)
    -ESSAY: Soccer sociology: Writers have used soccer as the key to understanding everything from Thatcherite England to Dutch design sense to the sweep of globalization. But if soccer explains the world, does it matter that Americans don't understand soccer? (Eric Weinberger, June 27, 2004, Boston Globe)
    -ESSAY: The Capitalism of Soccer: Why Europe's favorite sport is more American than baseball. (Daniel Gross, June 30, 2004, Slate)
    -REVIEW ESSAY: Soccer Hijacked by Pinheads Coasting on World Cup Fever: a review of The Thinking Fan�s Guide to the World Cup, edited by Matt Weiland and Sean Wilsey (Michael J. Agovino, NY Observer)
    -ESSAY: Rooney's foot? Our World Cup may be ruined by class war and GCSEs (Daniel Finkelstein, 6/07/06, Times of London)
    -ESSAY: Why Do Some Sports Seem So Foreign?: Is a Sport's Popularity Tied to Culture or Just a Matter of Chance and Evolution? (MICHAEL S. JAMES, April 4, 2005, ABC News)
    -ARTICLE: Soccer as part of globalization (Reena Vadehra, 6/30/04, United Press International)
    -ARCHIVES: Soccer (Mag Portal)

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