The Guardian’s Philly-based Steven Wells has penned a scathing, if not right-on-the-money column or several dozen that’ve been quoted at length in this space, and his October 1 review of Sal Paolantonio’s “How Football Explains America” (“there are many contenders for the title of worst sports book ever…I reckon this has to be a serious contender”) is certain to be a crowd pleaser with his Yankee readers.
The actual chapters of How Football Explains America are all but unreadable. Paolantonio rehashes a game or a heartwarming football-related anecdote with the gusto of the true bore. Then he explains why this explains how football explains the battle of Midway. Or Davy Crockett. Or manifest destiny. Each chapter more tedious than the last.
The prologue is a masterpiece of bombastic ignorance in which Paolantonio inadvertently reveals that he has apparently never actually watched any other sport. Or indeed read about them.
In the introduction we learn from Paolantonio that soccer is so boring that fans have to start fights and embrace fascism just to stay awake and that a founding principle of American football is “relinquishing the ball quickly to the other team”. This will puzzle anybody who’s sat through the drawn-out rigmarole of both sides quitting the field and the sending on of two entirely different teams (while the crowd are distracted by clowns and dancing girls, Frisbee-catching dogs and mascots firing T-shirts out of bazookas).
We also learn that American football is replete with the “underlining mythical structures” of “our Judeo Christian heritage”, “our immigrant experience”, “masculinity and violence” and “the romanticized storyline that Americans demand from their television sets every night”.
Which makes perfect sense ” especially when you realise that America is the only country in the world with Jews, Christians, immigrants, men and television sets.