Productivity the world over will improve starting tomorrow with the end of the 2014 World Cup. ESPN and Nike will celebrate the unprecedented interest by American TV viewers, buoyed in part by the unexpectedly long run by Team USA.
Within Europe (at least outside of Russia) national rivalries are fought on the football field and not the River Somme, Ardennes Forest, or Fulda Gap.
Unlike in the Olympics, success seems only imperfectly correlated to depth of talent or national resources. None of the world’s 10 largest countries made it into the championship, although Brazil (#5) earned 4th place and USA (#3) made it to the round of 16. The top country in Europe (Germany) was the largest, but the top country in South America was only the 3rd largest (Argentina, with 10% of the population vs. 49% for Brazil).
But before there were nation-states, Europe in the Middle and early Modern period of Europe was organized as city states. In many cases, they were small principalities organized around a capital (like Monaco and Liechtenstein today). Even in today's German republic, three of the 16 Länder are historic city-states (Berlin, Hamburg and Bremen).
While the German players tonight are exulting and the Argentineans (and Brazilians and Belgians and Americans …) are heartbroken, for most of the next 47 months their allegiance will be to the city- rather than nation-state in their full-time (professional) sports careers.
Finals hero Mario Goetze and Golden Glove winner Manuel Neuer plays for Bayern München, but World Cup record holder Miroslav Klose plays for Lazio in the Italian Serie A league. Meanwhile, Mesut Ozil and Per Mertesacker play for Arsenal in the English Premier League. Arsenal also lists players for Belgium, Costa Rica, England, France, Spain and Switzerland. For archival Manchester United, Robin van Persie scored the winning goal for the Netherlands 3rd place finish, with other players playing for France, Mexico, Japan and Portugal. ManU also provided Team USA’s record-setting goalie, Tim Howard.
Despite (or because) of their common position in the English Premier League, Arsenal fans have no more love for ManU than American baseball fans outside NYC have for the Yankees. (Germans are similarly divided between those who love Bayern München and those who detest the team and its fans).
So for less than 5% of every four year cycle, European soccer fans are rabid nationalists, and the rest of the time they are loyal to their local city-state. In some ways, we are well along are way to Jewison’s vision (but hopefully not the dystopian part).
Note to readers: apologies for not blogging recently, but due to travels, office meetings and research deadlines (including WOIC 2014) I’ve been unable to finish several posts during the past month.