I woke up yesterday morning to Frank Deford on NPR, whining once again about the kids on his lawn. Usually I shrug it off. Hey, sometimes I even agree. I can be a wretched misanthrope myself somedays. But this morning, he really went off the deep end:
Lots of times, in other English-speaking countries, a tie is called a draw. Well, partner, in these United States, when we say “draw,” we don’t mean a namby-pamby even-Steven — we mean John Wayne a-reachin’ for his six-shooter. Now that’s the American way to draw, a-standin’ our ground. […]
But of course, the rest of the world loves soccer. And it is reliably calculated that 30 percent of all soccer games end tied, drawed, deadlocked, nil-nil. How does the rest of the unexceptional world tolerate this? It’s exactly this kind of thinking, I believe, which is why they can’t fix the bloody euro. The dollar is a winner. The euro is a tie. Get off the dime, Europe, and play to win.
I’ve had this discussion now many times, and I’ll say it again: soccer isn’t for everyone. There’s a valid argument to be made that ties aren’t as satisfying as having every game decided outright. I’ll also say that I’d rather watch a hard-fought 0-0 1 draw than the monotonous point-trading of an 82-81 basketball game. Only one of those points matters, guys! Why should I care about the other 81?
But whatever, I’m getting off track. I don’t care about that. I don’t need to explain soccer to some cantankerous old coot, or to anybody.
What bothers me is how his argument twists from the theory that soccer is boring (blah, blah, blah) to something more insidious – using his dumb opinion to form the ground for the much more dangerous, jingoistic, and wrong-headed idea of inherent American Exceptionalism.
Here’s the thing, Frankie – can I call you Frankie?
America isn’t great because it keeps fighting until somebody loses – that’s one of its primary faults. I love America for what it’s accomplished over generations, and for what it’s allowed me to accomplish – not for its growing obsession with a binary “us” versus “them,” “win” or “lose.” It’s the mindset that’s at the core of all of today’s debates: the idea that if “they” win, “we” lose. It’s the cause of the increasing, divisive partisanship that’s infected this country and its politics. While European parliaments form multi-party coalitions with common goals to move their countries forward and out of hard times, the two American political parties spend a majority of their time trying to keep the other guys from winning. And in the end, all this does is guarantee a loss for everyone involved.
Everybody loves to win, Frank, but the truth is contrary to your opinions: America’s fixation on winning isn’t what puts us ahead; it’s what’s holding us back. And think about it: as unsatisfying as a draw 2 can be, who’s ever been satisfied by a loss?