Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Diving, Schmiving

I long ago stopped caring about soccer-bashing American sportswriters—or, anyway, I decided to try to stop caring, in preference to my former habit of allowing the 17,492nd version of the "soccer: sport of pederastic Trotskyites" opinion piece drive me into insane, fist-gnawing rage. Now I just shake my head with rueful amusement and put the writer in question on my long list of people never to read again. ('Round our place, we call this the Hitchens List.)

But here's a phenom I see more and more: the former-skeptic-turned-reluctant-half-convert, trying to make sense of matters futbol, in ways that may irritate those of us well-versed in Trotskyite pederasty but can also be of interest. Case in point for the day comes from Salon's King Kaufmann. I was sad to write King off a few years ago, because he's got one of the great by-lines in modern sports journalism and because Salon's readership, composed entirely of latte-sipping Volvo-driving Barack-loving bobo nerds like myself, enjoys 1:1 overlap with the Anglophone-Yank (Yanglo?) soccer demographic. I'm glad to see the King get with the programme (please note Trotskyite spelling; le program is also acceptable), even if he hasn't quite swallowed that delicious final gram of Drogba-flavored Kool-Aid yet.

One thing that continues to puzzle me, though, is why My Fellow Americans have such a fixation about diving. Yes, it's a disgrace to the game and all that, but aren't the big-time American sports full of cheaters and whiners, too? It seems like every NFL player breaks some rule on every play, and baseball is now a well-known chemistry experiment. As far as I can tell, the NBA consists almost entirely of Kobe and Shaq trying to game the refs, while the refs nervously check their Blackberries at every time out for their latest instructions from various Sicilian fraternal organizations. So what's the big deal with some skinny Italian boys rolling around like little bunnies in the meadow? I think it's kind of cute—but then again, a soccer fan would, right?

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