I have a new piece (my first) up this morning at The Run of Play. It’s about how European soccer tempts American fans to look past the field of play for deeper existential meaning. Here’s a small snippet:
So on one hand, soccer-as-proxy is healthy. It diverts ethnic conflicts and solidarity around community identities into a defanged realm. Athletics are trivial, leisurely activities, so the worst forms of hooliganism still fall well short of full-scale ethnic conflict. If we can minimize conflict in this way, so much the better.
On the other hand, perhaps Americans ought to jealously guard their disenchanted rivalries. Intoxicating as it may be to raise the athletic stakes, there’s much to recommend disenchanted sports. When the Seattle Sounders play the Portland Timbers, there’s no fundamental existential (or ethnic) divide driving antipathy between the two teams or their supporters. When the New York Yankees play the Tampa Bay Rays, no one brings up 1865, and that’s probably for the best.
Also, another post on a similar topic here.