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Bush Knows Nothing About Soccer
June 13, 2002
By Bruce Douglass

On the day after the United States defeated Portugal 3-2, Mr. Bush was asked for his opinion about the surprising victory. Mr. Bush, being a former Baseball team owner and clueless about the importance of the question, mentioned weakly that Americans are great athletes. His comment underscores why the world is reluctant and unwilling to get on board Bush's war on terror and his words reinforces the total disconnect that the Bush Administration has when it comes to the people of the rest of the world.

One would think that someone in the Bush administration would have pointed out that the world’s eyes are focused upon a little event called the World Cup, which draws over a billion viewers every four years, and might be important enough for him to note with more than an a vague response. Instead, Mr. Bush continues his tradition abroad of being the Ugly American by not trying to understand the importance the rest of the world places on the World Cup. Sadly, the success of the U.S. in the World Cup doesn’t even register a credible comment from Mr. Bush, which will not endear him to the rest of the world community desperately searching for any common ground between the United States and the rest of the world.

That Mr. Bush would fumble opportunities that could benefit his positions when it comes to the War On Terrorism, Global Warming, and various other points of foreign policy is not surprising given his lack of experience. To fumble a question about sports, however, is surprising and shocking. This is a man who is portrayed as athletic and a sports enthusiast. The White House public relations people and supporters often remark on how fit he is and how he likes watching sports. The man who made his fortune, with the generous assistance of the taxpayers, by being an owner of a Major League Baseball team should be comfortable with making comments about sports. Instead, he drops the easy pop fly ball question and ends up reinforcing the distrust the rest of the world have of him and his administration.

In what should have been an obvious sign but overlooked by a fawning and malleable press, one of Mr. Bush’s first acts was the building of a T-ball field on the White House lawn. This signaled to everyone that his administration was turning inwards rather than embracing the rest of the world as President Clinton had done so successfully. Baseball is America’s game and, though there is only the occasional threat from a Canadian team, most of it's champions are from the United States. This inclusion easily fits Mr. Bush’s comfort zone and keeps the rest of the world’s problems outside of the White House door. Few visiting dignitaries understand the nuances of baseball or T-ball, thus giving them nothing in common with Mr. Bush, the man, and making it harder to communicate.

If he had chosen to build a soccer field on the grounds of the White House, Mr. Bush would have given the rest of the world something in common. Billions of people live and breathe soccer as a sport. It cuts across all lines and languages. When the world's most powerful elected official speaks on the beautiful game, it is more likely to be heard than his reasons for walking away from the Kyoto treaty accords. Soccer would be the uniter for the rest of the world that he continually derides and is frustrated with.

Instead, Bush exasperates the world by being unable to answer with any passion and joy at achieving a difficult feat of athleticism and teamwork against competitive teams. If a leader from any of the other countries playing had given Mr.Bush's answer, the repercussions could be the beginning of the end of their political careers. Fortunately, Mr. Bush is in a country that is not passionate about soccer and no such penalty exists. Mark this as another failure for Bush to engage the imagination of the world yet once again. Perhaps if the United States were to move to the next round and further, Mr. Bush would have the opportunity to mend some fences with his words.

Then again, he barely acknowledges the world outside of his ranch in Crawford. One would think that Mr. Bush’s many travels to Mexico would have exposed him to one of the soccer clubs in Mexico. Of course, he might have visited the Cotton Bowl to see the MLS’s Dallas Burn play a game. Certainly, one of his friends must have children who play the game since now more children play soccer than baseball. Mr. Bush continues to be an uncurious and insular intellect shaped by a sports culture whose rules frustrate those not familiar with the game—that is, the rest of the world. One can expect that Mr. Bush will fail to build support for his policies, but because Americans care little for soccer as well as Foreign policy, few here will notice that failure.

The author is watching the World Cup and could be heard cheering loudly when the U.S. Men's Team beat Portugal. He is patiently awaiting for the MLS to return to Florida.

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