FanDuel - WFBC

October 02, 2008

How Football Explains America.: Or doesn't. Patriots with high blood pressure please avoid.

posted by owlhouse to football at 03:50 AM - 16 comments

"How Soccer Explains the World" is a VERY good book. I would say it's the best sports book I've ever read, but soccer is just it's jumping off point into larger political issues.

posted by Drood at 04:40 AM on October 02

"Go ahead, you try going to a rugby game and writing about it. Soccer? Ninety minutes of whatever and then maybe one goal scored by accident. Tough to create a coherent narrative out of that."

Any sports writer who can say that and actually believe it is clearly far too stupid for me to bother reading.

posted by salmacis at 05:59 AM on October 02

Scathing article by Wells, although it comes off as if his feelings were hurt because Paolantonio doesn't care for soccer. Axe grinding and all that.

posted by curlyelk at 09:11 AM on October 02

America is the greatest country in the world therefore the things that make America great must be uniquely or especially American. And the things that are uniquely or especially American must therefore be great.

I love this logic base. It reminds me of the "She's a witch! Burn her." logic used in the Monty Python Films. Thanks for the warning, Owlhouse.

posted by BoKnows at 12:37 PM on October 02

Well, Bo, you do know that if a woman burns then she must be made of wood which, of course, can float, much in the same manner as a duck. Therefore.......

Beelzichic!

On another note, I would like to extend an apology to the rest of the world for Sal Paolantonio. Obviously the man is a boob. But, really, isn't this the sort of thing that the world has come to love about us Amurcans? We're a bit like your drunken younger brother who is good in a fight and you just can't for the life of you figure out how we can keep landing on our feet.

Football's cool! Hell yeah!

posted by THX-1138 at 02:33 PM on October 02

Haven't read this book (yet), but have read How Soccer Explains the World by Foer. All I can say at this point then is that if the Paolantonio book is as poorly written as the review, then YIKES!?!?

posted by Spitztengle at 02:46 PM on October 02

Curly: I don't think he was offended by Sal hating soccer. I think he was offended by it being such a shitty book.

I liked one of the comments, in regards to the statement of sport being like war. HOW IS THIS A GOOD THING?

posted by Drood at 11:28 PM on October 02

***Owlhouse: "Patriots with high blood pressure please avoid."***

Haha. I initially misread that as "Patriots fans with high blood pressure please avoid."

***curlyelk: "Scathing article by Wells, although it comes off as if his feelings were hurt because Paolantonio doesn't care for soccer. Axe grinding and all that."***

Ah, no. You are way, way wide of the mark there. Nowhere did I get the impression that "his feelings were hurt" because Paolantonio doesn't care for soccer. Did you actually read the article? He wrote a scathing article because Paolantonio is a jingoistic moron who disgraces the name of sports journalist by writing crap like this:

***"Go ahead, you try going to a rugby game and writing about it. Soccer? Ninety minutes of whatever and then maybe one goal scored by accident. Tough to create a coherent narrative out of that."***

This is the kind of ignorant comment I expect to see on anonymous internet message boards, not written by someone who writes about sports for a living. Seriously. The above comment is an open confession of ignorance and inability to do one's job, ie, to actually learn about the subject that one is writing about, which is what all journalists are supposed to do. For some reason, many American sports journalists think that they are exempted from this rule for reasons of "American sports patriotism", ie, stupid xenophobic jingoism. They consider it an unwritten rule of their job that they are not required to learn about something new, ever, especially if it is "foreign".

Read this carefully, and google "fourth generation warfare" if you are not familiar with the concept (I recommend William Lind's writings on the subject, which are easily available online; "The War Nerd" is also a fun read albeit the War Nerd doesn't use "fourth generation warfare" terminology). Read this and you will understand how the political and military equivalents of Paolantonio got us into the mess we are in now in Iraq, ie, Paolantonio is the sports journalist equivalent of neo-con idiots like Victor Hansen or Max Boot, who think they are "experts" but in fact are only good at twisting a bad analogy to support their ingrained prejudices:

***It gets worse. Paolantonio is the sports journalism equivalent of the saloon bar patriot who doesn't actually own a passport.

