Ann Coulter and the World Cup

Election years and World Cups bring out the stupid from Americans the way the summer rain brings out the smell of urine on Chicago Avenue.

In case you missed it Ann Coulter wrote an op-ed entitled "America's National Pastime: Hating Soccer." I'm pretty much going to quote the entire thing in my rebuttal here, so no need to click the link but it is provided so no one thinks I'm misquoting her.

I'll use pictures of Thea Gill, who played an Ann Coulter cypher in Joe Dante's ambitious failure of satire for Masters of Horror, "Homecoming," rather than actual pictures of the pundit.
I normally happily ignore Ann Coulter, the way I ignore similar Manson Girls like Bill Maher, Sean Hannity, whomever. I feel that you are attached to what you attack, and those who express endless outrage over Sarah Palin or Obama or The Tea Party or Fox News are actually enabling the very problem they claim to passionately oppose. It also leads to huge-ass blind spots. Anyway - that's the approach I try to take; when I see some "trending" item that is just a call to outrage, I am instantly skeptical and just try to remove it as fast as possible without thinking any more of it.

But, sometimes...

Before we begin, I had a stroll through Ann Coulter's (it feels weird referring to her as "Ann" or "Coulter" or even "Ms. Coulter" so I'll just use her full name each time) twitter to see if she's a confirmed soccer-hater or just exploiting the occasion of the World Cup to drive traffic to her site/ light straw men on fire. Seems to be the latter. 

I only went back to June 9th - admittedly not too far - but it was so unpleasant an experience I just had to stop. But before yesterday, her only soccer-related tweet was this:

Hardly all that confrontational. Let me make something clear here. Don't like soccer? No problem. Don't like the World Cup? Also no problem. But for some reason the very idea of soccer (and the audacity of the rest of the world - who invented it - to call it football) seems to make a certain demographic in this country very defensive. I'm not exactly sure why this is the case, but it's something I've noticed each time the Cup comes around. 

It's a perfect inversion of a bit from a Simpsons episode - most things trigger a Simpsons episode in my head - Season 3's "Mother Simpson." In a flashback sequence, we get this great moment from Abe Simpson:

(Homer's Mom) "Isn't Homer cute?"
(Abe) "Probably. I'm trying to watch the Super Bowl! If people don't support this thing, it might not make it."
Whenever I am confronted by this reactionary defensiveness I describe, I think of this. On one hand, we tend to take the NFL's popularity for granted, but on the other, at least some of the humor comes from the pointlessness of Abe's loyalty, here. The Super Bowl will endure with or without his support and certainly not at the expense of his family, etc. 

The World Cup is the biggest and greatest sporting tournament on planet Earth. And it will endure with or without the attention of anyone in America. Maybe this is the root of the anti-Cup reactionaries? Realization of their own ephemeral impact on the world? Or perhaps fear that the NFL will be taken away from them if they don't defend it as strenuously and myopically as abortion or gun rights activists defend their own lines in the sand? Who the fuck knows. Who the fuck cares. 

Oh, sorry in advance for any profanity. 

Anyway, after posting her column yesterday, she had some follow-up tweets. Here's the first:

Regarding the first, this is of course a reference to Luis Suarez's biting attack on Italian player Giorgio Chiellini. This was Suarez's third biting attack, and FIFA banned him for four months.

Ridiculous, that. Should be a lifetime ban with reinstatement/ appeal only after psych eval. How could anything else be acceptable? The backlash against the ban is rather shocking to see. Though not really. Here's a tweet from Duleep Allirajah in response to the first biting attack, who writes football for Spiked-Online and elsewhere:

So, as you can see, it's not just Ann Coulter; even those who write professionally about football are sometimes prone to clueless twaddle. Duleep has doubled (though I suppose it's tripled, now) down on this idiocy in a recent column. God help us.

Anyway - it's interesting that Ann Coulter sees Suarez's assault on Chiellini as "girly" and not "sociopathic."

