Sunday, June 17, 2018

Rooting for the World

I understand that the reason the United States is not in the World Cup tournament is because of poor play, suspect coaching and stubborn woodwork, but there is a bit of poetry involved in that the present administration wants to isolate us and have us not play nice with the rest of the world.

So we're not.

Of course, I would certainly want the United States to be in the World Cup and to represent us on the world stage, but we'll have to wait until at least 2022 in Qatar. We are of course shoo-ins for 2026 because the Cup will be played here and Canada and Mexico. Call it the NAFTA Cup. If NAFTA is still around.

The international situation is, as always, dire. Right-wing, nationalist, isolationist, anti-immigrant despots are rising the world over, repudiating the post-World War II consensus that the way to avoid another world war is to cooperate, integrate and communicate. That this consensus is breaking down, and is indeed being led by the President of the United States, is troubling and potentially dangerous. The Chinese have essentially called President Trump's tariff bluff and the ensuing escalation could mean higher costs, prices and tensions. And don't forget that the only person to have left Shanghai last week with one less international chip was...President Trump. And this was after he excoriated and denigrated our allies while complimenting one of the world's most savage political beasts.

The antidote for me is the World Cup. It's greatness lies in its competition and how the players represent it. Many of them play on club teams together, and while they are not always friends, they do have respect for what their opponents can do. Sometimes they hug each other, help each other up, apologize for an inadvertent hit, or, get this one, smile. It's a joy to watch. The closest thing we have in this country is the NBA, where the players have become noticeably more conversational and cooperative with each other, even while elevating the level of competition.

It's also fun to watch because many of the country's teams represent what many of the demagogues in power don't want to see: integrated teams that include players of different races, religions and immigrant backgrounds proudly representing their nations. It's the ultimate rebuttal to closing borders, sending desperate refugees back across the sea, separating children from parents, or imprisoning, beating, harassing or killing those who are different. It is the ultimate reminder that every life is precious because you don't know what talents someone might contribute to their nation if you only see the threat that most of them will not become.

I can also root for another nation's team and not think twice about it.

For the next month, then, I will be reveling in the beautiful game. Join me.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest


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