Sayonara Amerika, Sayonara Nippon

Maybe It’s Not All Bad….

Posted in Change is Bad,Current Events,Putting One Foot in Front of the Other by bourdaghs on the June 11th, 2010

For the most part, I accept the thesis — argued, for example, by Nicholas Carr (thanks for the link, Linda) — that the Internet is making us all stupid and asocial. On my visit to Japan a couple of months ago, a friend put her finger precisely on why reading text on a computer screen is less satisfying than reading a book: when we pursue virtual reading, we enter into the same mental frame as when we watch television.

And yet, and yet…. This afternoon in my office on campus, I took a break from stultifying end-of-the-year administrative work to watch the second half of the Uruguay-France World Cup match being streamed live by ESPN. A so-so game (Uruguay’s defense was the highlight, and you know how exciting defensive soccer can be), I was still thrilled to be watching it in my office, thanks to the Internet.

The first World Cup I followed was in 1978, well before the rise of the Internet or even cable television. As I recall, that year only the final championship game was shown on American television–and at a taped delay, at that. During the 1982 tournament, I was luckier: I was doing the backpack-through-Europe thing and watched games at pubs, youth hostels and train stations across the continent. I was in Frankfort staying with cousins for the final match between Italy and West Germany, and I remember all the Gastarbeiter waiters and janitors from Italy exploding onto the streets of Frankfort to celebrate their team’s win–and to rub it in the faces of their employers.

In subsequent tournaments, cable television kicked in, giving us futbol-ignorant Americans better and better access each time around. Now we get it streamed live over the Internet so that we can watch it in the office, on trains, in coffee shops.

Perhaps not all change is completely bad. Maybe stupidity and alienation are a small price to pay. I’ll have to mull on those thoughts a while longer, if my Internet-addled brain can hold the problem in focus long enough. In the meanwhile, I’ll be setting my alarm clock to get up early tomorrow morning to watch South Korea play Greece, followed by the U.S. taking on England for the first time since the great 1950 upset match, still the greatest moment in American soccer history.

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