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Americans almost always interpret international sports victories as demonstrations of national superiority, so it was wonderful to watch the U.S. soccer team’s massive choke in the Confederation Cup final against Brazil. Ahead 2-0 at the half, the Americans watched helplessly as Brazil scored three goals in the second half to win. (Actually four, but the referee blew a call and failed to credit what I, watching the game on television, could see was an obvious goal by Kaka.)
All the hype in American newspapers about the national team’s second place finish obscures the fact that the U.S. team is mediocre and should never have been in the final to begin with. They lost three of their five games and stumbled into the second round by pure luck. Yes, they beat Spain, but upsets can happen on any given day, especially in a tournament where (after the first round) every match is an elimination game.
The U.S. got lucky early against Brazil, but showed its true colors by sitting back the rest of the way and being stomped into submission. It leaves me very hopeful for the team’s early exit from next year’s World Cup.
Note: Just got this email from Ivana Veljkovic:
I just read your post. I personally could not care less about soccer/football but it is really funny that, during the first half of the game, all of my non-American/non-Brazilian friends were cheering for US team. I was following their posts on Facebook and they all wanted to see Brazil, described as a team of “pompous asses”, fail and were really disappointed when Brazil eventually won. It is funny how cross-national unity works.
Readers, please keep sending your comments, even the hate mail. I will post a sampling tomorrow.
More from Ken Silverstein:
Perspective — October 23, 2013, 8:00 am
How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy
Postcard — October 16, 2013, 8:00 am
A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”