One way to look at the World Cup is as a glorious diversion featuring the world’s best players as they engage in the world’s most popular game.
Even the NFL must be envious of the number of people around the world who pay close attention to the spectacle.
Another way to look at the World Cup is as an insane waste of resources and energy wrapped in lies and empty promises.Brazilians were assured that preparation for this summer’s World Cup and the Olympics in 2016 would bring them new and improved facilities and services that would remain to improve their lives when the parties were over: new airports, new roads, new public transportation systems. Apparently this will not be the case.
The tension between these two points of view is not unique to the World Cup.
A. Bartlett Giamatti, Major League Baseball’s commissioner for a brief time, wrote lyrical celebrations of the game and its power to sustain those who love it. His lovely arguments are grounded in scholarship as well as sentiment. But people immune to his point of view wonder why all the money spent on scalped tickets and bobble head dolls, not to mention taxpayer-subsidized ballparks, shouldn’t be supporting symphonies or museums or other institutions they consider more elevated than baseball.
These points of view will never be reconciled. Or at least I hope they’ll never be. They remind me of arguments between the people who considered going to the moon an inspirational adventure and those who saw it as a colossal waste of money and expertise that might otherwise have been directed towards addressing problems and inequities here on Earth.
I hope there will never come a time when discouragement or despair at various awful conditions will kill our enthusiasm for playing and watching people who can demonstrate in their play sufficient grace and power to amaze us. Can’t an argument be made that we’ll always need to be delighted?
And I hope that we will never fail to understand that no diversion, however intoxicating, should distract us from addressing real needs among others when we learn of them – whether those needs are for better roads, better transportation, or better housing – whatever the occasion of our learning.