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I Don't Care About the World Cup!
Do you know where you are going to be for most of this coming month?
Most people around the globe do. They are going to be in front of their television sets (even if they have to hike a few miles to a neighboring village) to watch the quadrennial sports extravaganza that dwarfs the Olympics in international interest, not to mention our piddling Super Bowl or baseball's World Series (neither of which interest the rest of the world).
From Tel Aviv to Timbuktu, football (we call it soccer) fans are ready for the World Cup that kicks off later this week in Germany. But despite the earnest attempts of many in the mainstream media to get us to care about it, most Americans don't.
Are we wrong? No.
Yes, I know, soccer is a great game and it seems as if more American kids are running around fields making futile efforts to play it than those honing their skills in our national pastime of baseball.
Nationalism + Sports = Insanity
Given the relentless plugging this event is receiving in the American media, I wonder if the majority of us who could care less about the World Cup are starting to feel a little bit guilty about it.
Don't. Contrary to the trendy talk put about by many in our chattering classes, ignoring soccer is not a typical example of American chauvinism. Disliking the World Cup is, in fact, not an indication of our small-mindedness but of our humanism. It is also the Zionist thing to do.
Though many of us can't seem to get enough of the toxic mix of jingo patriotism and sports fanaticism, hasn't anybody noticed yet that this isn't a healthy thing?
As crazy as team sports can get, there is a difference between the lunacy that matchups between heated baseball rivals like, say, the Red Sox and the Yankees, breeds in supporters of those teams (I plead guilty to being a dyed-in-the-wool, lifelong Yankees fan), and the more dangerous lunacy that infects supporters of different countries.
Red Sox fans may consider themselves a "nation" which members of the multi-generational tribe of Yankee fans regard with contempt, but there isn't any chance the cities of New York and Boston will ever go to war with each other as two Latin American nations once did over a soccer game.
It's true that the mythic power of sport is undeniable. But using athletes as surrogates for political causes - however just those causes might be - is also profoundly stupid.
Take the "miracle on ice," when an underdog bunch of American college ice hockey players defeated the mighty professionals of the Soviet Union in the 1980 Winter Olympics. As a hockey fan, I was thrilled by it. But the widely believed notion that it helped win the Cold War is sheer hyperbole.
After all, the Soviet players were just athletes in red uniforms, not KGB agents or off-duty Gulag prison guards being bested by all-American G.I. Joes. The outcome had nothing to do with the triumph of American values, much as it may flatter us to think so, any more than the numerous defeats inflicted on us at other times by that great Soviet team portrayed the superiority of the totalitarian ideology of their masters in the Kremlin.
In the same vein, fans of international team sports point to the 1936 Berlin Olympics and the victories of African-American track hero Jesse Owens and the supposed humiliation he inflicted on Adolf Hitler as proof of the redemptive power of sport.
But allowing the Olympics to be staged in Berlin was the greatest boost Hitler could have gotten from the world. It legitimized the Nazi tyranny in ways that no diplomatic triumph did. The same will apply to the communist regime in China in 2008 when the Olympics are held in Beijing.
And as much as Americans were right to take pride in Owens' achievements, those who look closely at the story of the U.S. team in Berlin know that the fourth of Owens' golds came at the expense of Marty Glickman, a Jewish athlete, who was bumped off the team at the last minute as the result of the machinations of Avery Brundage, the anti-Semitic head of the U.S. Olympic committee (who would, 36 years later, earn further infamy with his decision to treat the Munich massacre of Israeli athletes as nothing more than a commercial break.)
One specifically Jewish reason to ignore the World Cup is the way international soccer treats the State of Israel.
Though Israelis are as fanatically interested in the outcome of this tournament as any other non-American population, the federation that governs the cup is as anti-Zionist as the United Nations.
Discrimination Against Israel
The composition of the 32-team tournament varies every four years based on a competition in which national teams contend against others in their region for the precious cup berths.
But Israel never gets in because it is not allowed to compete against other teams in the Middle East. Arab nations won't play them. But rather than disqualify the Arab teams via forfeit, the lords of soccer force the Israelis to compete in the European section of the draw where they are invariably outgunned by the great soccer powers of France, Italy, Spain and Germany.
Thus, the talented Israelis will be home watching the games on TV this month while their counterparts from Saudi Arabia and Iran will be in Germany.
It should also be noted in passing that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will be in Nuremberg, of all places, to root on his team. Any analogies between the free publicity given this Jew-hating Holocaust denier and Hitler's poses in Berlin will be right on target.
Finally, let us all pause and say a prayer for the survival of American exceptionalism - that our country and culture still remains distinct from all others - is never broken down by the forces of international diplomacy or sports.
The fact that America is different from the rest of the world - and our unique lack of interest in soccer is a symbol of this quality - is a source of some shame among many of our intellectuals, but I say we should be proud of it.
Despite those who launch brickbats at us to grind their own ideological axes, America remains the greatest bastion of freedom in the world and the least tainted by anti-Semitism.
We need no lessons in humanity from the 'football' jingoes of Europe or anywhere else. I firmly believe the day when soccer hooliganism is rampant in the United States will be the moment when Jews will no longer be safe here.
Most of all, the business of wrapping team sports in national flags is sheer humbug, whether it's done for soccer, basketball, hockey or even our own baseball, which was treated to its own nonsensical and out-of-season world tournament earlier this year.
Loving your country and standing up for its values has nothing to do with any sport. Keep the fan insanity where it belongs - with its focus on regional teams composed of players from anywhere in the world - and forget about mixing nationalism and sports logos.
Personally, I have no intention of missing a single inning of baseball in order to watch soccer. Join me. Ignoring the World Cup is the patriotic, as well as the decent, thing to do!