About my current sports viewing ... it’s complicated

Column by Michael Alcorn
Posted 7/10/18

I have a confession to make. It’s a difficult one, so, please, bear with me. Whew. Here goes. I have been watching the World Cup. There. I said it. I know, I know — I can hear the sneers coming …

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About my current sports viewing ... it’s complicated


I have a confession to make.

It’s a difficult one, so, please, bear with me. Whew. Here goes.

I have been watching the World Cup.

There. I said it. I know, I know — I can hear the sneers coming through my keyboard. “Aren’t you the guy who’s spent his whole life mocking soccer?” Yes, yes I am.

And with good reason. As a witty friend of mine said last week, soccer is the perfect metaphor for European life: 90 minutes of inactivity that comes to a conclusion after somebody makes a mistake and exactly one thing gets decided. It’s the sport equivalent of a committee meeting.

And don’t get me started on the histrionics. The phantom injuries, the award-winning acts, even the “magic spray” — it’s absurd. And what is up with ending games with penalty kicks? I know, hockey does it, but not in the playoffs! At least end the game in sudden death.

Nonetheless, I have been watching the Cup. It has me gripped. Getting to understand the strategies, the subtleties, even the complex details of various formations has got me really interested. And, there’s definitely a part of me that loves that the three best players in the world were all eliminated early. Because soccer is a team game, and it takes 11 players to make it work. In this case, complexity is no vice.

I’ve heard that somewhere before. Oh, yeah, in an episode of “The West Wing,” when the press secretary was coaching somebody how to “spin” a foreign policy debate. The spinner spouts out a quick, pert answer that sounds great, and, when she’s coaching him, she says that’s great — leave it alone.

But he reminds her that the next sentence is “we hope so, because there’s a good chance we’re all full of garbage.” It’s actually quite complex, and complexity is no vice.

I think part of the problem with too many of our current debates is that everybody goes for the 10-word answer that sounds great, when the issue is actually incredibly complex. Americans are looking for a basketball answer to a soccer problem.

Take immigration. You want to abolish U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and that will solve everything, right? Except that ICE has an incredibly challenging portfolio, including drug traffic interdiction and stopping human trafficking. In fact, there was a farcical scene last week when protesters were picketing an ICE action, thinking it was an immigration round-up, when the reality was the agents were arresting human traffickers and freeing little girls. You want to die on that hill? I think you will find protesting ICE will end up being just about as popular as spitting on soldiers returning from Vietnam.

So, just build the wall, right? Have you seen the logistics involved in that? And, even if you can solve that part, consider how many acres, how many miles, of imminent domain the government is going to have to assert to put parts of the wall private property. And even if you manage that, then what? You have to consider how bad life has to be for a parent, for a mother, to scrape together $3,000 dollars in El Salvador (which probably means selling herself into slavery) to hire a coyote to smuggle her 4-year old child the thousands of miles across lawless desert to be smuggled into the United States for the chance at a better life. Just chew on that for a moment, and then ask yourself if that desperation ends because there’s a wall. What’s much more likely is a two-mile deep refugee camp, a humanitarian crisis of epic proportion, on the other side of the wall from America.

Illegal immigration is a problem, but it is not a simple one, and anybody who tells you it is is an idiot. Complexity is not a vice — we need to embrace that, and have more reasonable conversations.

Even if that means a few 90-minute meetings that end with only one score.

Michael Alcorn is a teacher and writer who lives in Arvada with his wife and three children. His novels are available at MichaelJAlcorn.com. His opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media.


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