His errors are legion. He compares American football to the hoplite tactics of the ancient Greeks, and soccer to the Persian cavalry armies the Greeks defeated. In fact American football is more like the territory-hogging "linear second-generation" warfare of WWI; while fluid, flowing soccer is akin to the "non-linear fourth-generation" guerilla warfare US forces faced in Vietnam and Iraq (which is why anybody with a brain in the Pentagon is urging that US soldiers think more like soccer players and less like American footballers, meaning that American football explains nothing about modern warfare except how to lose at it).***

Absolutely f_cking spot-on. No doubt Paolantonio is one of those idiots who think that "the surge worked" and that we are "winning in Iraq". And if you believe that, my friend, I have some real estate I'd like to sell you.

posted by dave2007 at 09:05 AM on October 06

Ah, yes dave, I did read the article. Unfortunately, I have read several articles from Wells and they all seem to have the same piss and vinegar quality. Perhaps I just automatically read his work as whiny complaining rather than the exemplary journalism you seem to think it.

posted by curlyelk at 04:09 PM on October 06

Dave, I do think the surge is working, and so does my brother. Why bring my brother into it??? He just re-enlisted and stayed in Iraq to finish the job. He reports progress on a daily basis.

BTW, he's a full fledged Democrat by nature...I generally forgive him for that flaw in character.

I also felt the piss and vinegar quality of Wells' writing, seems to take Paolantonio's views rather personally. Soccer fans seem to always do that when anyone suggests that American football is better in any way. I've played both, both have their attributes, however, I got bored playing in 1-0 games, so I'd have to think it might be hard to write a narrative of it. That could be me.

Now, as to this real estate you have to sell, no doubt in a area depressed due to too many fools taking out million dollar mortgages on 2500 sq. ft. homes...I'll be in a buying mode soon. Keep me posted.

posted by dviking at 01:13 AM on October 07

....sorry to have gone offtopic, however...

dviking,

The "surge" isn't working because the political goals that Bush said were supposed to be achieved have NOT been achieved (ie a stable Iraqi government that actually has legitimacy in the eyes of all Iraqis and that has sovereign power and isn't propped up artificially by US troops), and these goals are no closer to being achieved now than they were before the "surge".

What Bush has done is change the definition of "winning"; ie he's moved the goalposts again. He's made people forget what the surge was suppose to have achieved, and substituted a temporary dip in deaths/fighting, instead, as "winning". And people like you are getting fooled AGAIN. All Bush has done is punted so that the poor fools who have to take over his mess after he's gone (ie starting with the next president) will have to take the blame instead of Bush.

The "surge" wasn't supposed to just reduce deaths, it was supposed to produce a political settlement that will allow us to pull troops out. Where's the political settlement? Where's the troops pullout? That's right: nowhere to be found. That's because the "surge" was actually intended to fool the dumb-f_ck American voters, it was never intended to result in a pullout of US troops from Iraq. McCain knows: we'll be there another 100 years "if necessary".

And the reduction in deaths is hugely misleading, too, and had nothing to do with the "surge". It started BEFORE the surge when Sunnis began to turn against "Al Qaeda in Iraq" (which despite its name has nothing to do with Al Qaeda), and when the USA began to PAY, ie, to bribe, the Sunnis not to fight us. Amazing! We pay them off, fighting goes down. What did that have to do with the "surge"? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.

The situation in Baghdad was similarly deceptive. Fighting/deaths went down because there was no one left for the sectarians to kill. Mixed neighborhoods ceased to exist as Sunnis were chased out of Baghdad. Now that the Sunnis and Shia live in segregated communities, there are fewer opportunities for the two communities to kill each other, and so deaths went down. What did this have to do with "the surge"? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.