As for her second tweet:

I have zero love for the IRS and think what's going on in this country with regards to it is absolutely shameful. But what does this even mean? I'll assume it's just satirical and move on, but the non-sequitur of it all deserves mention.

Let's get to her remarks.

"I've held off on writing about soccer for a decade -- or about the length of the average soccer game -- so as not to offend anyone. But enough is enough. Any growing interest in soccer can only be a sign of the nation's moral decay."

I guess we should establish up front that Ann Coulter views herself as a satirist, so employment of exaggeration or ridicule should be viewed through that lens. So I'm not particularly bothered by that last line, as I think she's attempting to be funny. But this "length of the average soccer game" business needs to be addressed once and for all, as I hear this talking point all too often from the anti-soccer reactionaries. 

See, soccer is played in two 45-minute halves with a few minutes added to each half. These are added (and forgive me for over-explaining it, but I also employ exaggeration pursuant to my goals) to compensate for any time wasted in the previous 45 minutes. These "stoppage time" minutes are a source of great confusion to anti-soccer reactionaries, but few things in any sport are more self-evident. See, the clock never stops in soccer. Similarly, there are no commercial interruptions in soccer. Combine these two facts and you have one of the only sporting events you can watch on tv or in person and, barring any Overtimes, know exactly when you will be done watching it. 

How is this so confusing to people? Even the New York Times is befuddled. Even allowing for the unfortunate per capita amount of idiots, morons, and imbeciles in this country - all of whom are allowed to vote, have credit cards, consume natural resources, and purchase firearms - this is baffling to me.

Let me put it another way. If the ref awards 5 minutes of stoppage time, you know roundabout 5 minutes later, the game will be over. When there's 5 minutes left of a football game, when there's half-an-inning left of baseball, when there's ten seconds left of a basketball game, or when there's a tiebreaker set in tennis, you might still be watching any of these things a half-hour or even an hour later. (Basketball, especially - I have seen the last minute of a basketball game last for a half hour.)

And you know what? Who cares how long any of these games last in comparison to one another? What works for one doesn't have to work for any other. That this even needs to be clarified is a source of bewilderment to me.

"(1) Individual achievement is not a big factor in soccer. In a real sport, players fumble passes, throw bricks and drop fly balls -- all in front of a crowd. When baseball players strike out, they're standing alone at the plate. But there's also individual glory in home runs, touchdowns and slam-dunks."

Yes, surely what is missing from soccer is individual achievement and individual glory.

You don't even have to watch that, though, to recognize how ridiculous an assertion it is. The implication is that in "real" sports, a player is personally responsible for his or her own greatness. Putting aside the idea of assists and the entire idea of team sports in general for a second, I can't believe someone is saying this in relation to soccer. Particularly the "all in front of a crowd" business. 

Thank God Arsenal's keeper doesn't need to worry about failing in front of all these people.

"In soccer, the blame is dispersed and almost no one scores anyway." 
This is as good a place as any to get this "almost no one scores anyway" business out of the way. First, as mentioned above, sports are not required to mirror all aspects of other sports. High-scoring games like basketball, for example, are not a sound basis for comparison to American football, where each touchdown is 6 points, or to tennis, where 4 15-point winners combine for a game victory, and 6 games combine for a set victory, and sets combine to win matches, etc. So, just on the face of it, it's a ridiculous complaint, but going a little further: as any baseball fan knows, a no-hitter/ shutout does not equal boring. It (usually) equals great pitching. So yes, there are some scoreless soccer matches that are boring, just as there are some low-scoring baseball games (or high-scoring basketball games) that are boring as hell. But one does not automatically equal the other. 

As for blame being dispersed, I don't even know what to say, Ann Coulter. Have you never looked at any post-match remarks? Dumb question - of course you haven't.

(I will be fluctuating between addressing Ann Coulter directly and speaking in the third person. Apologies for any confusion.)

