Rod Dreher

Theodore Dalrymple admits that he’s a huge snob about sports fans. It’s not sport itself, but rather the fans who care inordinately about something blindingly trivial. Here he is decrying the French (he lives in France, a British expat) for going to pieces over the abject and shameful failure of their national soccer team in the World Cup. Excerpt:

Whereas the victory in 1998 was taken as proof of the success of French society, the defeat in 2010 was taken as proof of precisely the opposite. How was it that the country had raised up a generation of resentful, ill-mannered, ungrateful and thoroughly spoilt youths, who weren’t even very good at what they had been paid enormous sums to do? (One of the better-behaved and more dignified of them, a man called Thierry Henry, is paid more than $20,000,000 a year, before his advertising and publicity revenue.)
Of course, if the team had been successful, if it had repeated the success of 1998, no one would have raised these questions, and euphoria rather than depression would have been the mood of the moment. As it was, the team was the best propaganda possible for Jean-Marie Le Pen, of the Front National.
A parliamentary enquiry is to be held about the state of French football; the president himself has expressed his concern. Many people have said that debacle reflects the state of French society. Against all this, one writer in Le Monde did manage to point out in a short article to the effect that football is only a game, after all, and the whole spectacle a trivial one; but the opposite view of its importance prevailed.
… But what really mattered to people in France was victory or defeat in the sporting contest, not the state of society. Football was more important to them than anything else, and a victory – or at any rate, a more dignified defeat – would have anaesthetised their thoughts about the country’s social problems.
It seems to me very odd, and not at all reassuring, that a country such as France, with a practically unrivalled history of achievement in all the major fields of human endeavour, should have been precipitated into an orgy of self-examination by something as trivial as a failure in a football competition, when it is utterly indifferent to questions of incomparably greater importance: for example, why it is completely incapable, after a continuous and millennial history of wonderful architecture, of erecting a decent building, one that is not an eyesore? (It is not alone in this, of course.) I have never seen this question so much as raised, let alone answered, though I do not think any reasonably alert person could drive through France without asking himself it.

D’accord! I mean, I agree with the idea that people care about sports disproportionately. The thing is, nobody cares what Theodore Dalrymple thinks, nor any number of humanities department muggles who bitch and moan about how much attention the football team gets at the university, as opposed to what a university is supposed to be about. I agree with them, but it’s a hopeless cause. I’m very much a fair weather sports fan, and only care about it when there are other issues attached to it, usually regionalism (New Orleans Saints, LSU Tigers) or nationalism (US Olympic teams, the Netherlands soccer team). Being a fair-weather sports enthusiast allows me to enjoy the excitement when my team wins (“my” team, heh), but not be heartbroken if they lose. Mostly I see sports as an opportunity to cook and drink beer and hang out with friends. For all that, still: as they say in beautiful downtown Valkenswaard, “Hup, Holland, hup!” I don’t give a rip about the soccer team, but if an Oranje victory makes the Dutch people happy, then it makes me happy.
P.S. None of this should be taken in any sense to justify supporting the Dallas Cowboys, under any circumstance, ever.

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