Moore's Blatant Flop

Monday, June 16, 2014

Stephen Moore of Fox News has just pronounced himself unfit for commentary on sports (and highly suspect as a journalist) by means of writing a piece titled, "Why I Won't Be Watching the World Cup". This piece falls into a genre I named "The Anti-Soccer Editorial by Someone Who Has No Appreciation for the Game". After first checking that Moore's and Robert Tracinski's respective pieces aren't actually Microsoft Word templates that slipped past editors, I remain confident in calling this "a phenomenon that crops up reliably in America every four years, around the time of the World Cup". Conservatives usually write these. The equally ridiculous leftist equivalent, which I spotted only this time around, might be called "Soccer IS Anti-American, and That's a Good Thing".

I will never fault someone for his taste in sports, so long as he either has some solid reasons for enjoying (or not) the spectacle a given sport has to offer, or admits that he just doesn't know enough about a sport to enjoy watching it. Moore does neither:

I'm an American. I want scoring. I want action. Maybe it's part of the instant gratification culture but 90 minutes of kicking with zero or one or two goals doesn't exactly move heaven and earth.
This is coming from someone who professes to admire golf -- a game whose participants walk (or ride) in between swings of a club and seek to score fewer points than their opponents. (I'm not very knowledgeable about golf, but, having played a little -- and having also realized that its popularity might exist for good reasons -- I can see past these "problems". Or has Moore just enough guile not to claim that he enjoys a "chukker of golf" now and then?)

Moore's criticism of soccer is about as even-handed and well-informed as the following hypothetical criticism I made of basketball some years ago:
Basketball ... is [racked] with inflation, robbing its players of the value of the successes they have already produced by making them have to score "too many times" to win a game. No wonder it's popular with blacks, who bloc-vote for Democrats (and their inflationary policies), and [is] becoming more so in socialist Europe, particularly in nations (like Greece and Italy) which historically had high inflation and unstable currencies before the Euro!

And the spiritual experience for the fans, of seeing points scored, is cheapened by the fact that it occurs so often. By Jove, one might as well watch footage of a printing press reeling off fiat currency! Basketball may allow players to use their hands all they want -- just like men in inflationary economies are free to use their minds -- but it retroactively robs them of the value of their past efforts!
Moore intriguingly claims to have argued that soccer is "a manifestation of the labor theory of value applied to sports". But if he hasn't the patience to gain some modicum of insight as to what is going on in a typical soccer game, why should I bother to read these? How would he know, even if, arguendo, he is parroting the words of a completely accurate assessment, a correct conclusion?

Moore's article is no more an indictment of persuasive writing than the (illegal!) flops for easy scoring chances he uses to condemn soccer are of that game. No that I know enough to judge Moore's motives in writing this piece, but there is a lesson here for anyone interested in persuasive writing aimed at a rational audience.

-- CAV


Grant said...

Hi Gus,

Ceritus paribus, the relative decrease in American interest in sports such as baseball and golf, and the relative increase in interest in sports like American football and soccer is because of psycho-epistemological breakdown as well as ethical paradigm shifts. Relative to football and soccer (as well as basketball and hockey, etc), baseball and golf are more "intellectual" (read: analytical) than today's more popular (and increasingly popular sports), as well as (literally, as well as symbolically) more individualistic. People like the greater "chaos" (read: chance) of the "goal sports", as well as the relative lack of emphasis on individual achievement.

Of course, none of this is to say that sports - of any type - aren't still primarily enjoyed by Americans because they all (relative to every day life in today's economic and cultural chaos, at least) provide comfort for a healthy psycho-epistemology (ie: relatively greater reliabilty and predictability), as well as a venue for (relatively emphasized, and certainly dramatized) individual achievement. It's simply to say that while, on the individual level, an interest in football or soccer can certainly be a sign of a perfectly healthy psycho-epistemology and rational ethical code, on the cultural level, they've become popular (ie: preferred by people who's psycho-epistemologies, as well as their ethical codes, are mixed) precisely because they're LESS "American" than baseball and golf, not equally so.

Steve D said...

I have come to realize that sport is simply an issue of personal taste. Regardless of the sport, it's a simple matter to come up with a list of objective reasons (or rationalizations) why you like it or hate it.

Mostly, I think people gravitate to sports they have a history with or have grown up watching. I know I like those I have played before because I have a better background to appreciate them. Switching sports, either a fan or a player would mean a whole lot of effort, which would usually be better spent elsewhere.

That all said, the Cannon piece (Nil, nil) has to be at least partially tongue and cheek; the Moore piece, less so (I think) but still heavy on comic side.

Gus Van Horn said...


Your speculation about the popularity of certain sports reflecting cultural trends is interesting, but I'd have to give it much more thought before endorsing it or rejecting it.


You raise a good point about some of these pieces possibly being comical in intent, but as soccer becomes better known in the U.S., such pieces need to get past traditional stereotypes, if they want to be intentionally funny,

Your point about the time investment required to gain an appreciation for a new sport is spot-on. Probably the main group of people with such an opportunity will be parents of kids who take up sports new to them -- and Moore's article demonstrates that even this takes effort.