"There are no heroes, no losers, no accountability, and no child's fragile self-esteem is bruised. There's a reason perpetually alarmed women are called "soccer moms," not "football moms." "

A-ha, I see your error, here. You are confusing the world's biggest sporting event with children's weekend soccer games here in the ol' USA. Easy mistake.

Not the Super Bowl. Hell, these guys aren't even in the NFL or NCAA.
Not the World Series. (These guys are actually from Edinburgh. That's Scotland, Ann Coulter, all the way over in Scotland, can you believe it? Playing baseball?)
And as astounding as it is this is not the Stanley Cup. I know! I was floored, myself.
There seems to be an implication that the "everyone's a winner" attitude for children's sports is actually harmful to children's self-esteem runs counter to the opinion of most children's psychologists, teachers, and parents. It turns them into soccer moms? Not football moms, or something? She's probably right. They probably can't even tell the difference between little league and the majors either.

"Do they even have MVPs in soccer? Everyone just runs up and down the field and, every once in a while, a ball accidentally goes in. That's when we're supposed to go wild. I'm already asleep. "

Yes, they actually do have MVPs in soccer. Every league and every tournament. Quite a lot of them. This is not privileged information. But if your point is could there even be a Most Valuable Player in a sport so devoid of individual achievement, even in satire, this is remarkably off the mark. It reminds me of a friend's anti-soccer comment from about 10 years ago, before he knew better: "The thing I don't like about it is that there are no formations." Actually: it's all formations.

"(2) Liberal moms like soccer because it's a sport in which athletic talent finds so little expression that girls can play with boys. No serious sport is co-ed, even at the kindergarten level. "

Again, you are confusing little league with the majors. I'm not so sure Mia Hamm in her prime couldn't have been a starter on any number of men's teams, but regardless, soccer is not co-ed. The Women's World Cup is held in a whole different year than the Men's World Cup. Still time to get a jersey for Canada '15.

(3) No other "sport" ends in as many scoreless ties as soccer. This was an actual marquee sign by the freeway in Long Beach, California, about a World Cup game last week: "2nd period, 11 minutes left, score: 0:0." Two hours later, another World Cup game was on the same screen: "1st period, 8 minutes left, score: 0:0." If Michael Jackson had treated his chronic insomnia with a tape of Argentina vs. Brazil instead of Propofol, he'd still be alive, although bored.

We've already covered this. But perhaps it bears repeating: how other sports conclude has absolutely no bearing on how soccer should conclude. You hear some variation of this every World Cup, as a friend pointed out yesterday: "Soccer won't catch on until [stupid rule change.]" Beyond the "catching on" aspect (i.e. soccer is pretty well-the-fuck-caught-on on Planet Earth) I don't think people talk about how utterly stupid this is enough. Allow me to demonstrate with other sports:

"No one is going to care about tennis until it's played on ice, like any real sport."

"Baseball would only be interesting if each run counted for 6 points." (Also acceptable: "If a baseball game is scoreless in the 9th inning, each team should automatically be awarded 10 runs; it's the only way anyone's going to be interested!")

"Until basketball nets are moved to thirty feet above the floor, I can't take it seriously."

Leaving aside the absurdity of such approaches, there's this presumption that making things "more American" is what soccer is missing to be "relevant." Only for brain-dead Americans, actually; the rest of us (and the rest of the world) don't have this problem.

"Even in football, by which I mean football, there are very few scoreless ties -- and it's a lot harder to score when a half-dozen 300-pound bruisers are trying to crush you."

This "by which I mean football" thing always cracks me up. Is calling the sport by its actual name really so threatening? Would people be so hopelessly confused to entertain the same term applying both to American football and international football? (Or Aussie Rules football?) F. Scott Fitzgerald - as American as they come - once wrote that the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function. I'll add that the ability to hold two definitions of  "football" without collapsing into a shuddering pile of sobbing goo might be a good test for a fourth-or-fifth-rate intelligence. 

(4) The prospect of either personal humiliation or major injury is required to count as a sport. Most sports are sublimated warfare. As Lady Thatcher reportedly said after Germany had beaten England in some major soccer game: Don't worry. After all, twice in this century we beat them at their national game.

