Friday, July 2, 2010

Hey, Sports Fans!

Theodore Dalrymple, confessing that "in the inner recesses of my being, I am a fearful snob," he writes, "I feel nothing but contempt for people for whom sport is important" — Of Snobbery and Soccer. He continues:
    This is particularly pertinent at the moment, because the greatest sporting event in the world by far, the football (soccer) World Cup, is taking place in South Africa as I write this. There could be no greater snobbery than to feel contempt for the hundreds of millions of people world-wide for whom this event is of consuming interest. When bread is assured, circuses fill men’s minds....

    On the subject of football, I am a snob. I do not detest the game as such, for I accept that it can be played with skill and achieve a kind of beauty, but rather the excessive importance attached to it by millions and hundreds of millions of my fellow beings. Try as I might to expunge the thought from my mind that this enthusiasm is a manifestation of human stupidity, I cannot.


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Blogger Casey Khan said...

"Try as I might to expunge the thought from my mind that this enthusiasm is a manifestation of human stupidity, I cannot."

That guy needs a beer.

9:54 PM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

Excellent response! I guess I need one too for posting it.

10:24 PM  
Blogger Enbrethiliel said...


And really, there's something about the World Cup . . .

A few weeks ago, my mother was asking me, "What is this FIFA thing?" (The Philippines has no national team, so it's not a big deal here.) And tonight, she was cheering her way through Netherlands vs. Brazil! (We're holding a personal grudge against a "friend" in the Netherlands, so it was easy to root with Brazil.)

It's kind of silly, yes, but the thought that I need to expunge from my mind is how much it has in common with World Youth Day. (I suppose it's my turn for a beer?)

2:01 AM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

A noticed on a FIFA map that the Philippines, along with Laos maybe, was one of the only "grey areas."

I confess to having just watched the same game, and to having rooted for the Dutch, given my ancestry (Snyder and Sneijder are variant spellings). I find myself also rooting for the Germans against the Argentines, for similar racial reasons. I've never been to Europe, but have been too both Brazil and Argentina and like their peoples a lot. Still, I find myself reverting to primitive tribalism with this whole World Cup thing, which I guess is the idea (and not a good one).

I'm also rooting for Ghana against Uruguay. Ghana is at least a part of the peripheral Anglosphere. Also, they're an underdog, and Americans always like underdogs.

I'd like to see the Netherlands win the trophy and think they will.

I guess World Youth Day is a (lame) attempt to capture the mood of these mass events. Pope Wojtyla's participation seemed natural, but Pope Ratzinger's was somehow embarrassing.

2:25 AM  
Blogger Enbrethiliel said...


During the match between Japan and Paraguay, my mother and I had a little tribal-themed argument. I identified with the Japanese because they were fellow Asians (which was kind of silly because in my saner moods I have this thesis that the Philippines isn't actually Asian), while my mother identified with the Paraguayans because she could understand the Spanish some of them were speaking.

One day we may reevaluate this mad rush of tribalism every four years as what has kept Europe (which I think American Founding Fathers referred to as "nations of eternal war"), South America, and the rest of the participating world relatively peaceful since World War II. Well, yes, there are still mindless riots that are a meeting of Mars and Bacchus . . . but it all seems preferable to actual warfare.

(Only the Philippines and Laos? Really? That's pathetic! I knew there was something I didn't want to find out, and even then I didn't think it would be so sad!)

3:37 AM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

I'm quite interested in (and impressed by) both your "thesis that the Philippines isn't actually Asian" and your mother's "identif[ying] with the Paraguayans because she could understand the Spanish."

Koreans automatically root for any team against whom Japan is playing. Chileans (among whom I have lived), in contrast, will root even for their rivals the Argentines when playing against a non-Latin American team.

3:45 AM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

I should say, right now I'm multi-tasking, blogging while watching the Uruguay-Ghana match, something impossible while watching an exciting American sport like football or baseball.

3:48 AM  
Blogger Casey Khan said...

Is there an inverse relationship here? The decline of America combined with the growth of American soccer, um football, or whatever.

4:11 AM  
Blogger Enbrethiliel said...


I must confess that the thesis doesn't originate with me, but with the Filipino writer Nick Joaquin.

Here is a meaty quote that just happened to be handy (since I reproduced it on my old blog):

We did not get the plow from India, nor the theatre from China, nor the plow from Thailand, nor the hospital from Cambodia, nor city culture from Malaya, nor the horse from Japan, nor spice culture from the Indies, nor architecture from Java, nor mathematics and the sciences from the Arabs.

In short, in terms of civilisation, we seem to have gotten none of the basic media from our Asian neighbours . . .

Through the centuries of our supposed contacts with the Chinese, they were already a paper culture, we continued to write on tree bark. Through the centuries of our supposed contacts with the Indons, they were already a book culture, we continued to write on tree bark. And through the centuries of our supposed contacts with the Arabs, they were already a print culture, we continued to write on tree bark. But within thirty yearsof Legazpi we took the first step into paper culture, print culture, book culture.

Joaquin has pointed out that the reason it was so easy for Spanish missionaries to Christianise the Philippines, when the rest of Asia has proven nearly impenetrable, was that Asian civilisation (whether Indian or Chinese or whatever) hadn't reached us at all. So when Spanish civilisation brought us "the city," there was no need to knock down old structures to put up new ones. The missionaries likely built everything from the foundation up--not unlike what happened in Latin America. So, culturally, the Philippines has more in common with South America than with its Asian neighbours.

But on a very personal note, another reason I rooted for Japan was that I had very good Japanese friends in New Zealand who let me sit with them as they relived past matches! =P

4:18 AM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

Casey, ironically, America is one of the holdouts against globalization here, at least in sport.

Enbrethiliel, fascinating stuff. Nick Joaquin seems to have hit upon something very profound. The idea that "the Philippines isn't actually Asian" makes more and more sense. The Filipinos I've come across here in Korea or in Malaysia don't fit into any neat categories. In my encounters, I feel something akin to both the Latin Americans and Southeast Asian I have known, as well as my fellow Americans. This is something quite unique, and something to be proud of.

I really hope to visit your homeland someday. Baguio seems to call me.

4:37 AM  
Blogger Enbrethiliel said...


Joshua, if you ever make it to Baguio, I'm sure you will love it! And if you're in the country at all, please let me know. =) Not to sound stalkerish or anything, but I'd love to welcome you and your family. (I'd also like the chance to apologise personally if the goons at Customs get too familiar with your luggage!)

4:52 AM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

Thank you. I have the feeling that if I do ever make it to Baguio, it will be a permanent move. I'm done with traveling.

5:02 AM  

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