The NFL, Europe and Iraq

By Vox Day

Unlike other sports fans, I am not in the least perturbed by the defeat of the U.S. national team at the World Basketball Championships. While I do believe that sports can be a reasonable metaphor for war, I don’t believe them to be so in the flag-waving, jingoistic sense that permeated the Cold War rivalry between the USA and USSR.

It may be embarrassing that our highly-paid professionals have finally been unmasked for the hopeless one-dimensional charlatans sans fundamentals that they are, but basketball is a simple, easily mastered sport at which any country can excel, given a little time, effort and a few overactive pituitary glands. Yugoslavia may be a basketball giant, but I wasn’t too concerned about their imperial ambitions even when Slobodan Milosevic was constructing Greater Serbia.

I am, however, concerned about the fact that Johnnie Morton, the number three wide receiver on my fantasy football team, barely caught a pass as the Kansas City Chiefs racked up 40 points. I am even more concerned that those 40 points were racked up on my Cleveland defense. Even worse, I’m a lifelong Vikings fan – thus I knew that Dwayne Rudd is a hopeless yahoo, and I picked them anyhow. What was I thinking? If I were The Sports Guy, I would now set myself on fire. Fortunately, the New England D was still available on waivers.

Now, in addition to the American game, I also follow European football, generally known as soccer. On the club level, I follow Arsenal, and the fact that Manchester United has already dropped six points on the Gunners is like a balm to my wounded purple soul after the last-minute debacle in Chicago last week.

What does this have to do with anything, much less Iraq? Here’s the point: Europeans understand American foreign policy about as well as they understand our game of football. Which is to say, not at all. Not only do they not understand either, but they are hopelessly confused as to the fundamental underpinnings of both.

Europeans focus almost exclusively on the physical side of football. They see it as an incredibly violent game that falls barely within the realm of civilization, a brutal, barbaric sport which appeals primarily to the lowest human instincts. What they do not see is the incredible amount of planning and strategizing which goes into every play, the powerful cerebral elements that define and shape the game. If football was only a game of physical talent, the St. Louis Rams could never have lost to the Patriots in last year’s Super Bowl, but the NFL is 60 minutes of chess played with muscular humans in the place of pawns.

Soccer, on the other hand, involves almost no strategic thinking. I cannot exaggerate how hopeless Europeans can be when it comes to this sort of thing. I once played for an Italian team which was excellent defensively, but had a lot of trouble scoring. This was because our primary form of attack was to send the ball to the corners, then cross it in looking for headers. Not a bad tactic, in general, but a little sub-optimal when your two strikers are both less than 5 feet 4 inches tall.

Our manager’s answer to our scoring problem, of course, was not to change strikers or strategies, but to practice our crosses more often. That worked almost as well as the sanctions on Iraq have so far.

This lack of strategic thinking is why the United States cannot expect any help or even reasonable discussion from our European allies. They are not capable of assessing the situation in a logical manner, nor are they able to formulate viable strategies – much less tactics.

As for me, I’m not sure of how I feel about the ongoing war on Iraq. I certainly don’t like how the government uses war as an excuse to trample our rights, but considering that they’ve already accomplished quite a bit of that with the Patriot Act, then we might as well reap some of the benefits too, like a new model Middle East constructed on the Japan plan.

And if you don’t mind me casting cold reason to the wind for once, I think I’d like to see not one, but six 9-11 monuments. One in New York City, the others in Baghdad, Riyadh, Kabul, Damascus and Tehran. They started it, so let’s finish it.