I love that Thatcher quote. She never said it, but it's still a great line, and it would be perfectly applicable to any German victory over the English team. 

Moving past that: a) there are plenty of opportunities for personal humiliation and major injury in soccer. Or as billions of earthlings call it - without qualification - "football." b) this is as absurd a basis for what constitutes a sport as they come. And most importantly c) I don't think someone who confuses little league games with major league games can credibly define what constitutes a sport to begin with.

"Baseball and basketball present a constant threat of personal disgrace. In hockey, there are three or four fights a game -- and it's not a stroll on beach to be on ice with a puck flying around at 100 miles per hour. After a football game, ambulances carry off the wounded. After a soccer game, every player gets a ribbon and a juice box."

Tell that to Andres Escobar's family. Also, soccer balls can travel at a high velocity, as well. Try stopping one with your face sometime and see if you agree or disagree.

"(5) You can't use your hands in soccer. (Thus eliminating the danger of having to catch a fly ball.) What sets man apart from the lesser beasts, besides a soul, is that we have opposable thumbs. Our hands can hold things. Here's a great idea: Let's create a game where you're not allowed to use them!"

I doubt Ann Coulter even believes in evolution so it's odd to bring opposable thumbs into it. (Maybe she does; probably unfair of me to project that on her based on contextual stupidity.) But this has to be the reaching-iest anti-soccer complaint I've ever heard.

(6) I resent the force-fed aspect of soccer. The same people trying to push soccer on Americans are the ones demanding that we love HBO's "Girls," light-rail, Beyonce and Hillary Clinton. 

This is actually the bullet point that led me to writing this rebuttal. First, who the hell is demanding people love light-rail, of all things?? Granted I avoid reactionary media the way I avoid main-line-of-resistance trench warfare, but are there actually factions for something like this? Really? Second, I'm not a fan of HBO's "Girls," Beyonce, or Hilary Clinton. I can't stand when people do this. This sort of logical fallacy is not even close to being the exclusive province of the so-called right. Here's allegedly-left-wing douche bag Steven Weber responding to a tweet of mine during the 2012 electoral season:

Somehow, in pointing out (via a Salon article, of all things! i.e. one of the kneejerk-anti-GOP crowd's most sympathetic organs) that it is at best disingenuous to accuse the other side of things your own side is equally guilty of, I am by extension "obstructing Congress, fomenting racism and hating women." Steven Weber? Meet Ann Coulter. Never mind how unbelievably rude this is - maybe don't assume people who disagree with you are automatically Nazis? Maybe? As someone who thinks most elected or deemed-electable Democrats and Republicans are insane and hypocritical, I am forever being told I'm shilling for either side whenever I am critical of one to the other. This is the default position of far too many people these days. One nation under logical fallacies.

"The number of New York Times articles claiming soccer is "catching on" is exceeded only by the ones pretending women's basketball is fascinating. I note that we don't have to be endlessly told how exciting football is." 

As linked to above, the NYT is hardly an expert on the topic. Also, no one who lives in this country needs to be told anything about football (the American variety) yet every year thousands of hours of ass-headed sports punditry assaults the ear and eye from radio, ESPN, magazines, and TV commercials. For every hour of (American) football you've ever watched, there's probably 100 hours of speculation, analysis and jackassery. So no, no one needs to be told endlessly how exciting football is; you couldn't get a word in edgewise, anyway.

(7) It's foreign. In fact, that's the precise reason the Times is constantly hectoring Americans to love soccer. One group of sports fans with whom soccer is not "catching on" at all, is African-Americans. They remain distinctly unimpressed by the fact that the French like it. 

I'm not sure when people want to know what African-Americans are thinking that their first go-to is Ann Coulter.

I'm equally unsure that encouraging people to look beyond their own little worlds and provincial opinions is either a bad thing or something the Times is all that good at. It seems the job of the Times is the same as almost every other American paper: let me know 24-7 what the President is up to. (I mean, seriously. I have been over-updated on this topic for decades now.)

