USA | Sarah Palin, ‘soccer mom’ at a new frontier

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article appears in issue 60 (Nov 08) of So Foot (Paris), a special on American soccer. See “Sarah Palin est-elle une bonne soccer mom?” 76–77.

soccer mom, noun (1987) : a typically suburban mother who accompanies her children to their soccer games and is considered as part of a significant voting bloc or demographic group. (Merriam-Webster Online)

soccer mom : the downfall of human society. (Urban Dictionary)

Surely there have been soccer moms in North America at least since the early 17th century. The difference between the stereotypical image of today—that of a parent who shuttles children to training and matches whilst piloting a vehicle of three tons’ throw weight—and the women of the Powhatan Indian settlement of colonial Virginia is that the latter played soccer and did not merely provide transport. A 1609 journal by Henry Spelman, an orthographically challenged 14-year-old from the Jamestown settlement apprenticed to the Powhatan in order to learn the Algonquian language, describes these Americans’ favorite recreations. Games included

football play, which women and young boyes doe much play at … the men never. They make ther Gooles as ours only they never fight nor pull one another doune.

Algonquian Football

A reprint of Games of the North American Indians: Games of Skill by Stewart Culin, originally published in 1907, shows one variation of indigenous football favored by the Koksoagmiut of Labrador: “This ball is very light and is driven either by a blow from the foot or else by a whip of peculiar construction.” (© 1992 Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska)

In modern times, the first soccer mom with political ambitions may have been Susan Casey in Denver. In municipal elections in 1995 she campaigned successfully with the slogan “A Soccer Mom for City Council.” Sarah Palin, the Alaska governor and Republican vice-presidential nominee, lays claim to this heritage while giving it a new ideological slant. In her national-television debut at the Republican Party convention in early September, she called herself a “hockey mom” and appeared on the dais with five scrubbed children and snowmobile-racing husband, Todd. This was Minnesota, however, part of America’s frigid northern tier. Like Michigan, another heavily contested prize in the presidential race, large numbers of residents support ice hockey, the favored winter sport.

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