- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 22, 2010

New opiate

“Football offers its followers beauty, drama, conflict, liturgy, carnival and the odd spot of tragedy, not to mention a chance to travel to Africa and back while permanently legless. Like some austere religious faith, the game determines what you wear, whom you associate with, what anthems you sing and what shrine of transcendent truth you worship at. Along with television, it is the supreme solution to that age-old dilemma of our political masters: what should we do with them when they’re not working?

“Over the centuries, popular carnival throughout Europe, while providing the common people with a safety valve for subversive feelings — defiling religious images and mocking their lords and masters — could be a genuinely anarchic affair, a foretaste of a classless society.

“With football, by contrast, there can be outbreaks of angry populism, as supporters revolt against the corporate fat cats who muscle in on their clubs; but for the most part football these days is the opium of the people, not to speak of their crack cocaine. Its icon is the impeccably Tory, slavishly conformist Beckham. The Reds are no longer the Bolsheviks. Nobody serious about political change can shirk the fact that the game has to be abolished. And any political outfit that tried it on would have about as much chance of power as the chief executive of BP has in taking over from Oprah Winfrey.”

Terry Eagleton, writing on “Football: a dear friend to capitalism,” on June 15 at the Guardian

Go, Argentina!

“For the majority of Leo Messi’s 22 years on this mortal coil, Oasis have been peddling their fine combination of Beatles homages and brotherly hatred across the world. Yet the young Argentine had somehow managed to evade their entire back catalogue right up until this World Cup campaign, when teammate and Manchester resident Carlos Tevez introduced him to his favourite band. Now, the Barcelona star is hooked. …

“Alas, the tumultuous beat combo split for good last year, when Noel Gallagher grew tired of his brother Liam’s thoroughly abhorrent personality. Yet the fact that Oasis have ceased to function doesn’t appear to be an obstacle for [the] FIFA World Player of the Year and his teammates, who have vowed to get them back together — at any cost — if the Albiceleste win the World Cup: ‘We have agreed that if we win the World Cup we want to fly them over to Argentina for our celebration party. We just need them to name their price.’

“Without the touring revenue upon which they have always relied to support their lifestyles, the Gallaghers could be sorely tempted to heal their differences (and forget the intrinsic dislike for Argentinians that most Brits possess) for a big fat suitcase full of Pesos.”

Ryan Bailey, writing on “Leo Messi could reunite Oasis for World Cup victory party” on June 22 at the Yahoo Sports blog Dirty Tackle

Not rolling in it

“As Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski noted in last years’ excellent book, ‘Soccernomics,’ ‘the raising and dashing of hopes of an “economic bonanza” [has] become as integral a part of a modern soccer tournament as the raising and dashing of hopes that England will win it.’

“Recent dispatches from South Africa (coupled with the dismal play of Wayne Rooney) have conformed to the pattern the authors identified. A stadium built over local opposition on land appropriated from a school is struggling to reach capacity. Fans who can’t afford to watch inside the stadium are unable to see the games in the townships because the power has been shut off. Wage disputes have led to violent protests with stadium security guards and threaten to cripple the national electric utility in the midst of the tournament. Local businesses attempting to cash in on the World Cup fever have been shut out or even sued by FIFA. …

“Potentially even more damaging than the heavy opportunity cost of such expenditures is the low-reward/high-risk wager involved in making one’s nation the world’s playing field. … Some hosts have been burned by dramatic events that were mostly beyond their control (see: the Summer Olympics in Munich and Atlanta). A serious incident off the field could set South African tourism back for years.”

Corbin Hiar, writing on “Bafana Bafana Is Out. Will South Africa at Least Make Some Money?” on June 22 at the New Republic blog Goal Post



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