I couldn’t resist: Ann Coulter talks ignorant nonsense about soccer and the 2014 World Cup

I’ve held off from writing about Ann Coulter’s silly little column on the World Cup.

This is because a response didn’t seem to belong on this blog, which is mainly about work stuff and learning theory, but also because the article appears to be a lighthearted troll on a subject that’s not really very important.

But it kept eating away at me.

It’s ignorant, poorly researched and racist – but then you knew that, it’s by Ann Coulter.

But I couldn’t just leave it.

It nagged and nagged at me … and not because I’m a huge soccer fan (I will use the word soccer to avoid confusion), but because I loathe ignorance and bad arguments.

So, mainly for my own sanity, I decided to reply and post it here.

Coulter starts with this:

I’ve held off on writing about soccer for a decade — or about the length of the average soccer game — so as not to offend anyone. But enough is enough. Any growing interest in soccer can only be a sign of the nation’s moral decay.

I’m guessing she held off because she didn’t know anything about it, and although she still doesn’t, she decided to write about soccer because everyone was talking about soccer, so she’d get some attention.

It worked.

Not wanting to offend anyone has never bothered Coulter before – and nor should it.

That’s her best quality.

There’s nothing wrong with offending people when you’re right – it’s the “being right” bit that’s Ann Coulter’s problem.

Here’s her first point:

(1) Individual achievement is not a big factor in soccer …

Yes it is Ann. It’s a huge factor, like in any professional team sport.

… In a real sport, players fumble passes, throw bricks and drop fly balls — all in front of a crowd. When baseball players strike out, they’re standing alone at the plate. But there’s also individual glory in home runs, touchdowns and slam-dunks.

Yes, same with goals, tackles, saves and other aspects of a soccer game. All the examples Coulter uses are team sports where teams work together through individual performances.

This point is confusing because no point is being made.

Perhaps she’ll explain it …

In soccer, the blame is dispersed and almost no one scores anyway. There are no heroes, no losers, no accountability, and no child’s fragile self-esteem is bruised.

Ah, OK, I see the source of Coulter’s confusion!

She thinks the way children play soccer in American schools is the same as the way professionals play soccer in the World Cup.

It isn’t Ann.

That children might play a sport where “the blame is dispersed and … [t]here are no heroes, no losers, no accountability, and no child’s fragile self-esteem is bruised” is about the school system not the sport.

This same approach could be taken with any competitive activity.

You don’t have to agree with this approach, but please understand it’s got nothing to do with soccer.

Then …

Do they even have MVPs in soccer?

Yes Ann, they do.

The ignorance is revealing, but more than that, the lack of interest in checking her facts tells us far more about the standards she applies to her writing.

Her second point is little better:

(2) Liberal moms like soccer because it’s a sport in which athletic talent finds so little expression that girls can play with boys. No serious sport is co-ed, even at the kindergarten level.

It seems she still hasn’t realised that the World Cup is played by adult men.

(3) No other “sport” ends in as many scoreless ties as soccer.

Fair point.

If Michael Jackson had treated his chronic insomnia with a tape of Argentina vs. Brazil instead of Propofol, he’d still be alive, although bored.

That’s a good joke.

(4) The prospect of either personal humiliation or major injury is required to count as a sport.

This is obviously rubbish if taken literally, but I assume she means that there needs to be a sense of physical contact and energetic competition for it to be exciting.

If that’s what she means, then soccer passes the test when it’s a good game, but I think there is scope for criticism in that the structure of competitive soccer is so money-focussed that it allows for too many matches that don’t mean much, and the game itself is too easy to stifle and play for a draw.

After a soccer game, every player gets a ribbon and a juice box.

No Ann, you’re confusing soccer with children’s sport again.

(5) You can’t use your hands in soccer.

Sounds a little desperate, but it’s true, apart from the goalkeeper, players cannot use their hands.

This makes it harder to control the ball.

If you could use your hands then it would be handball, which is also a sport, and isn’t better.

(6) I resent the force-fed aspect of soccer.


(7) It’s foreign.

Wow, do people take this person seriously?

Soccer was invented in England, that doesn’t mean it’s bad or good, it just means it was invented in England.

Considering the origins of the US as a mix of cultures and traditions based on British liberal democracy and common law, this seems like a remarkably small-minded argument that is little more than ill-informed xenophobia.

Golf is foreign. Tennis is foreign. The origins of American Football are English (from rugby) and baseball may be too (from rounders, although this is disputed).

These are interesting historical facts, but they shouldn’t impact on whether or not a sport is regarded as good.

(8) Soccer is like the metric system … ask any American for the temperature, and he’ll say something like “70 degrees.” Ask how far Boston is from New York City, he’ll say it’s about 200 miles.

Sure. That’s because most Americans are familiar with the imperial system, and people express themselves in the language they are used to, this is a circular argument.

Liberals … tell us ….

I already disagree. When someone starts telling you what their enemies like to tell us, you know you’re heading for an absurd straw man that they’re going to cleverly knock down.

that the metric system is more “rational” than the measurements everyone understands. This is ridiculous. An inch is the width of a man’s thumb, a foot the length of his foot, a yard the length of his belt.

No it isn’t. A yard is three feet, origin unclear (most likely the length of a step, or the distance from the King’s nose to the tip of his finger – I checked on Wikipedia, it’s surprisingly easy to check facts in the internet age).

That’s easy to visualize. How do you visualize 147.2 centimeters?

Fairly easily when you’re used to it.

It’s easier to visualize one metre than, say, 3 furlongs and 2 chains – it’s all about what you’re used to using.

The reason the metric system is more rational is because it is based on base 10, like most of our other counting systems.

The imperial system jumps from base to base: inches are split into sixteenths, then twelve of them make a foot, three of which make a yard, twenty-two feet make a chain, ten chains are a furlong, eight furlongs make a mile, and three miles make a league.

Is this really more rational?

I guess I was wrong about her cleverly knocking down her own absurd straw man … and how is soccer like the metric system anyway?

(9) Soccer is not “catching on.”

So what are you worried about then?

The USA-Portugal game was the blockbuster match, garnering 18.2 million viewers on ESPN …

The facts suggest otherwise.

The USA-Portugal game had nearly 25m viewers, and the final had even more.

Clearly the NFL is the most important sport in the US, but soccer doesn’t seem to be doing so badly (Sports Media Watch ratings).

If more “Americans” are watching soccer today, it’s only because of the demographic switch effected by Teddy Kennedy’s 1965 immigration law.

So is it “catching on” or not? It cant be both.

The use of quotation marks is telling.

Are immigrants less American? If so, get over this deeply held concern about not wanting to offend and just say so …

I promise you:

I’m not sure I value an Ann Coulter promise very highly, but go on …

No American whose great-grandfather was born here is watching soccer.

Really? That seems like the kind of “fact” that was pulled out of thin air. I promise you, dear reader, that this is definitely untrue.

For example President Obama’s maternal great-grandfather Ralph Waldo Emerson Dunham, Sr. was born in Kansas in 1894, and Obama was watching the World Cup.

One can only hope that, in addition to learning English, these new Americans will drop their soccer fetish with time.

That just sounds racist again.

I have no problem with people disliking soccer. It has its flaws, none of which Coulter mentions.

Had she argued that FIFA’s corruption, or players consistently faking injury to gain advantage, were actions not worthy of a great sport, she would have been right.

Instead she fills her silly column with ignorant nonsense about it not being American enough, and therefore people that like it are not American enough.


I feel better now.


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