Was the goal of the "surge" to put official seal of approval on ethnic cleansing in Iraq? If so, Mission Accomplished. Was the goal of the "surge" to pay off and arm Sunni militias and thus set up a future civil war between Sunnis in the West of Iraq and the Shia government in Baghdad? If so, Mission Accomplished. Was the goal of he "surge" to make the media stop talking about Iraq? If so, Mission Accomplished.

Are levels of deaths, fighting, terrorism, etc, down? Sure, but they had to go down eventually. It could have not continued upwards forever. The point is, they aren't down all that much, and they are nowhere near close to being anywhere near as far down as they were before we invaded Iraq. Iraq is still "broken".

I'm sorry about your brother, but his job is to follow orders, not think. He doesn't know the big picture and unless he speaks Arabic and makes a real effort to know what is going on, he will be the absolute worst source of information about the real situation in Iraq.

I suggest you try informing yourself from sources who try to see the bigger picture; here's one:

www.juancole.com

posted by dave2007 at 02:17 AM on October 08

I guess ethnic cleansing is okay when it serves the short term political interests of the President:

http://www.juancole.com/2008/ 07/social-history-of- surge.html

The problem with this debate is that it has few Iraqis in it.

It is also open to charges of logical fallacy. The only evidence presented for the thesis that the "surge" "worked" is that Iraqi deaths from political violence have declined in recent months from all-time highs in the second half of 2006 and the first half of 2007. (That apocalyptic violence was set off by the bombing of the Askariya shrine in Samarra in February of 2006, which helped provoke a Sunni-Shiite civil war.) What few political achievements are attributed to the troop escalation are too laughable to command real respect.

Proponents are awfully hard to pin down on what the "surge" consisted of or when it began. It seems to me to refer to the troop escalation that began in February, 2007. But now the technique of bribing Sunni Arab former insurgents to fight radical Sunni vigilantes is being rolled into the "surge" by politicians such as John McCain. But attempts to pay off the Sunnis to quiet down began months before the troop escalation and had a dramatic effect in al-Anbar Province long before any extra US troops were sent to al-Anbar (nor were very many extra troops ever sent there). I will disallow it. The "surge" is the troop escalation beginning winter of 2007. The bribing of insurgents to come into the cold could have been pursued without a significant troop escalation, and was.

Aside from defining what proponents mean by the "surge," all kinds of things are claimed for it that are not in evidence. The assertion depends on a possible logical fallacy: post hoc ergo propter hoc. If event X comes after event Y, it is natural to suspect that Y caused X. But it would often be a false assumption. Thus, actress Sharon Stone alleged that the recent earthquake in China was caused by China's crackdown on Tibetan protesters. That is just superstition, and callous superstition at that. It is a good illustration, however, of the very logical fallacy to which I am referring.

For the first six months of the troop escalation, high rates of violence continued unabated. That is suspicious. What exactly were US troops doing differently last September than they were doing in May, such that there was such a big change? The answer to that question is simply not clear. Note that the troop escalation only brought US force strength up to what it had been in late 2005. In a country of 27 million, 30,000 extra US troops are highly unlikely to have had a really major impact, when they had not before.

As best I can piece it together, what actually seems to have happened was that the escalation troops began by disarming the Sunni Arabs in Baghdad. Once these Sunnis were left helpless, the Shiite militias came in at night and ethnically cleansed them. Shaab district near Adhamiya had been a mixed neighborhood. It ended up with almost no Sunnis. Baghdad in the course of 2007 went from 65% Shiite to at least 75% Shiite and maybe more. My thesis would be that the US inadvertently allowed the chasing of hundreds of thousands of Sunni Arabs out of Baghdad (and many of them had to go all the way to Syria for refuge). Rates of violence declined once the ethnic cleansing was far advanced, just because there were fewer mixed neighborhoods. Newsrack was among the first to make this argument, though I was tracking the ethnic cleansing at my blog throughout 2007. See also Karen DeYoung of the Washington Post on this issue.

posted by dave2007 at 02:23 AM on October 08

"I also felt the piss and vinegar quality of Wells' writing, seems to take Paolantonio's views rather personally. Soccer fans seem to always do that when anyone suggests that American football is better in any way."

