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Will Soccer Bring an End to American Exceptionalism?

We discussed American exceptionalism during the 2006 world cup: Soccer in German-American Relations and Soccer is for Losers?

Soccer is getting increasingly popular in the US, which some conservative Americans don't like. Is America becoming less exceptional now?

Or is it the other way round: Americans need to feel less exceptional before soccer becomes more popular and they win the world cup? A Brazilian paper translated by Watching America concludes with such a pretty loaded question:

If Americans are able to abandon the idea of being chosen by God to save the world, if these citizens are open to the fact that they are identical to all other human beings and therefore do not have a clear target or are not necessarily superior or virtuous, then could it be possible for America to someday soon join the rest of the species and celebrate the most beautiful sport of our time with the rest of the world? Or is it inconceivable that within a few decades, this country could finally win the World Cup?

Two Gitmo Guys Go to Germany

The German government agreed to resettle a Syrian and a Palestinian Guantanamo detainee. AP quotes a State Department spokesman saying: "We greatly appreciate Germany's decision to resettle these two detainees." I think it is too little too late to really to impress Obama.

ENDNOTE: The German soccer team attacked the Spain too little too late as well in today's semi-final. That damn octopus Paul was right again in predicting the winner. Congrats to Nanne for the Dutch victory over Uruguay. I will certainly cheer the Dutch team in the upcoming final.

US, France and Germany: Divisions and Lack of Professionalism Everywhere

We all need more team spirit. Obama's Afghanistan team is in disarray. Their egos seem to be as bloated as the ego's in the French soccer team.

While President Obama is angry with McChrystal's frank comments and perhaps insubordination, President Sarkozy is reportedly furious over the national team's behaviour inside and outside the soccer stadiums. It was not really a "team." He even cleared his schedule for a one hour meeting with the captain on the day of a general labor strike. That shows how important the soccer team is for France as a symbol of national integration and unity.

Germany's coalition government has been in disarray for months as well with some calling each other "wild pigs" and "gherkin troops" (rank amateurs). (There are also rumors that one cabinet member called the defense minister "rumpelstiltskin.") Though, thanks to the national soccer team's victory over Ghana today, Merkel's government won't collapse yet. ;-)

If Germany had failed to make it into the round of sixteen for the first time in history, it would have been a national fiasco. Let's do not forget that the German coach is not called "Trainer der Nationalmannschaft," but goes by the official sounding name "Bundestrainer," just like the top government titles "Bundeskanzler," "Bundespräsident" etc.

On Sunday, we will play against England. One British fan said on TV that the world cup was invented for England and Germany to play against each other. Good point. Still, it is regrettable (but not at all surprising) that the British tabloid The Sun uses military language to describe the upcoming match. Come on, guys. It's just soccer. The real war is in Afghanistan.

Continue reading "US, France and Germany: Divisions and Lack of Professionalism Everywhere"

Germany is the New Bad Boy

I am quite excited that Germany participates in the Eurovision Song Contest with an original, charming and funny artist, who can actually sing and is a bit crazy and therefore represents the new Germany very well. Lena Meyer-Landrut will perform the song Satellite at the Eurovision Song Contest, which was written by an American-Danish duo.

Although for the first time in years, Germany deserves "douze points," I don't think Lena Meyer-Landrut will get them from the other European countries. Animosities against Germany are too strong. Most Europeans have stronger emotional ties to other countries.

And Germany's current economic and fiscal policies make us the new bad boy. The NY Times writes "Germany Begins to Shed Its Role as E.U. Integrator":

Resisting a bailout for Greece, digging in over economic policy and opposing parts of a strategy for Europe's growth, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany will arrive Thursday at a European Union summit meeting ready to play an unfamiliar role: the bloc's naysayer. Once the invisible glue that bound the Union, German policy is now being dictated by less idealistic priorities rooted firmly by national interests.

I guess, we act now like a "normal" country. Well, so be it!

Germany's previously strong monetary and political support for EU integration did not make us popular enough to win the Eurovision Song Contest either. It just paved the way for German unification, but we got that now and have to focus on bigger national interests, like the Eurovision Song Contest and the Soccer World Cup.

My statements to the Russian English language TV station Russia Today probably cost us a few votes from Greek's Eurovision Song Contest community as well. The 10 minutes live interview took place last Friday. The video clip is from a weekly round-up and mentions just a few short statements of mine:

Soccer is for Losers?

The mission of the American Enterprise Institute's blog is to provide "thoughtful and timely analysis on economic, foreign and social policy and politics." Today, Gary Schmitt wrote an extremely thoughtful analysis on the most important policy issue of the world, which is, of course, soccer, especially since Chancellor Merkel meets with President Obama today.

