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  • Robert Farago

U.S. Soccer is a Messi Business

RIP American Football?

According to, Lionel Messi’s Miami debut “changed the landscape of American soccer culture.” I don’t think so. I reckon American soccer culture is the same as it ever was. Sherman, set the way back machine for 1976…

Here we are, at Moses Brown high school’s post-practice locker room,. The soccer and football teams have just left their respective fields, heading for the showers and home.

The football team are hyper AF. As usual. Also as usual, they’ve got something to say to the soccer team.

You guys are a bunch of fucking homos! Which of you faggots wants to suck my dick?

Anyone using the F word in Moses Brown’s locker room today would be sent to a Quaker re-education camp. Back in the bicentennial, my all-boys prep school was Lord of the Flies personified. Homophobic slurs were background noise in a landscape of constant bullying.

Our soccer team learned to steer clear of the towel-snapping football-playing alphas determined to prove their machismo at our expense. More than that, we all knew the truth: if anyone was gay, it was the football team. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

They were the ones constantly joking about dicks, queers and fags. Slapping ass after a great play. Warming-up for the big game by bashing into each other in a ritual that wouldn’t have seemed out of place in an S&M club. Turn one of them around…

There I am! Fed-up with being the literal butt of homophobic slurs. My come-back to the yammering football player displaying dominance to his naked teammates? “Methinks thou doth protest too much.” A fancy way of saying “I know you are but what am I?”

Needless to say, the reference sails over the football player’s head like a F-15 at an air show. Truth be told, MB’s football team was less academically inclined than its soccer squad. Why wouldn’t they be? You don’t have to be terribly smart to play football. Tough? Yes. Smart? No.

I know: there are clever NFL football players. Former Baltimore Ravens’ Guard John Urschel has a bachelor's and master's degree in mathematics from Penn State, and a doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

But the sport itself is rigid. You can talk about elaborate plays and strategy until you’re blue in the face, but the roles and responsibilities of each football position are well-defined. A Guard protects the quarterback, creates holes for the running backs and… that’s it.

Football players are soldiers in a hierarchal structure led by an iron-fisted coach. Yes, they have options once the pigskin’s in play. But there’s only so much they can do in four seconds – the length of the average American football play.

In contrast, soccer players are guerrillas working together in a constantly shifting matrix. To succeed, they have to maintain a fast-spinning OODA loop (observe, orient, decide, act) for at least 90 minutes.

Looking back, our soccer team’s success was based on mutual respect. The football team’s success was based on brutality, both among themselves and against other teams. Which is why I believe soccer is a better for America than football. It makes us a kinder, gentler, more tolerant and clever people. In fact…

Some say America lost the Vietnam War because we played football – constantly battling to gain and hold territory – against an enemy playing soccer – shifting tactics on the fly. If so, our country’s growing appreciation for soccer can’t help but improve our competitiveness, even as it ennobles female competition and reduces schools’ insurance premiums.

If soccer is now a Messi business, that only means the beautiful game is set for another stateside popularity growth spurt. It can’t come too soon. But for many of my physically and psychologically injured classmates, it came too late.

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