Sunday, June 11, 2006

The World Cup Phenomenom, or the World and the U.S. Take a Break

World Cup star Fabio Cannavaro Normally the U.S. is distinguished from the rest of the World by the its superpower status. Ever four years, however, the international football federation* reminds us that there is a second point of separation--the World Cup. While football (soccer) fans from Bueno Aires to Marrakesh to Riyadh to Osaka go nuts, obsessing about their favorite teams, the U.S. glances over at the hullabaloo and shrugs. As comedian Denis Leary put it, from an American perspective, if you can't use your hands, it ain't really a sport.

Traditionally, this has been a source of regret for some Americans, who see participation in the World Cup as a way to connect with the rest of the world in a way that doesn't involve a) war, b) oil, or c) McDonalds. For a long time, I shared this opinion, even though I have never been a sports enthusiast. Lately though, with global tensions brought on the Iraq War (and the special combination of hubris and incompetence brought on by the Bush administration,) I have concluded that it is a good thing that the World Cup gives the world something to think about other than its grievances with America.

Understand, I'm not engaging in America bashing. I am acknowledging that whatever our intentions are towards our fellow man, our actions--both right and wrong--often cause us to be resented even by our allies. Thus, the American low profile at the World Cup, I think, is a good thing. It gives the rest of the planet some breathing room and an opportunity to blow off steam in a safe, constructive way (unless you are a soccer hooligan).

*I have no idea what the proper name of the football world organization is. After all, I'm an American. :)