Dear partisan think tanks: Please stay away from soccer, thank you very much

This week, the well-meaning folks at the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank, published a story entitled “The Right-Wing War Against Soccer.” It reviews some of the most recent anti-soccer rhetoric out conservative media folks like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and others.

But to me, the alleged “right wing war against soccer” is immaterial. I have a far bigger problem with a partisan think tank like CAP putting soccer on its back and feeling a need to defend it as it would any other left-wing cause. Here’s why.

American soccer in this country is not a “left wing” thing. Soccer in this country is not a “right wing” thing. Soccer in this country is not a partisan thing.

While it was nice of CAP to defend the sport from the usual “hater” idiocy, we don’t need and most definitely shouldn’t want partisan political entities defending our sport from criticism. For better or worse over the years, American soccer fans have been more than adept at finding and reacting to criticism by the media.

Saying that soccer is a “left wing” pursuit in America is both a lazy and inaccurate statement to make. Look at two of the most ardent supporters of the sport in this country, Philip Anschutz and Henry Kissinger – they’re not exactly liberals now, are they?

Of course, there are topics in American soccer and its support that relate to politics. They should be discussed, robustly and fairly. It’s naive to think that sports and politics can ever be truly sequestered from each other. I am not saying that we should shove the conversation under the rug. But what I am saying is that American soccer cannot allow that conversation to be provoked by partisan organizations like CAP.

The last thing American soccer needs is to accept as true an identity that ties us to a partisan politics. It’s not only bad marketing, it’s just the wrong thing to do for our sport and our fans. American soccer needs to welcome folks of every political inclination, as long as they don’t practice racism or hate.

So to the folks at CAP, whom I support and whom I think do a lot of good work, please do not turn soccer into a cause of yours.

We do not need it and we do not want it.

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26 thoughts on “Dear partisan think tanks: Please stay away from soccer, thank you very much

  1. As a soccer loving conserative, I say AMEN. In any event, I would bet that most of the soccer hating sports reporters we constantly complain about are left wing politically.

  2. As a rabid liberal pinko chardonnay sipping San Francisco liberal let me embrace my brother-in-soccer Anthony in saying Amen! I don’t know what the reporters inclinations are and I don’t care. One thing I truly love about soccer is that it is one time where we can Leave aside our differences and we can all wear our colors scream ourselves hoarse when together in support of OUR country. We need more of this non political stuff not more

  3. Anthony I’m afraid you have it backwards.

    I work in television news and I can tell you that the vast majority of sports guys and girls I’ve known over the years have been conservative.

    I’ve always found that interesting because the majority of news people in general are left leaning but the sports departments are almost always conservative.

    They also almost always hate soccer for some reason. Even this WC I’m hearing the usual, “This is why Americans will never embrace soccer” BS.

  4. This rings true to me as a casual observer of the media. Sports narrative, especially in this country, falls in line with the American conservative ethos, and the common sports column tend to favor nostalgia and institutions.

    And the occasional liberal rabble rousers like Dave Zirin, or even occasionally liberal folks like Jeff Pearlman, stick out like a sore thumb.

  5. None of the far-right blowhards mentioned in the CAP piece could come close the Jim Rome’s level of rabid soccer hate, and as far as I know the guy is a flaming liberal. Well, he’s flaming for sure, but you get my point.

    Sports are not political. To try to make it so is just stupid.

  6. Politically, Guinho and I probably couldn’t be more different. I am a beer guzzling, right to bear arms, don’t burn the flag kind of conservative.

    Here, on BigSoccer, though, Guinho (and others) and I agree on many things. Better still, when we don’t agree, we argue the merits of our beliefs and would never stoop to petty, personal attacks.

    We love soccer, we love the world cup, and mostly agree that Bob Bradley is a hack .

    Hey Aaron, great blog piece, I agree with it 100%.

    Now, if you can only find a way to get DCU a few more wins, we’d all be much happier!!!

  7. Hear hear.

    Personally, I cannot think of a single more stupid reason to get behind/detract from this sport than your political world view.

  8. If Jim Rome is a left wing soccer hater, than you can add him to a list of left-wing soccer haters that includes Keith Olberman and Dan Patrick.

    In my experience, the people on the right who express anti-soccer views tend to be in the very shrill ultra-socially and -culturally conservative minority of the right wing who feel that some sort of American exceptionalism is under assault (see Glenn Beck’s recent comments). The many people who have voted Republican for years based on views regarding taxes, spending, and other economic concerns I have found are just as likely to enjoy soccer as anyone on the so-called left wing.

