Thursday, June 26, 2014

Trying to figure out the World Cup

There are probably few reasons to even post these days because of the world-class distraction taking place in Brazil.  I think that nearly everyone is taking major time off to enjoy this global gathering around the World Cup of Futbol.  The only exception is here in USA because many of us have NO idea what the fuss is all about.  I was thinking about how culturally isolated I am from this event today when I saw a futbol for sale in a store and realized that I had never so much as held one in my hands.

Of course, it isn't necessary to understand the details of futbol to realize that all the good institutional analysis about sport applies to the "beautiful sport" as well.  That doesn't change.  Veblen said it best when he claimed that "(USA) football is to physical culture what bullfighting is to agriculture."  And when a sport becomes popular enough to become a money-making venture, the teams are soon the playthings of the idle rich.  Sport is already a quintessential Leisure Class activity, but letting the idle rich set the rules pretty much solidifies its role as the purveyor of Leisure Class "virtue."

The organization that stages the World Cup, FIFA, embodies all that is wrong with the useless rich.  Brazil was forced to spend $billions to build a bunch of new stadiums—some located so deep in the Amazon they are really only accessible by riverboat.  FIFA made Brazil change its laws regulating beer sales at games (a law that existed because of hard-won experience) because one of their big sponsors was a brewer.  Not surprisingly, there have demonstrations / riots protesting all the madness.  If Brazil wins this World Cup, some of the anger might die down.  But the economic costs of taking on a bunch of new foreign-denominated debt will cripple the Brazilian economy for years in the form of necessary infrastructure that won't be built.

The Leisure Class is VERY good at staging circuses and this a beaut.  The costumes, the face-painting, the singing, the chants, the nationalism on display, etc. make this worth watching even to those of us who cannot describe the duties of a midfielder or why the refs spray shaving cream on the ground before set plays.  Anyone who has ever viewed the world through the lenses of the cultural anthropologists can only marvel at the human spectacle that is the World Cup.

Here are a couple of excellent videos that explain the social costs of letting some really creepy rich guys from FIFA organize the world's most popular sport.  The first is by a Australian Rap Group that refers to THIEFA's World Coup, followed by John Oliver's amazing list of FIFA's cartoonishly evil behavior.


  1. World Cup is one of the best and popular sports event in the whole world. I love it because it is thrilling!
    2014 FIFA World Cup Odds

    1. This year's seems especially interesting. Even those of us who who nothing about the sport are impressed. But FIFA? (sheesh)