Who Should Progressives Root for In World Cup?

Categories: Media, Sports
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If you were a true progressive, you'd pull for a World Cup outcome that'd help Lula hold onto power. You know this to be true.
Last week we wrote about how the U.S. World Cup team's thrilling, last-minute victory over Algeria wasn't due to any kind innately American traits hard-wired into players' DNA (as some in the sporting world and even on the team seemed to be suggesting), but the luck, skill, and incredible grit of an extremely hard-working team.

Today, Randy Shaw over at Beyond Chron came to a similar conclusion, claiming that overheated World Cup commentators have reinforced "racial [and] nationalistic stereotypes." In a story arguing against the broad and emotionally tinged interpolation of 11 men's ability to put balls into nets with the complex world of international politics, however, Shaw oddly concludes by pointing out "the best World Cup outcome for progressives." Left-leaning soccer fans, he claims, can take solace in the early Cup exits of France, England, and Italy, "each led by conservative governments." He neglects to mention, incidentally, that another team sent packing early was North Korea.

Here's Shaw's prognosis of how progressives ought to shape their sporting desires based on what's good for leftist governments:

If you are looking for the best World Cup outcome for progressives, then it fortunately appears to coincide with the success of the best two teams, Argentina and Brazil.

An Argentina victory will make people happier in a country whose left-wing leadership has faced tough economic times and opposition from conservatives. Brazil also faces a critical election for a successor to the popular President Lula da Silva of the Workers Party, with Dilma Rousseff , his former cabinet chief, now taking in the lead in polls for the October 3, 2010 election.

And those watching the World Cup with politics in mind can enjoy the departure of France, England, and Italy, each led by conservative governments.

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Oh look -- a political football
I like Shaw's writing, and, for what it's worth, root for most of the same college and pro teams he does. But this is more than a bit much. For starters, the "conservative governments" of France, England, and Italy are far more liberal than our own on most meaningful measures. But, then, national consensus on single-payer health care somehow didn't enter into most fans' rooting preferences. 

Frankly it makes one feel silly -- and quickly -- to attempt to come up with rationales as intricately political as Shaw's to support one nation over another. Besides, is it really "progressive" to root for five-time champion and world-class overdog Brazil against Holland -- something of a left-leaning place, we hear -- a team with a tortured history of great soccer teams coming up short in the clutch?

Sorry, the equation of "How will this game affect the re-election chances of Lula da Silva against Dilma Rousseff?" gets the red card. May the best team win, and, God-willing, the referees will get their act together.

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