Not only is Mr. Schmitt bashing soccer, but he also trashes us Europeans by suggesting that we like soccer because the better teams tend to lose:

I can say unquestionably that it is the sport in which the team that dominates loses more often than any other major sport I know of. Or, to put it more bluntly, the team that deserves to win doesn’t. (...) And, in sports, that means excellence should prevail. Of course, the fact that is often not the case when it comes to soccer may be precisely the reason the sport is so popular in the countries of Latin America and Europe.

Michael J.W. Stickings takes issue with Gary Schmitt's analysis as well and describes it as "another example of the right's deluded view of American exceptionalism: Americans are different. They're winners." Indeed, he is not the first conservative who made condescending statements about Europeans for their love of soccer. But, as I pointed out in the post The Superiority of American Culture and Sports, the liberal Huffington Post has published offending rants as well during the last soccer world cup in Germany.

The Scottish journalist Alex Massie comments on Schmitt's article as well: "The Never-Ending Neoconservative War on Soccer". And Matthew Yglesias weighs in as well: Neocons Bemoan USA Soccer Victory

Related articles on Atlantic Review:

State Department Uses the World Cup to Improve U.S. Image
Soccer Diplomacy with Iran?
America is expected to win the Super Bowl

Soccer Diplomacy with Iran?

"We had ping pong diplomacy with China, and now we may soon engage in soccer diplomacy with Iran. Reports out of Tehran indicate that the US Soccer Federation has inquired about the possibility of holding a friendly with Iran sometime in October and November," writes Democracyarsenal.

America's next ambassador to Germany might come from the Board of Directors of the US Soccer Foundation... Germans are certainly going to support soccer diplomacy with Iran.

Atlantic Review has written about Soccer in German-American Relations. Also see these posts about the world cup in Germany to understand the importance of soccer to world peace: Germany's National Holiday and the "Summer's Tale" Documentary, U.S. Soccer Captain Praises Party Atmosphere in Germany and State Department Uses the World Cup to Improve U.S. Image.

Phil Murphy as America's Next Ambassador to Germany?

The US embassies in Berlin, London, Brussels, and Paris still lack ambassadors. President Obama is taking his time to screen all candidates after the trouble with the nominations of various secretaries. It now seems that he would like to announce his choice for all four embassies prior to his visit to Germany and France on June 5-6, 2009.

"The Germany posting looks to be going to former investment banker Phil Murphy, national finance chairman of the Democratic National Committee, who's oft credited with turning around the party's fundraising operation, " says Washington Post columnist Al Kamen, but does not write much about Murphy. Spiegel (in German) has more information about the first (and positive) reactions from Germany to these "targeted leaks." Murphy used to work for Goldman Sachs in Frankfurt.

And Murphy is also on the Board of Directors of the US Soccer Foundation (HT: David). His knowledge of soccer will help him to win friends in Germany and improve German-American relations to unprecedented levels. At least, let's hope so.

"Climate Catastrophe" is the Word of the Year in Germany

"Klimakatastrophe" (climate catastrophe) is the Word of the Year 2007 chosen by the Society for the German Language, notes Deutschlandfunk. The word of the year is supposed to say quite a bit about public debates. In the last two years, the chose the words "Fanmeile" ("fan mile," referring to the public viewing and celebrating spaces during the Soccer World Cup in Germany in 2006) and "Bundeskanzlerin" (the female version of the word "chancellor"). 

Americans had the chance to vote in Merriam-Webster's Word of the Year contest until Friday. The results are not in yet. I have no clue what seven of the candidates mean:

Apathetic, babymoon, blamestorm, charlatan, conundrum, cruft, eleemosynary, facebook, hyprocrite, linkability, melancholy, Pecksniffian, pretentious, pugnacious, quixotic, sardoodledom, sputum, subpoena, vanity_sizing, and wOOt.

I assume that there are many Word of the Year contests in the United States. Please post information of other contests and your own favorite Word of the Year 2007 in the comments section.

Or we could have our own contest: What was the most interesting or most important word used in transatlantic debates on Atlantic Review and in the real world in 2007? "Caveats" (i.e. national restrictions on military mandates in Afghanistan) or "Pro-American" (referring to Merkel's and Sarkozy's policies) or something else???

I love the 2006 winner of the American Dialect Society contest: "Plutoed." CNN explains the meaning.

Swissinfo reports that "Sterbetourismus" (death tourism) has been selected from over 2,000 suggestions as Word of the Year 2007 in German-speaking Switzerland.

Check out last year's Atlantic Review post: World Press Photo and Word of the Year: Grief and Truthiness