Saturday, June 14, 2014

What's In a Game

Friends,

First off, my apologies for the delay between posts.  My second summer class started last week.  Teaching in the summer is a professor's version of the Fast and the Furious.  Monday through Wednesday equal 12 hour days for me with a half day on Thursday.  All in the name of history!  But enough of this.  On to the post!

We have reached that point that comes around once every four years.  You know, the time when Americans realize two things.  First of all, there is another sport out there which is the most popular in the world.  Second, the United States isn't the best at it.  Americans like to win.  No question about it.  Part of the problem soccer has in the United States is the fact that once every four years Americans tune in to the World Cup only to see the US lose to a third world country.  They turn off their TVs thinking "See, it really IS a communist sport!" And then they go on to more important things.  Like real football which starts soon.  (And I can't wait!)

I often ask my students which country invented soccer.  They always guess either Mexico or Spain.  They are shocked when I tell them it is an English sport.  Soccer is a colonial game.  The British spread it around the world.  After all, the sun never set on the British Empire (if only because God doesn't trust the British in the dark)!  Imagine the dismay YOUR English cousins (they aren't mine!) must feel now when pretty much every other country in the world beats them at a game they invented.  The horror!

All of this begs the question "Do sports matter in history"?  My answer is an unequivocal YES!  There are academics out there who scoff at the idea.  Others agree with me.  If sports have no impact on society then why do we teach about the importance of Jackie Robinson being the first black baseball player in the modern era?  Who can deny the impact that the integration of professional sports had on the Civil Rights Movement?  Once upon a time, El Salvador and Honduras fought a war over a soccer game!  (Though to be fair, they would have called it a football game.)  That would be like Dallas invading Houston because the Texans beat them.  Not that the Texans can beat anyone but for that matter, neither can Dallas.

So if you decide to watch the World Cup, do so with the understanding that there are all sorts of implications at stake.  Whole countries are tuned in to see their teams play.  There are often colonial implications at stake as well.  It is much, much more than just a game to the vast majority of the world.  I'll close with a quote from Billy Shankly, former manager of Liverpool, who said "Some people believe that football is a matter of life and death.  I am very disappointed with that attitude.  I can assure you it is much, much more important than that."

My name is Lee Hutch and I am a Half A$$ Historian.  I'll be cheering for Ghana and Germany in this World Cup, as I always do.  My redhead and I sponsor a child in Ghana who dreams of being a football star.  My redhead's family came from Germany.  I can't cheer for Ireland because they haven't made a World Cup in quite some time.

1 comment: