Media | The stoning of Steven (w/ podcast)

I don’t think I’m capable of writing conventional sports journalism. I just don’t find it interesting enough. My wife makes me sit through Sky Sports News, where they have these by rote interviews with players. They never say anything remotely interesting. “You gotta respect the team we’re playing. We gotta take it one game at a time.” Most of the football magazines nowadays end with the question, “So, Wayne, how do you find the new Nike Predator?”

Judged by the rapidity of response, Wells’s most provocative commentary thus far came on Jun 15 (“Americans Are Soccer-Savvy … and That Scares Little Englanders”). He addresses David Beckham‘s arrival at L.A. Galaxy and takes on English and American conceptions of association football on the respective shores. To start scrolling through the 466 comments registered during the subsequent seven days is to commit oneself to a gray text stream that, for length, challenges one of the online Acts of Parliament.

Championing historian Eric Hobsbawm‘s attitude toward football as art, Wells writes of the rewards that association football offers the American polity:

[S]occer-playing America is massively liberal, loving, caring, socially conscious and nice. While soccer-hating America consists of increasingly isolated gangs of Bush-supporting, bible-bashing, gun-crazed, dungaree wearing, banjo-playing, quasi-fascist chicken-lovers and their twelve fingered, pin-headed, cyclopic, drooling monster children.

No problems here. Nevertheless, soon readers were tossing cultural grenades and debating the merits of American microbrews, among other tangents. Commenter 12string on Jun 18 chides Wells for a lack of social-scientific rigor: “[Y]ou show incredible ignorance of the average US population…. My kids have the normal number of fingers & are not slack-jawed, drooling idiots. You play to extreme, liberal typecasting assumptions and don’t have a single clue about what normal America (between the coasts) believes or does.”

YouTube video

Five-a-side football—one of Wells’s favorite variations—provides the conceit behind this rough-cut comedy experiment, No Skillz. Not a comedy classic, but enjoy Stephen Merchant‘s performance behind the microphone.

Misinterpretation of Wells’s column often falls along predictable lines, such that he on occasion has found the need to preempt well-worn patterns of argument: offense over the arrogance implicit in the phrase “World Series,” especially when used in America unironically; rage concerning use of “soccer” to mean “football”; and the entrenched belief, despite all available evidence, that Americans do not like “soccer.” One column, “For the Love of Blog” (Aug 20), consists solely of Wells anticipating his interlocutors’ objections. “The nondialectical cart having been presented first,” Wells imagines someone named postmodernmanpat typing, “it now falls to the mocked respondents to provide the subdialectical horse.” “I think the writer should be forced to choke on the dust at ground zero,” says the hypothetical kneejerk.

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