Pretoria

PRETORIA, South Africa -- The guy standing near me was crying, too. It was my new best friend, Ian Ainslie of the fan group American Outlaws, and after the fourth Foer brother -- tell me that Landon and this blog’s editor aren’t separated at birth -- scored the most important goal in American soccer history (later, Paul Caligiuri), tears were streaming down his face. Streaming, I tell you.

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I'm sitting in a solid block of Americans at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria watching Team USA play in the sandbox with the Algerians, and the one thing I notice is the total absence of "Yes We Can" chants. This time last year, even the South Africans were chanting Obama's campaign motto. In the teeming Johannesburg bar in which I watched Bafana Bafana take on Brazil in last June's Confederations Cup semis, "Yes We Can" was the favorite refrain, not to mention at the US-Brazil final. I haven't heard it once this year. My companion and I tried getting a round going in the stands here, but no dice.

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So, how bad was that game? I was inside the frigid Loftus Versfeld stadium in Pretoria (you too, Zach?), and it was bad in the stands before it got bad on the pitch. South African fans have a strange, angsty relationship with Bafana Bafana. On the one hand, a Bafana triumph is held to have a sort of mystical, even quasi-political power.

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The Healer

BLOEMFONTEIN, SOUTH AFRICA—It was as clear as the film’s most famous scene: The work of reconciliation in South Africa is not done yet. In February 2008, a video appeared online showing four white students from South Africa’s University of the Free State (UFS) hazing their black janitors as if they were new freshmen. There’s a beer-drinking contest, a footrace to “Chariots of Fire.” Near the end, the boys appear to pee into bowls of stew and urge the janitors to eat up. It was supposed to be an in-house joke, a protest against a plan to integrate their dorm, a student residence called Reitz.

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The Healer

BLOEMFONTEIN, SOUTH AFRICA—It was as clear as the film’s most famous scene: The work of reconciliation in South Africa is not done yet. In February 2008, a video appeared online showing four white students from South Africa’s University of the Free State (UFS) hazing their black janitors as if they were new freshmen. There’s a beer-drinking contest, a footrace to “Chariots of Fire.” Near the end, the boys appear to pee into bowls of stew and urge the janitors to eat up. It was supposed to be an in-house joke, a protest against a plan to integrate their dorm, a student residence called Reitz.

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The Cosby Sanction

One of the most vital imports South Africa gets from the United States is a television program: "The Cosby Show." Cosby is the most popular program on South African TV. Next come ''Dallas," "Golden Girls," "Dynasty," "Murder She Wrote," "Winds of War," and "The A-Team." If the intent of sanctions against South Africa is to communicate outrage at apartheid, and to do so in a way that puts more pressure on whites than on blacks, then why not impose a ban on the export of American TV shows to South Africa?

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