Maybe he thinks American sports jingos are just obnoxious, ever thought of that?

Speaking for American soccer fans, let me let you: if you were constantly insulted - not just online, BUT TO YOUR FACE IN REAL LIFE - because you liked soccer; if ignorant trolls intruded into your conversations about soccer on a daily basis to mock and insult you because you like soccer, and if you've been putting up with this kind of CRAP for the past FORTY YEARS you'd be be taking-it-f_cking-personally- too!

This is typical bully behavior: constantly attack someone and then when your target responds in anger, throw up your hands and say "oh lawdy! I have no ah-deah why you ah taking this all so personally!" This act gets old really fast.

"I've played both, both have their attributes, however, I got bored playing in 1-0 games, so I'd have to think it might be hard to write a narrative of it. That could be me."

It's you. Thousands of writers have had no trouble writing narratives about soccer matches and they've been doing it for over a hundred years.

Look, you didn't grow up in a soccer-loving culture. Just because you played some soccer does not mean that you actually understand the game on any fundamental level. I've never met anyone who didn't love soccer who really had an intuitive grasp of the game from a fan's perspective. If you don't love it, you'll never make the effort to understand it, and you'll never be able to write about it intelligently.

What the soccer-bashers do is mistake their own cultural blinders and their own prejudices for some kind of universal TRUTH.

And that combination of ignorance and arrogance should piss off any thinking person.

posted by dave2007 at 02:48 AM on October 08

"Ah, yes dave, I did read the article. Unfortunately, I have read several articles from Wells and they all seem to have the same piss and vinegar quality. Perhaps I just automatically read his work as whiny complaining rather than the exemplary journalism you seem to think it."

curlyelk: Do you read British journalists much? This is fairly typical style. Some people like "piss and vinegar". Just because he is saying something you don't want to hear, and doing so in a manner you don't like, doesn't make him a "whiny complainer".

And I never claimed it was "exemplary journalism", however he makes good points and backs them up with rational thought, which compared to Paolantonio does indeed make him an "exemplary" journalist, relatively speaking.

posted by dave2007 at 02:56 AM on October 08

Dearest Dave, Several points and then I'll allow you to continue on your rant. 1) One, try to keep your politics out of this, it's a sports site. I only bit on your line of "No doubt Paolantonio is one of those idiots who think that "the surge worked" and that we are "winning in Iraq" because I thought you sounded like the type that would get all bound up over it.

2) Shut the fuck up about my brother, you are an ignorant fool as you have no idea what rank or position he holds. While I will not go into details, please understand that he gives more direction than he takes, and he deals with the Iraqis more than he deals with US troops.

3)As to your lengthy, somewhat redundant rant about soccer, just because I don't like 1-0 professional games does not mean I don't understand it. That is perhaps the most misguided statement I have heard on this site. I am very versed on soccer, having played it for years. I like the game quite a bit. Great exercise and teamwork building qualities to the game. I coached it for three years at the YMCA when my daughter was younger. On the walls of my business are 8 plaques from the teams that I have sponsored over the past 8 years. I hated playing in 1-0 games, can't stand to watch the sport on TV, and I only enjoy going to the pro level games because of the drinking and comradeship involved...that might be the other way around, not sure.

4. Thank you for proving my point. If an English soccer fan makes a statement about American football, I take it for what it's worth. A different point of view, and that's about it. I have never gotten all pissed off about it. If I mention anything even slightly derogatory about soccer, someone is going to get ugly. Remember, all I said is "I got bored playing in 1-0 games", and you got ugly. (for the record, I got bored playing in 7-0 American football games too)

You're now free to go back to reading your liberal publications, I've gotta go, Rush is coming on.

posted by dviking at 06:20 PM on October 08

Sorry, in reading my post I realize that #3 above is somewhat vague. Dave's statement that I'm referring to is Just because you played some soccer does not mean that you actually understand the game on any fundamental level. I've never met anyone who didn't love soccer who really had an intuitive grasp of the game from a fan's perspective

posted by dviking at 06:44 PM on October 08

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