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Football and Mormonism

July 11, 2010

soccer ball

Today, I’ll read entirely too much into this post at By Common Consent. I guess it’s kinda like (insert any minority group here) who try to “read” their issues into mainstream pieces of literature or art (to the puzzlement of nearly everyone else).

When I first saw this post over at BCC, I asked myself quite a few questions. Why is a Mormon blog covering soccer (correction: football)? Why was this guest poster invited to post (since this is a post from a *guest* writer, that changes the dynamic for  me completely.) What kinds of connections or associations will it inspire in the BCC readership?

It could be that the powers that be are just soccer fans. But I think that conclusion is no fun.

I don’t think it is just appreciation for soccer that caused whomever to invite Gomez. Instead, I think Gomez is talking about a universality and great equalization that religions (and especially Mormons) wish they could have (if they do not think they actually have it.) The quotation from David Goldblatt’s The Ball is Round directly refers to this kind of dynamic.

Nevertheless, I think that in trying to tease out a significance and relation to Mormonism itself, I am hitting the sweet zone of mania and obsession.

But even acknowledging that, it is these two paragraphs that particularly interest me:

But as important as football has been to me my relationship with the game is complicated by the fact that football may well be rotten. In England, the short sighted custodians of the game have sold its soul over and over again to the highest bidder, even if that bidder is an international pariah wanted for human rights’ abuses. Players are so far removed from reality and the average fan that they expect public sympathy when their clubs are only offering them £60k a week. Owners, managers and players alike cheat constantly. Officials are inept and are hindered by an unwillingness to allow them to use technology. In the 21st century. But should we be surprised when the whole thing is presided over by an incompetent such as Sepp Blatter, who has rigged the system so that he will remain elected as president until he chooses to go.
But for 90 minutes this evening, or morning or afternoon, none of that will matter. For 90 minutes advertisers and investors, power brokers and agents, even Sepp Blatter will largely be confined to blending in with the noise of the vuvuzela. 22 players will pull on shirts that don’t look like advertising hoardings but are instead soaked in footballing history. They are shirts that they haven’t chosen to wear for money or prestige; the shirts chose them for a reason as random as the place they were born (or perhaps the place where their parents were born). And one of them, maybe more, will write themselves into the collective memory and emotions of a billion people. Good luck to them all.

Can’t you see why this would be the part that caught my eye? Here we have a tradition that one is immersed in, and that one recognizes is crucial to the community surround him (and to millions [or in this case, billions] of other people). It is a tradition about people who are in that tradition for as random a reason as the fact they were born into it. This tradition is too important and too monumental to let go — as if you could let go of something that is infused with you — but with the tradition comes the understanding of its “rottenness.” Its corruption. Understanding of its failings and backwardnesses and flaws.

I’m not much of a soccer fan, ultimately. But in that way, I can understand too why people just say, “meh” to the LDS enterprise (or to any particular religious enterprise.) This congenital condition is not imbued within the genetic makeup of everyone.

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5 Comments
  1. That’s funny — I didn’t question at all why they’d write about football. A billion people watching one game is reason enough. (We’re watching it here too!) Mormon blogs often write about current cultural events (holidays, etc.) that aren’t directly related to Mormonism. 😉

  2. I guess I expose my American ethnocentrism, hehe.

  3. I was just thinking last week that the lure of Hollywood is something similar.

    Seriously screwed up in some ways, but still a place of magic and powerful attraction for millions.

  4. that’s definitely a good point too!

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