US Footballers from Mars, Dutch Skaters from Venus

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,, at 2/21/2014 01:12:00 PM
Oranje-filled, Yanqui-free speedskating podium: the new Olympic standard
Sometime ago, John Gray penned the pop psychology bestseller entitled Men are From Mars, Men are From Venus. Not to be outdone, realist author Robert Kagan said in the wake of 9/11 that, in terms of foreign policy, Americans are from Mars and Europeans are from Venus. Quoth he:
American and European perspectives are diverging. Europe is turning away from power, or to put it a little differently, it is moving beyond power into a self-contained world of laws and rules and transnational negotiation and cooperation. It is entering a post-historical paradise of peace and relative prosperity, the realization of Kant’s “Perpetual Peace.” The United States, meanwhile, remains mired in history, exercising power in the anarchic Hobbesian world where international laws and rules are unreliable and where true security and the defense and promotion of a liberal order still depend on the possession and use of military might.
I was reminded of Kagan's conception of how Americans and Europeans now differ when the Dutch speedskating coach was interviewed by CNBC. You see, the Americans were expected to win the lion's share of medals in Sochi, but came up empty to the surprise of most. The Dutch, on the other hand, won quite a lot, enabling Jillert Anema--whose national team garnered 21 [!] in the sport at Sochi--to insult the American pastime of football. In contrast to the grace and speed of speedskating, well, American football is exeedingly violent to European eyes.

First he pokes fun at the US blaming its underperforming athletes on tracksuits:
We have found something that makes the suit very fast. It's the man [sic] in the suit.
Next, he unloads on what he views as misplaced sporting priorities on American football:
You have a lot of attention on a foolish sport like American football and you waste a lot of talent, athletic talent, on a sport that is meant to kill each other, to injure each other. You're so narrow-minded, and then you want to compete against the world [in other sports] when you waste a lot of time, good talent on a sport that sucks,
From foreign policy to winter sports, it seems Americans and Europeans (specifically the Dutch) are diverging in how they view the world. Why can't Europeans accept that Americans like football precisely because it is violent? After all, the latter are the folks behind the Iraqi misadventure who continue to kill civilians from the skies without much of a second thought. Go ask America's most popular radio host Rush Limbaugh on this matter--America has a culture of violence they are quite proud of (aside from certain uppity publications). Is it inconceivable that some people enjoy killing and maiming for the heck of it?

As Kagan would say, Americans and Europeans have increasingly incompatible worldviews. Hyperbole aside, though, there is some truth in what the Dutch coach said--as these sports become more popular elsewhere, the US will have to keep up:
Anema cited a lack of domestic competition and support for American speedskaters for the team's disastrous showing, and contrasted it with the popularity of speedskating in the Netherlands, which hosts many leagues and lots of competition.

"American speedskating depends on gifted skaters—very few," he said. "They have to work their own way and they have a lack of competition. They have a lack in support. Once in four years America will all go and watch skating and then you need to bring medals home, but in the few years before [that] they are not supported and you need the support, you need the competition, and I think that's what went wrong." 
Would the USA be a less violent place if one of their most popular leagues consisted of speedskating instead football? Somehow, I think we'll never know.