Monday, June 28, 2010

World Cup and other mass participation sports

Having been told that Americans can’t be bothered with soccer and couldn’t tell their Arsenal from their proverbial elbow, it turns out that trying to get into Sawyer Park sports bar when the US is playing is pointless – it’s packed to the rafters. This is good – it made the US vs. England game much more enjoyable last week, even if I had the only lonely England flag in the pub, which I had to quietly stuff back into my bag before skulking out when it all ended in a draw. And I’m glad I had the excuse of an airport-run instead of sitting through yesterday’s debacle.

There have been some good editorials on the sport. Once I’d got over the fact they kept talking about the US playing Britain (which hacked off Scottish housemate as much as me I think – talk of writing angry letters to editor abounded), there was a big discussion in The Week about why football isn’t any great shakes over here, despite the fact that it’s the most played sport in America outside of basketball. The journalist disliked the idea of the US being forced to enjoy the World Cup, saying those who push the US to love football are actually closet lefties, believing that ‘rejecting soccer is xenophobic, provincial, and just as disreputable as America’s “rejection of socialism”’. That seems a bit harsh to me, but he also added that people here don’t like things that end in a 0-0 verdict; that really, sports are popular because they show that all that running around achieves results.

The Critical Mass Friday night started well and ended badly. We did however manage to cover around 16 miles before the police showed up. This time they chased one guy down Washington Avenue and into a cul-de-sac before pushing him onto the ground, cuffing him and stuffing him in the back of a car. To be fair to the police, no one seems quite sure what happened – the cyclist was possibly told to stop and didn’t. But the problem with forcing one cyclist into a dead end road is that there are another 250 behind him, demanding their rights as part of the traffic and taking photos. It didn’t help that the police car had run over the cyclist’s bike, crushing one of the wheels entirely.

On a better note however, we also saw a guy playing a banjo while stood on a small plank of wood over the back tire of a bike. He was raising awareness of the treatment of veterans of Afghanistan, and did it completely naked in New Orleans. That apparently raised even more awareness than it did in Houston.

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