Jim's Reviews > How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization

How Soccer Explains the World by Franklin Foer
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's review
Apr 07, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: footballers, non-fiction
Recommended for: anyone who knows that it is really called football
Read in April, 2007

First of all, it's played with the feet, but I'll call it "soccer" even though it pains me to do so. Like the author, I too am a soccer geek and a mediocre player. (I was a much better coach.)

The title promises more than the book delivers, but titles are often the work of publishers' promotion departments. (It's a minor quibble.) The book does a good job of showing how soccer is intertwined with issues of ethnic and sectarian identity, class conflict, politics and culture. It does this in a light, entertaining way, giving out facts in small doses.

One of my favorite parts of the book was where Foer tried to explain why Americans hate soccer. I think that it's true that most American sports fans see it as low-scoring and boring, a game for little kids and women and yuppies, where competition is deemed "bad" and everyone gets trophies. First of all, two words: pitchers' duel. Second, what's wrong with kids playing sports they actually enjoy? Third, what are you, a bunch of misogynists? Fourth, yuppies? Have you been to an NBA game lately? As for the "everyone is a winner" mentality, that has less to do with soccer and more to do with American society. I think the larger reason that Americans tend to dislike soccer has to do with American attitudes toward the world. We expect the world to like what we like and do what we do, and it disturbs us when they have their own ideas. Some Americans don't like soccer for the same reason that P.J. O'Rourke says Americans don't like foreign policy: because Americans don't like foreigners.

If you hate soccer, this book probably won't change your mind. If you do like soccer, you'll probably like the book. Although soccer may not explain globalization, the way a group of people relate to the sport can illustrate how they relate to the world.
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11/18/2016 marked as: read

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