political football

Brian Phillips:  It seems safe to say that beneath this admiration, there is still, for many Americans, a lurking sense of Iran as a geopolitical nemesis. The crypto-racist provocations of old Bush-era “Axis of Evil” rhetoric still have a residual influence on many people, as does the grainy mental afterimage of Ayatollah Khomeini ranting about … Continue reading political football


Well, the North London Derby will be kicking off in a few minutes, and my nerves are tingling. I won’t be watching the match — I’m gonna practice meditation or something. But I have some thoughts.  I don’t expect Arsenal to win — Spurs are playing at home and they need the points more than … Continue reading nerves

Let’s be clear about the meaning of this silly practice of hosting international matches in cold-weather cities: U.S. Soccer is afraid that our lads can’t beat any of those countries in warm-weather cities, where in any case the opponents would have more fans in the stadium than the U.S. would. Playing outside the Land of Frozen Tundra is a risk the bosses dare not take, and that fearfulness tells us just how far the side is from living up to its talent — and also gives a very good indication of why the USMNT so consistently underperforms. The current management, from top to bottom, needs to go.  


In footy (aka soccer) it is possible for players to make the following kinds of run:  Mazy  Marauding  Lung-bursting  Darting  Slaloming  The Laws of the Game permit these runs and no others. 


Freddie deBoer writing about his sense that what Wesley Yang calls the “successor ideology” might be losing momentum: This could lead to a Great Wokelash, and that could lead to genuinely conservative cultural politics (80%) or a redefined and newly-serious left-wing society (20%). This may very well come to pass. But I think it may … Continue reading passing


As Eve Tushnet has reminded us, “Mercy to the guilty is the only kind of mercy there is,” which is something to remember as you read about Shirley Chisholm and George Wallace.  This Stefani McDade report in Christianity Today about the post-Trump reckoning among charismatic Christian leaders is absolutely superb.  I am so pleased to … Continue reading linkages

a reminder

When social media companies say they can’t do anything about filthy, racist abuse on their platforms, what they mean is: We can’t do anything about that abuse without changing our policies in ways that might inconvenience us. Right now the foulest abuse imaginable is being poured out on a 19-year-old English soccer player because Twitter … Continue reading a reminder

Little Platoons

Matt Feeney’s Little Platoons: A Defense of Family in a Competitive Age is a fascinating and provocative book that, in my judgment anyway, cries out for a sequel. Before I go any further I should say that I’ve known Matt for years – we used to be co-conspirators at The American Scene – and we’ve … Continue reading Little Platoons

livestreaming church

I disagree with pretty much everything in this post by Ephraim Radner. I don’t think consolation of lonely people is distinctively “motherly”; I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with the church being “motherly” — that’s not just a “well-worn trope,” that’s part of the job description; I don’t think any of the things he … Continue reading livestreaming church

What we learned from USA’s friendlies with Brazil and Peru

What we learned from USA’s friendlies with Brazil and Peru Not sure how much we learned, but we received further confirmation that the USMNT has made zero progress in the Klinsmann era and had probably regressed a bit. Has U.S. men’s soccer, as a much larger and more complex endeavor, improved? I see no reason … Continue reading What we learned from USA’s friendlies with Brazil and Peru

DAY 1: Let there be light, God said, and there was light. DAY 2: Let there be morons, God said, and there were morons. DAY 3: Hey, morons, God said, I created LIGHT. DAY 4: I mean, I’m just saying, God said. None of you guys could have created light. You’re too stupid! Hey, you want me to part … Continue reading

Typical rustic folk games involved hundreds of drunken men from rival villages rampaging through streets and fields, trying to drive, say, a casket of beer (the proto-ball) into the crypt of a church (the proto-goal). The schools distilled such testosterone-fuelled rituals into new formats involving smaller teams, sober boys and sodden leather balls. Codified by … Continue reading

It’s been less than a year, but what happened next is already the stuff of lore. “You have to understand,” noted foosball aficionado George F. Will told me recently over a steaming mug of chai caramel latte at McDonald’s. “Of the three major American sports, one, snooker, is primary mental, and another, lawn bowls, is … Continue reading

Stott sees crowds as the opposite of ruleless, and crowd violence as the opposite of senseless: What seems like anarchic behavior is in fact governed by a shared self-conception and thus a shared set of grievances. Stott’s response to the riots has been unpopular with many of his countrymen. Unlike Zimbardo, who would respond—and indeed … Continue reading

After the End

runofplay: Cue the End-of-an-Era music: Pep Guardiola has resigned. But from this vantage point what seems clear is that Pep’s departure, and all the accompanying verbiage — about the intensity of his personality, his perfectionism, the hardware his team has won over the past four years, the success of the Barcelona Way, Pep as the … Continue reading After the End

On Throw-Ins

runofplay: Why are soccer players so bad at throw-ins? In any given soccer match the rate of throw-in failure is shockingly high. The problems come in three general varieties.    Excess of ambition. A teammate stands unmarked five yards from the thrower-in, so that nothing would be easier than to toss the ball at his … Continue reading On Throw-Ins

The takedown

Yesterday I posted a little piece over at The Run of Play on the inexplicably lousy season Inter Milan is having. The analogy that struck me was that the team seems to have something like Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: they’re not lazy, they’re not slacking off, but they seem somehow to be incapable of energetic and … Continue reading The takedown

Last week one of my Twitter followers replied in this way to one of my soccer tweets: “Why do you like soccer? Sports need to have a balance btw offense and defense. Soccer fails the test.” Well, we’ve heard that one before. I didn’t reply, but if I had I would have said (of course) that he was … Continue reading

There are two reasons, basically, why soccer lends itself to spectatorial boredom. One is that the game is mercilessly hard to play at a high level. (You know, what with the whole “maneuver a small ball via precisely coordinated spontaneous group movement with 10 other people on a huge field while 11 guys try to … Continue reading

You can divide all soccer players — maybe all athletes — into two groups: the rational and the irrational. Rational players do what they look like they do. They look athletic, and they are athletic. They look balanced, and they are balanced. Ronaldo is a rational player; you could spot him on the beach and … Continue reading

It’s hard to imagine a revolution in understanding a popular sport that could entirely circumvent that sport’s followers. But that, weirdly, is what the soccer clubs seem to be aiming at: a great, obscurantist leap forward that will enable them to win more matches without anyone outside their own offices knowing precisely why. You can’t … Continue reading