The Best Review of the Worst Sports Book

October 2, 2008

I have not read Sal Paolantonio’s new book, How Football Explains America, but I have read Franklin Foer’s How Football (soccer) Explains the World and the even better Football Against the Enemy, by Simon Kuper (thanks Prizz). The latter of these two books include stories from all corners of the world about the impact of soccer on the media, politics, poverty and any number of other human situations. The point of each is not to prove the value of soccer as the most important sport in the world but rather shows just how inundated most of the world is with the game. From mafia ties and ethnic cleansing to a chance to escape poverty, the rest of the world uses soccer as a means of advancement or as a scape goat for many events in life. In the process, Foer and Kuper display not the superiority of the game over other games but displays the degree to which people around the world include the sport in everyday life.

Apparently, Sal Paolantonio just tries to show how awesome football is and that it proves that America is the best country in the world. Again, I haven’t read it, but check out Steven Wells’ review in the Guardian. I find it interesting to read book reviews by people not from America on American-written/focused books in the same way I like to read The Economist to read American news written from an outside point of view. It gives insight because the writer is not tied up in the America-worship that pervades our society.

In the book, Sal brutally attacks soccer as boring and pointless. This is the height of ignorance. There is no mandate that all people on earth should be fans of and enjoy soccer, but it is folly to claim that all Americans hate soccer and should. One can extol the virtues of American football without shitting on soccer in the process. The two have very little to do with one another. I’m not going to even start with an argument about the growth of soccer, not just as a sport for seven year-olds but also as a game growing in popularity and appreciation across this country, because there isn’t enough space on this blog to contain all of my thoughts on the matter. But I think anyone can agree that an assault on soccer just to prop up football as the best game and therefore the most American game, is a joke.

I enjoy being an American, speaking English and taking advantage of all the opportunities that come along with being a middle class white guy in this society. But showering America with praises and using circular logic to prove why America is the best just shows the ignorance of the writer. I realize Sal has been a political reporter, an NFL reporter and I think he was even a cop in Philadelphia at one time, but that doesn’t make his opinion of the world any more important than anyone else’s. And it certainly doesn’t make football and therefore America any more awesome. He’s clearly playing to that blind Americanism that idiots cling to in this country.

Again, I haven’t read the book so I can’t comment too specifically on it, but I trust a review by someone who is not American over someone who is in this case. Read the review for yourself and see what you think…