  9. Political organizations have no place in sports – period. Classifying a sport as left wing or right wing alienates about half of the fanbase either way. These morons should be forced to block a penalty shot from every soccer player & fan in the US that leans right and once they understand that there are quite a few, they should have to take one from those that lean left. Maybe they’ll realize that soccer (and sports in general) are not favored by specific political factions.
    For the record – I’m socially liberal and quite conservative financially. And I love soccer. And hockey and lacrosse, but could take or leave American football, baseball, and basketball.

  10. As a first generation immigrant and proud US Citizen and, most importantly, independent, I agree that politics have no place in soccer, futbol, period. Great post Aaron.

    Dan Patrick doesn’t like soccer? I remember seeing a Donovan jersey on his radio/tv studio on DirecTv, and think I also saw a Sounders jersey on his chair if I’m not mistaken…

  11. Ya, he has recently given soccer more attention. I don’t know if he has sincerely had a change of heart, or if he saw that the young male demographic, so coveted by advertisers, is more into soccer than ever. In past interviews, though, he was never that shy about expressing his dislike of soccer.

  12. But that’s really the point, I think. Most widely read columnists, be it in sports or politics, aren’t really writing from the heart. Sure, they bring their individual POV, but ultimately, they write what sells, what drives traffic, and what brings in advertisers.

    For right wing writers, it’s fighting a cultural war at every turn, and given their audience which is all about nostalgia and the American exceptionalism, the World Cup is the target of the day. And it’s an easy target, with its celebration of internationalism and the U.S.’s relative newness.

    For the Jim Romes, bashing soccer plays to its small, but active base while simultaneously antagonizing a larger audience, which drives up listener engagement. And to a lesser extent Frank DeFord and Rick Reilly can play up their “I know I’m being old fashioned here…” credo by pretending to be all up in arms about soccer.

    For Dan Patrick, it might have made sense to belittle soccer in the heydays of The Big Show, but less so, now that he’s trying to keep up-to-date in today’s more enlightened sports landscape (his old partner, Keith Olbermann, meanwhile, actually watches the World Cup, but he’s a nostalgia-dipped baseball guy, so it makes sense for him to play dumb about soccer).

    I guess what I’m trying to say is, very little of the discussion is actually about soccer. For the commentators, it’s all about defining their brands, and soccer is just the vehicle.

  13. As a soccer loving liberal, I say AMEN, too.

    Also, I agree with cyberthoth about sports departments being much more conservative than the rest of the media. He says it about the TV people he works with, and I say it about newspapers where I worked.

  14. While I also agree that there are more conservatives in sports media than elswhere, that’s not saying much. The sports network at which I worked was 50/50, at one non-sports channel where worked I was probably the only Republican there.

  15. Just want to say that when the Argentinian military junta organized the ’78 WC they picked Menotti, a registered Communist, to coach the team

  16. Real classy, Dave in AZ.

    Soccer is a simple sport with many nuances, politics only serve to make it more complicated than it needs to be.

    Good post, Aaron. I know every time I watch enter a stadium for a soccer game, I leave my conservative card at home. Also, I’d rather people remember me as a soccer fan and player than a political conservative, there are more important things in life than politics.

  17. politics aside, it seems to me that the american sports media establishment dislikes soccer because they perceive it to be effeminate and doesn’t use the opposable thumb God gave us to throw rocks and drag women around by the hair. i don’t know that it’s so much a “conservative” viewpoint as it is, to quote henry chinaski, “unoriginal macho energy.”

  18. I don’t think hating soccer is conservative, per se. It just that the World Cup is a low hanging fruit if you appeal to nostalgia and American exceptionalism.

  19. @ Dave in AZ: This is a big-boy thread, please just sit and listen while the grown-ups talk. If you can’t contain your little fingers, please go to child forum, KTHXBYE.

    I think the ‘American Media’ that shows disdain for soccer, especially the sports people, do so because they really don’t understand it. It is much easier to make a few, dumb comments than to actually attempt to learn a few new things.

  20. To Aaron’s original point, yes, he is right, we do not need CAP making defense of soccer a partisan matter. CAP also should not treat the likes of Glen Beck as someone requiring a serious reply. Your average Bill Archer vs. Canada slang fest operates at a higher intellectual level than most cable news shows, liberal or conservative. It’s not as if they are responding to a learned treatise by Bill Buckley (RIP) or Russell Kirk (RIP). They give knuckle-dragging stupidity too much dignity by replying to it.

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