(8) Soccer is like the metric system, which liberals also adore because it's European. Naturally, the metric system emerged from the French Revolution, during the brief intervals when they weren't committing mass murder by guillotine.

Despite being subjected to Chinese-style brainwashing in the public schools to use centimeters and Celsius, ask any American for the temperature, and he'll say something like "70 degrees." Ask how far Boston is from New York City, he'll say it's about 200 miles.

Liberals get angry and tell us that the metric system is more "rational" than the measurements everyone understands. This is ridiculous. An inch is the width of a man's thumb, a foot the length of his foot, a yard the length of his belt. That's easy to visualize. How do you visualize 147.2 centimeters?"

Sounds like someone needs a dose of Atom and His Package:

I love that "Sounds cooler than my .20-something inches gun" line.

The stupidity of these anti-metric-system remarks should hopefully be self-evident, but I'll just say: I don't know if anyone is "resisting" the metric system out of national pride. More the opposite - we secretly suspect we'd be exposed as incredible dunderheads if we actually had to learn the system the rest of the world (and 100% of the scientific community) uses. (Because it's better. And, ironically, easier.) 

One last thing: do liberals adore the metric system? I have seen no evidence of this. Nor for Chinese-style-brainwashing.

(9) Soccer is not "catching on." Headlines this week proclaimed "Record U.S. ratings for World Cup," and we had to hear -- again -- about the "growing popularity of soccer in the United States."

The USA-Portugal game was the blockbuster match, garnering 18.2 million viewers on ESPN. This beat the second-most watched soccer game ever: The 1999 Women's World Cup final (USA vs. China) on ABC. (In soccer, the women's games are as thrilling as the men's.) Run-of-the-mill, regular-season Sunday Night Football games average more than 20 million viewers; NFL playoff games get 30 to 40 million viewers; and this year's Super Bowl had 111.5 million viewers." 

Ratings in just one market - even as big a market as the U.S. - don't mean too, too much. Money does, though. And as John Oliver recently said of FIFA in a memorable rant, "When your rainy day reserve fund is large enough where you have to worry about cartoon ducks swimming through it, you're not a not-for-profit organization."

Ratings for American audiences might only reflect what is shown and promoted on American television screens. It's just a thought. Beyond this wild speculation, though,  the cold-hard-cash-fact of the case is: FIFA wins. By a lot. NFL commands a nice little portion of the front - and I love the NFL as much as anyone, nothing against it - but come on.

"Remember when the media tried to foist British soccer star David Beckham and his permanently camera-ready wife on us a few years ago? Their arrival in America was heralded with 24-7 news coverage. That lasted about two days. Ratings tanked. No one cared."

First, it was hardly 24-7. I remember that year very well. Second, no one cared because it was David fucking Beckham and Posh fucking Spice, not because it was soccer. Anyone who needs a little history lesson on such things has only to watch a little movie called Once In A Lifetime about Pele's arrival at the New York Cosmos in the '70s. Pele was a legend; Beckham and Posh are just celebrities. Which is cool and all, just we already have plenty of those.

"If more "Americans" are watching soccer today, it's only because of the demographic switch effected by Teddy Kennedy's 1965 immigration law. I promise you: No American whose great-grandfather was born here is watching soccer. One can only hope that, in addition to learning English, these new Americans will drop their soccer fetish with time."

I can only speak for myself here, but my interest in soccer started when my family moved to then-West-Germany in 1981. Not that I was all that aware, I'm just saying that's when it technically started. I remember seeing an Alicante '82 shirt the following year and that's when I began playing myself. (One of the communist drones, apparently, by Ann Coulter's reckoning. We were 100 klicks from the Iron Curtain and playing at Rhein Main Air Force Base; how could we not have known we were playing into Uncle Joe's hands?) Which has nothing to do with anything, up to and including whatever Teddy Kennedy did in 1965. 

