Yeah, it’s someone other than GC doing a post on soccer/football. I’m as surprised as you are. Probably more so, actually since I, myself, know that I, myself, don’t care much for or about the sport. I’ve watched a few games, but usually because I’m with friends who really care about the sport or their team (their Arsenal, if you must know). I dig the World Cup, but mostly from a kind of anthropological “this really matters an incredible amount to other people” remove. I can see the beauty in the game, is what I’m saying, but it doesn’t move me the way it moves others. Including, of course, our host.
But I like good writing, and hate bad writing and ignorance, and so I’m just going to come out and say it: if I read a worse article this year than Gene Wojciechowski’s corny-as-hell piece on David Beckham at ESPN I will be 1) surprised and 2) very unfortunate. Clicking the link is recommended only to those who like to be reminded that, despite whatever intellect or pretensions we might bring to our sports-enjoying lives, there are still a lot of people writing about sports who either think that sports fans are just like the meatball jingos beefing it up in Bud Light commercials or are in fact themselves said meatball jingo beef machines. Look, I don’t know what most of what I just typed means, or if “jingo” is a noun. Or a word. But I do know that an article that begins like this:
It’s not that I’m anti-soccer, I’m just anti-dull. To me, soccer is hockey on a Valium overdose, but with no glove dropping or board checking.
Yes, I’m aware it’s called “The Beautiful Game” — and I’m sure it is, much in the same way folding your laundry is “The Beautiful Chore.”
…and then actually gets dumber is kind of disrespectful of its audience. I don’t care about soccer one way or the other. And in a sense, I even sympathize with Wojcetera: he’s a senior writer at ESPN and makes more money for his writing than I probably ever will, but he has deadlines and assignments and stresses, and presumably some editor assigned Gene an article on David Beckham even though he — and I gather this is the correct response at this point — doesn’t give a shit about David Beckham. That’s a tough break. But, look:
I can’t name you a half dozen active soccer players — and I’m not alone. I’m not sure I can name you six soccer players, dead or alive. Let’s see: Pele, Freddy Adu, that French dude who headbutted that Italian dude, Mia Hamm, Sylvester Stallone and Keira Knightley?
This will upset some soccer snobs, who tend to go all hooligan on you if you don’t “get” the game. Look, I’ve got no problem with a Brit lad telling me he’d rather eat English food than watch a Royals-Pirates interleague game or, worse yet, the Raiders against anybody. But don’t jump me just because I yawn at the mention of the Premiership. I’m trying to understand, I really am, why Beckham should matter to sweat-sport Americans hardwired for the NFL, MLB, the NBA and, just to be polite, the NHL.
That’s not acceptable, dude. Not because the jokes are off-the-rack, thick with the mothbally reek of old Sporting News “Caught on the Fly” columns. I mean, they are, but not every article is going to be good. And, to be fair, the rest of the article is more boring than bad: an attempt, through quotes from L.A. Times sportswriter Christine Daniels, to let Americans — people Wojvowels assumes are in the same boat as he — in on who David Beckham is and why they should care. If you don’t know the first thing about Beckham, you are a part of a slim demographic of U.S. sports fans, but you might even learn something.
My problem is that everything in Woj’s tone says that it’s not worth it, that bothering to learn about this is somehow not just wrong but somehow, like, kinda foreign and weird. And if it is or isn’t doesn’t so much matter here: I’m just tired of writers, be they tired old guys at ESPN or once-hotshot political writers at the Washington Post, not bothering to display any respect for or interest in what they’re being paid to write about. I don’t demand reverence, but baseline care and competence would be nice. I wonder: to whom, and why, is it somehow not just acceptable but preferable to be smirkingly, proudly ignorant than to make a good faith effort at doing one’s job, even if that job is writing about a washed-up, overpaid Chav with an orange, Gollem-looking wife? It strikes me as a uniquely good way to write something useless, and an ugly irony besides: all that knowingness of tone, in celebration of the greater glory of knowing nothing.