Monday, June 14, 2010

Day 165- World Cup!

Dear Mr. President,

Glenn Beck hates the world cup. Actually, Glenn Beck has himself convinced that all of America (or whatever the collective pronoun he speaks with refers to,) hates the world cup. I don't think it's that much of a stretch to see the racist, or at least xenophobic, implications in his words; Glenn Beck hating something he doesn't understand, however, is hardly news. Not that any thinking person needs to have this contradicted, but in my own experience, arguably just as American as Beck's, soccer is just as quintessential as apple pie.

I remember the day I started playing soccer. It was in second grade, during recess. It was one of those rare, gorgeous days, and I managed to convince the boys to let me play with them in order to even out the teams. I made one (entirely accidental, but, apparently, incredible) save, and they decided i was one of them. From then on we played every day, one class against another. We played for two years, until I moved to a new elementary school, and my parents signed me up for an all-girls league. At our first team meeting, we discussed that our proposed name, the pink panthers, was already taken by another team. It was put to a vote and, by a large majority, we decided to call ourselves the pink flamingos, instead, disappointing more than a few parents by prioritizing pink jerseys above a ferocious mascot. Six years (and several mascots later) we were an odd mix of high school girls; some popular, some unknown, some geeks, but we all put the game first. Girls who bullied me at school were my sisters in arms on the field. Some of us were poor, some were rich, some were middle class; we came from many different kinds of families and represented a diverse collection of ethnicities. We cheered the suddenly famous women's world cup team on as they penalty-kicked their way to a stunning and dramatic victory. I used to practice juggling in the backyard of my mother's house, fantasizing about playing in front of a crowded stadium. Our parents haggled over carpools and halftime snacks, and, while we donned shin-guards and climbed into their mini vans, our mothers became a new demographic of female voters dubbed "soccer moms". Soccer didn't change my life; it was an integral part of my life. I don't know who I'd be without it, the self-confidence it inspired, the emphasis on fitness and teamwork and sportsmanship surely helped me become the person I am today.

Anyway, I never played soccer after high school. I don't regret this, exactly, I was never good enough to play as more than just a hobby, but I still love the game. I love the way enthusiasm for soccer games infects its fans, young and old, American or international, in exactly the same way. I played soccer with little boys in villages in Palestine, when we had no more than a few words of shared language. I cheered along with Dutch and German fans while we watched games on a tiny hostel TV screen. Soccer might not feed or clothe or shelter any one, but it brings the world together. I would imagine that this is exactly why Glenn Beck, and his like-minded contemporaries, hate it so much. You're a sports fan, Mr. President, and so I have no doubt that you appreciate the excitement of the world cup, and the symbol of progress that hosting such an event is for South Africa, and so I hope that, in between all of the millions of important things you have to do this month, you're able to enjoy a few games.

Respectfully yours,


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