When the commentators on ESPN describe our women’s World Cup team, they talk about “grit” and “heart.” Of course, any ESPN listener understands that these words are code. What they are really saying is, the U.S. keeps winning, and stands poised to tally its third title on Sunday, despite being not that great. The particular iteration is weaker than the Mia Hamm era teams. They barely qualified for this tournament and have rarely looked like the world’s best.
The Libelous Truth
July 13, 2011
Just Words: Lillian Hellman, Mary McCarthy, and the Failure of Public Conversation in America By Alan Ackerman (Yale University Press, 361 pp., $35) Mary McCarthy preferred the old-fashioned way. You might not know this from her three divorces and the anatomical precision of her bedroom scenes, but she had a strong streak of cultural conservatism. She rejected feminism and lamented the disappearance of Latin from the schoolhouse. The modern fascination with technology annoyed her.
Ideas Rule the World
March 17, 2011
The Neoconservative Persuasion: Selected Essays, 1942-2009 By Irving Kristol (Basic Books, 390 pp., $29.95) Daniel Bell, now of blessed memory, used to enjoy recounting a piece of lore from the 1930s, back when New York was said to be the most interesting part of the Soviet Union. It was about the travails of a young member of the Revolutionary Workers League named Karl Mienov. When Mienov’s doctrinal differences with that small party became too great to bear, he split and formed his own cell, the Marxist Workers League. His party even launched a theoretical organ, called Spark.
December 08, 2010
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.
Ruining the Punchline
December 06, 2010
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?
The World Cup and Wikileaks: USA, 0-2
December 03, 2010
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.
Did Spain Deserve to Win?
July 11, 2010
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.
A Last Minute Tribute to Captain Caveman
July 11, 2010
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.
When My Father Cried for Paraguay
July 09, 2010
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.
Homage to Catalonia
July 07, 2010
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.