Offside: Soccer and American Exceptionalism

By Andrei S. Markovits; Steven L. Hellerman | Go to book overview

Preface

THE STORY of this book begins on Saturday afternoon June 21, 1986, when I boarded a plane in Frankfurt on my way home to Boston after completing a lecture tour in a number of European countries. Having been caught up by the World Cup of soccer then being played in Mexico, I bought a number of German newspapers to saturate my interest in the impending—and much anticipated—quarterfinal game between Brazil and France, which I was to miss on account of my transatlantic journey. Needless to say, all papers bristled with detailed pregame analyses and massive previews of the match between two of the best teams playing in that tournament. Upon my arrival in Boston, I proceeded to ask the immigration officer the result of the game that had just ended in Mexico. Whereas the equivalent immigration officer in any European country would have obliged me with delight, this Boston-based officer completely conformed to the expected habitus of the average American male sports fan by looking at me with a mixture of amazement, estrangement, incredulity, and perhaps even some hostility while professing his total ignorance of the event, let alone the outcome, with equanimity bordering on pride. In the corner of his glass booth, however, I detected a small television set broadcasting a Saturday afternoon game between the Boston Red Sox and the Baltimore Orioles then being played at Fenway Park. The officer's demeanor became much more friendly when I asked him the score of this game, and he informed me that the Red Sox were enjoying a comfortable lead in the late innings with their star pitcher Roger Clemens (“The Rocket”) well on his way to winning his thirteenth game in a row in what was to become a very impressive personal fourteen-game winning streak (in a superbseason culminating in Clemens's garnering the first of his still unprecedented five Cy Young awards). When I arrived at home later that afternoon, I managed to catch the last few minutes of a tapedelayed and abbreviated telecast of the France-Brazil game that NBC had advertised with much fanfare as one of its new (and few) international features in its competition with ABC's Wide World of Sports in the summer lull between the NBA playoffs and the beginning of football season that—with all the exhibition games—had gradually encroached on much of August. I was compelled to resort to a number of cross-Atlantic telephone calls that evening to indulge my need to discuss France's victory over Brazil (on penalty kicks)—and the latter's relegation from the tournament—with a bevy of knowledgeable friends in Europe, since the hand

-vii-

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