- Slick and chunky as the inside of a turkey.
My favorite American World Cup tradition, other than the ritual Selecting of the Foreign Country to Root For (Hup Holland!), is the gathering of the nerds. Highbrow sports fans, formerly content to read Roger Angell twice a year (and now Ben McGrath more frequently) and discuss the gender dynamics of Super Bowl beer commercials, love the World Cup, for reasons perhaps previously alluded to. This year, New Republic editor and How Soccer Explains the World author Franklin Foer has teamed up with novelist Aleksandar Hemon to start a World Cup blog, the Paris Review will be covering it regularly on their own blog, as will the New Yorker, and Slate, in typical fashion, has joined in the highbrow soccer fun by rerunning a piece, from 2006, about the phenomenon of highbrow soccer fandom.
What do all these big-brained soccer fans have in common? They all hate Cristiano Ronaldo and his wet-look hair gel. With Portugal’s opening game against the Ivory Coast just wrapping up, let’s review the evidence.
Before the World Cup, we at the L wished that of all the injuries to key players leading up to the World Cup, that it was unfair of the gods to let Cristiano Ronaldo and his wet-look hair gel be among the last men standing.
Earlier this year at the New Republic, Hemon had acerbically noted the stumblings of Ronaldo’s club team, big-money all-stars Real Madrid: turns out, “hair care is vastly overrated.” And as the preferred publications of the intellectual class prepared their previews, the knives got sharper. Introducing World Cup fandom to America, the Paris Review’s Will Frears offered some advice about picking foreign teams to root for (as is absolutely essential to an emotionally heightened viewing experience since unlike the Olympics the TV coverage can’t pretend it’s only Americans in it):
you have to support someone. It doesn’t matter what you base it on—how the result will affect your team, your feelings about shirt styles, a holiday you’d like to take, a boy you once kissed on a study abroad in Paraguay, disliking an overelaborate use of hair gel—you must have a team and stick to it.
To soccer fans of longer standing, “overelaborate use of hair gel” is unmistakable, as you can see from Jeff Blum’s writingn+1 preview:
The Portuguese team includes several naturalized Brazilians who aren’t good enough to play for Brazil. They are led by Cristiano Ronaldo, a native of Portugal who wears too much hair gel. There are only two acceptable reasons for liking Ronaldo: either you find him sexually attractive, or you are Portuguese. He is the Alex Rodriguez of soccer. Paparazzi once snapped pictures of him making out with Paris Hilton in a nightclub. It was a tan, vapid match made in heaven. Do not root for Portugal.
Why all this vehemence? The rooting advice, in a broad sense from Frears and a specific sense from Blum, is a clue. The World Cup is soccer’s best, rarest chance to grab a toehold in the American consciousness, and hang on. It didn’t work in the 70s, it didn’t work in 90s, but it’s starting to work now. And Cristiano Ronaldo is, initially, a seductive presence, what with the grin and the underoos. But Christ please god, don’t let that jinking, winking, penalty-chipping self-aggrandizing high-end hooker-patronizing whinger be the ambassador who finally sells soccer to Americans. If that’s what everybody ends up being into, the highbrows’ll have to find a new niche sport to hide out with.
Soccer is a sport with a wonderful tradition of terribly horribly misconceived hair styles, but this is douchebaggery of another, more conspicuous and insidious kind, and will not stand.
Cup-followers remind me of a Sloan lyric: “It’s not the band I hate, it’s their fans.”
Sounds like this ‘writer’ is happy with his sad life! Mate, I’m not from Portugal nor do I find the man attractive, but he is a top footballer and not one person can say otherwise. Typical American. Maybe you should pay a bit more attention to the environment, your beloved Jerry Springer, people in the south that still think there is a civil war and the fact that only 50% of high school students can locate America on a map rather than criticize the product in a bloke’s hair.
hum don’t know about the Ronaldo gossip or whatever, but seems like an ok dude to me. We can agree to disagree on that one. And I like Portugal, so Jeff Blum can go stuff it. Also, he must be feeling pretty stupid now criticizing the Swiss team.
Just looking at those other blogs- the Paris Review guy, David Wallace-Wells, is saying the cup is a disappointment because there’s not enough goals and John Cassidy at New Yorker says there hasn’t been a “thrilling” cup since 1986. New Yorker guy – this is just bullshit on so many levels I don’t even know where to begin, have you even watched the WC’s since 1990? Doubt it, or maybe you’re just too old and jaded. Paris Review writer- if you judge quality of the games by how many goals are scored you’re as clueless as Michael Kay with his crap. And Michael Kay – stick to Yankee talk.
Thank you for allowing to post my rant on your most excellent blog.
Next we’ll criticise Bill Gates for his glasses. And bit by bit we’ll all feel better by criticising others not on what they do, but what they wear… Ronaldo may often be a whiner, and he is not the image of a well dressed man, but you’ll have a tough time to find a football player that works so hard at his job. He’s often the last one out, and the one running the hardest to get his team back when they are loosing. His looks and hair style might not be what i want for my children, but he’s a rare model of hard work anyone whould look up to…
Jesus Christ you people are no fun.