Most Americans would agree that watching football on the weekends and rooting for their favorite team is an integral part of Americanism. Therefore, it is not surprising that popular sports writing in the United States usually covers American football or baseball as stated in Don DeLillo’s famous prologue “The Triumph of Death” to his novelUnderworld.
Franklin Foer breaks this tradition by introducing soccer to an American audience. Foer’s book has been quite successful, as ESPN ranks it among the top four books written on the culture of soccer (Caple 1). Foer does not only discuss sports, but he also journeys from stadium to stadium around the globe to provide new insight on today’s world events. He uses the globalized medium of soccer to explain political, economic and social occurrences.
In this essay, I will look at chapters seven and nine in which Foer’s argumentation is political. Therefore, this can be considered both sports, as well as political writing.
How Soccer Explains the Worldis organized into ten chapters, which can be read as three different parts with regard to content. “The first third of the book explores globalization’s failure
to erode the game’s great rivalries and the hatreds they can produce” (Young 1). Foer then elaborates on the role of soccer in politics and economics when he explains the rise of the oligarchs and the corruption that was included in this process. In the last part of the book, the role soccer plays in preserving nationalism and for returning to the idea of tribalism is looked at in-depth.
Throughout his book, Foer examines different phenomena. In chapter seven he illustrates the rise of the new oligarchs Berlusconi and Agnelli by the means of soccer. Chapter nine is concerned with Islam’s liberalization from the manacles of the patriarchal system.
In this essay, I chose to look only at chapters seven and nine, as well as the prologue and I will therefore not be analyzing other chapters. At certain points, I will utilize some of the other chapters’ content for my argumentation. In this paper, I will look at some of the stylistic devices Foer uses and at his argumentation in terms of the degree to which soccer really explains political phenomena adequately.
He fails to live up to his goal of thoroughly accounting for political or social phenomena in a convincing way through the lens of soccer.
Foer who works “as a political journalist in Washington” (Foer 2), knows his craft and his way of writing can, without a doubt, be considered decent journalism. He “took six months off from his job […] to tour the soccer capitals of the world” (Mandle 1), which shows his dedication to this project.
In terms of language, Foer is not a great stylist who plays with language to convey meaning. His journalistic background is clearly visible as his intention is not to leave people in awe over his language skills. He rather wants to illustrate the importance of soccer for world events.
He uses an adequate mixture of well-researched facts, e.g. the histories of Juventus Turin and AC Milan, and personal accounts. Stating “with this damning image in mind, it wasn’t a promising development when AC Milan kidnapped me” (Foer 177) or “I anticipated that we would have a coffee or sit down in his office. Now […] I was unsure of our destination” (Foer 178), makes the author appear very present in his work. This also lends more authenticity to the content, because he experienced this first handedly. In addition, this shows his personal interest for soccer and its surrounding developments.