The Architecture of Sports

I sat down at my desk the other day, having just returned from three weeks of lazing about Italy, and got to work on an important task: Get myself and The Modern Spectator ready for the World Cup. Soon I was sorting through a muddle of blog posts, viral videos, and soccer spam (I seem to get a lot of this). Amid all the ridiculous stories (Maradona demands high-tech bidet!) and earnest analysis (Maradona eschews the attacking fullback!), I found a press release that gave me pause. It announced that the committee trying to bring the 2018 or 2022 World Cup to the USA had a new board member: Brad Pitt.

I have nothing against Mr. Pitt (and nothing for him either). He isn’t the worst actor in Hollywood, nor the most obnoxious, but one thing about him does kind of irk me, his avowed love of architecture. Pitt hobnobs with starchitects (It pains me to write that word) like Frank Gehry and fiddles with models (building models, that is) like a true dilettante. This strikes me as one of the more pretentious aesthetic affectations a pretty-boy actor could have. And now soccer? Does that make soccer the architecture of sports?

During the last World Cup Bryan Curtis wrote in Slate that American intellectuals love to love soccer. It’s international, slightly obscure, and maybe a little pretentious. Intellectuals love to sympathize with the global working classes whom they imagine to be their fellow fans, and we like to think of soccer as a lyrical thinking man’s sport – more of a beautiful spontaneous jazz song than, say, the military dirge of American football. But, as my recent experience in an Italian bar packed with macho, crew-cutted Inter (Milan) fans showed, not all soccer fans are contemplative types, musing on the connections between Socrates (the footballer) and Socrates (the Greek). Soccer appeals to our basest instincts as well as our grandest ones.

But this multi-valence is what we love. Setting aside the game itself, the difficult unrehearsed ballet, it’s the sweeping range of emotional attachments, political affiliations, and dirty jokes that draws writers and so many others to the global game, especially come World Cup time. Soccer may be the architecture of sports, but it’s also the plumbing (Thanks, Maradona!) So I welcome Brad Pitt to the big circus tent of soccer, where he joins dungeons & dragons aficionados (please check out the book covers in the margin), the North Koreans, who recently tried to disguise a striker as a goalie, and the Modern Spectator. We’ll be bringing you daily, or near daily dispatches about the tournament for the next month. We hope you enjoy.

This just in: Morgan Freeman joined the USA bid committee. Isn’t he from South Africa?

— Austin    Jun 10, 03:02 PM    #


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