Actually, though, it does have to do with what a whole bunch of Americans - many of whose great-grandfathers were not born on American shores - did in World War 2, i.e. how the Army Corps of Engineers (my father's employer) ended up in Germany. To imply that Americans who snuck in via Teddy Kennedy's Senate voodoo are half or mongrel Americans is bad enough. To imply that interest in the sport itself is only a result of their swarthy and backward sub-American ways - whatever they are -  is demonstrably stupid and racist as shit. You fucking lunatic. 

It seems Ann Coulter's worldview - much like Steven Weber's in our cherished exchange above - does not allow for any possibility not explicitly spelled out by their respective propaganda shit-shovellers. 

Maybe they - or anyone who so aggressively campaigns against things they know absolutely nothing about - should sit down and shut the front door for a spell. 

Or better yet, lighten up and join the party. 

Maybe not Ann Coulter, though. Too soon, too soon.


  1. I like that this post is tagged "Idiots."

    IS Ann Coulter being "satirical"? I'm not sure I believe she is. SHE might believe she is, but I'm unconvinced.

    Speaking for myself, I am deeply uninterested in soccer. Then again, I'm deeply uninterested in a great many other things, too, including baseball, golf, and basketball. I don't look down on people who are interested in those things, at least not as a default opinion. I do look down on fat people who wear basketball jerseys and/or shorts; and I say that AS a fat person.

    But for the most part, I figure you should just like whatever you like, provided it is not Kardashian-style drivel. So when I saw this Ann Coulter nonsense was trending, I immediately began wishing a big Monty Python foot would come down and just mush her into goo.

    1. I'd say my friends are split evenly on interest in soccer. I have no quarrel with anyone who doesn't care about soccer or the World Cup. It's only this recurring whirlpool of xenophobic stupidity encapsulated by Ann Coulter's remarks that provokes me to speak my mind. The fact that she can speak to this topic without knowing jack shit about it (and getting so many things confused) and then position herself as a "real" American - all while stubbornly refusing to even support the US national team - needs to be challenged, and defied.

      That she uses little league soccer and the fucking WORLD CUP interchangeably is just mind-blowing to me. I mean, even for Ann Coulter - no stranger to mind-blowingly-stupid comments - that is beyond the pale.

  2. You know... I don't care for soccer at all. I just .. I don't know.. eh. I love love love American football (just got tickets to a Broncos game), Nascar (just went to a race in Kansas City)... so I understand the love of sports. I don't think though there is a reason to put down what someone else loves. I think dance is a sport of sorts. I love going to the ballet and seeing people use this skill. Ann Coulter to me is just someone out to get attention and that is how she makes money. Same with the Westboro Church. Unfortunately we can't help stare and gawk at these train wrecks.

    1. Unfortunate but true re: the train wrecks.

      The most appalling thing? She believes so earnestly that she's a master of satire. She's downright humorless about her (all-too-obviously-non-existent) status as a powerful wit. I don't get it.

  3. Spot on, chum. I will admit that I in a panic that I am responsible for the "formation" line from ten years ago. In any case, I have a theory about why soccer won't catch on in the US and I will share it with you over beers. My thinking has no resemblance to this vapid windbag's list of shit, but she's about as intellectual or journalistic as a bag of flaming turds, so I don't put much stock in what she says or writes. I am not sure that she is changing anyone's mind, rather speaking to those who already agree.

    1. " I will admit that I in a panic that I am responsible for the "formation" line from ten years ago."

      Perhaps Knapsack was quoting you. I remember his telling me and Bill that in 2005-ish; that's whom I was thinking of. But, it makes sense that he might have heard you say that and passed it on.

      I look forward to the theory, and to the beers. Most of all to the occasion for such, whenever it materializes. Hope the wild west is treating you well.

    2. Oh thank God. I didn't want that attributed to me. I mistyped and meant to say, "I will admit that I was in a panic for potentially being responsible blah blah blah." On the permanent scroll of the internet, there are no take-backs. Pelé: guilty.