The New Republic is pleased to announce the appointment of a new editor. Here, outgoing editor Franklin Foer bids adieu, and incoming editor Richard Just introduces his vision for the magazine. Franklin Foer: Back when I was a writer, I never quite understood the appeal of editing: all that delicate managing of neurotics and divas, the always-looming menace of budgets, the grim notion of turning down a colleague’s request for a pay raise—and without even the glory of a byline.
For many years, The New Republic was a distinctly un-funny magazine. Or rather, it was a guide to the world for the sort of thinking person that describes himself as a thinking person, a supremely serious and theologically liberal journal of opinion. In the rush to solve the technical problems of the era who had time for frivolous ornaments like laughs?
How shrewd is Vladimir Putin? In his bid to host a World Cup—an event that would inevitably turn into a grotesque advertisement for his regime, if one reasonably assumes that he’ll still be repressing Russia in 2018—Putin feigned contempt. He called the whole process of bidding for a World Cup an “unfair competition,” suggesting it had been rigged to favor his western European competitors. Then, of course, he turned around and entered the unfair competition in the ruthless manner it was meant to be played.
The best part of this match was that it ended before penalty kicks, where the Dutch could have squeezed out a win and enjoyed the fruits of their goonish performance. Simon Kuper wrote a great column in last week’s Financial Times, where he bemoaned how Holland had turned away from idealism in its football and in its politics. This performance should bury the myth of Dutch Total Football for good.
Fernando Hierro—captain of the national team and Real Madrid, ardent Castillian—is approached by a ten-year old autograph seeker. What’s your name, Hierro asks. Jordi, the boy replies. Jordi? Hierro barks. No, I’m not signing for Jordi. Your name is Jorge. But my parents named me Jordi, the boy apologizes. That fact does nothing to appease: Jorge! Jorge! Your name is Jorge! Jordi is, of course, the Catalan iteration of Jorge. And the incident captures a mindset that too often prevailed on the national team.
The always brilliant Rick Hertzberg has been debating our very own Jon Chait about the perils of soccer nationalism and tribalism. I don’t have much to add, aside from some personal anecdote. The other week, my father and I watched Paraguay and Japan play in the first knockout round. It was hardly a match that anyone outside of those two countries will remember, except perhaps for Paraguay enthusiasts like Sasha. But the match droned on, nil-nil, all the way to penalty kicks.
There’s no doubt that Germany looked magisterial against Argentina. Late last year, I watched a team pummel Diego Maradona’s team in similar fashion. They ran all over them with astonishing ease, making them look like a third division team on the brink of the brink of relegation. This was a particularly low moment for Maradona, the winter when his team was more messy than Messi. Still, the side that beat them clearly possessed players of superior quality. That was last December when the albiceleste ventured into Barcelona’s Nou Camp. They left the stadium that day defeated 4-2.
How will Spain manage to crack Paraguay? They have struggled against teams that have packed players into the final third and dared them to elegantly kick the ball about the midfield, with Spain looking so refined and yet so lacking in goals. Paraguay are, of course, the supreme example of this genre in the tournament. (I’m very moved by Sasha’s paeans to their lyrical dullness.) Spain should be able to pick that lock. But the lameness of Fernando Torres has been a major liability. Without him running rampant, teams have horded resources and used them to swarm Xavi.
What made this team different? Longtime fans of the national team will remember our past painful efforts to string together possession. Or the times when our defense consisted of spasmodic clearances. Or the moment we coupled poor quality with poor character, staging our own disgraceful mutiny. This was a fine team in every respect. It should be said that they played several atrocious halves, the kind that reminded one of the most shambolic chapters of our soccer history. But they were able to put those behind them.
Every couple of months, Bob Bradley produces a crisis of faith. His team slips and the mind wonders, what if Jurgen Klinsmann were the man in charge? Would we look so shaky in the back? Would our attack have a bit more flair? And then his team turns around and pulls out an incredible result—a smashing victory of Mexico in the Gold Cup, a stolen win from Spain, a fantastic half against Brazil. In this tournament, he has outcoached Fabio Capello; his tactics have been, to my eyes, largely sound. He never lets his own ego or rigidity interfere with the pragmatism that the moment demands.