A few weeks ago I mentioned two books I was reading. I’ve since finished An Instance of the Fingerpost. It picked up pace toward the end. I’m still slogging my way through Gospel Writing. My interest is flagging. I may set it aside soon, or at the very least skip around to the bits that interest me more.
I now have space for more entertaining reading. I’ve mentioned before my growing interest in soccer/futbol/football. Each World Cup my interest grows. This last World Cup cycle I bought into self-describing as a soccer fan even during non-World Cup years. Now that we are on the verge of another World Cup, my excitement could send me over the edge into a fanaticism I haven’t had for a sport since my enthusiasm for college basketball during my high school and college days. The problem I am facing—other than the pit of annoying fanaticism—is that I don’t know near enough about the sport. I’d venture to guess that I know more than the average American. But if I am going to take this to the next level I need to address the gaping holes in my grasp of tactics and my knowledge of the sport’s history. Two books come highly recommended to help me here: The Ball is Round: A Global History of Soccer by David Goldblatt and Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Soccer Tactics by Jonathan Wilson. I’ve downloaded both free samples for my Kindle, and I am now trying to decide which to invest in first. I’m thinking I’ll go with the one on tactics just so I can understand the finer aspects of the games to be played this summer. But Goldblatt’s history is certain to be on my reading list soon after. He gets at why soccer is so appealing to me in his Introduction: connection to the global community. He writes,
Is there any cultural practice more global than football? Rites of birth, death and marriage are universal, but infinite in their diversity. Football is played by the same rules everywhere. No single world religion can match its geographical scope. Even Christianity, borne on the back of European expansion, is a relatively minor player across Asia, the Middle East and North Africa. The use of English and the vocabularies of science and mathematics must run football close for universality, but they remain the lingua francas of the world’s elites, not of its masses. McDonald’s, MTV? Only the most anodyne products of America’s cultural industries can claim a reach as wide as football’s, and then only for a fleeting moment in those parts of the world that can afford them. Around half the planet watched the 2006 World Cup Final—three billion humans have never done anything simultaneously before.
These books should get me mentally prepared for the World Cup. This ESPN promo has already got my fanatic’s blood flowing: