Learning from the World Cup

World Cup PressI take this to be a question less about soccer than about life in general, or, say, about international relations or relations between social classes, or at our jobs.

If the favorites win every time, then what interests us in the spectacle? How they win? By how much they win?

A second possibility: The World Cup helps us practice pretending?

We often find ourselves in situations at our jobs in which there are favorites and the favorites are, surprise surprise, favored. And we have been trained to believe or pretend that this does not mean they are going to win every time or even most of the time. Money, connections, stature, innate abilities, seductiveness or willingness to be seduced—none of this really matters. The person or team that has the most faith, the most optimism, and that works the hardest, will win. To think otherwise, we are told, is unhealthy. “You gotta believe.”

So then we turn on the TV, and we imagine that the team with that plays hardest or gets luckiest might win. The announcers are working overtime to encourage such views, to disguise the fact that, after the initial sorting out (the “group stage”), the favorites win every match. There is no suspense. (Did you really think Argentina was going to beat Germany?) So, again, what interests us in the spectacle?


In the beginning, when this post was just a few lines (no “second possibility”), it seemed a reminder, too, that shorter texts often say more than longer ones. And thus I offered these links:

Photograph is by Dan Walker for the BBC.

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