A slightly dated piece I hadn’t yet encountered by Stanley K. Ridgley, Ph.D has an article claiming that The Secret of American Foreign Affairs lies in our love of pro football. It’s an amusing piece, even if the analysis is rather thin and it begins with a rather idiotic premise:
During his administration, Bill Clinton cut the United States Army from 18 active divisions to 10 and presided over an aimless “Blackhawk Down” foreign policy. How, then, could the U.S. military remain so formidable as to conquer Iraq, a nation of 24 million people, in three weeks?
I’m no Clinton fan–really, ask anyone–but the post-Cold War drawdown was started under Bush 41, with SECDEF Dick Cheney and CJCS Colin Powell advising him. Virtually everyone who knew anything about military affairs thought the drawdown was prudent and logical given that the number of enemy superpowers declined from one to zero. And, although I opposed almost everything Clinton did foreign policy-wise outside of the trade arena, I’m not sure what the hell a Blackhawk Down foriegn policy is.
But I digress. Ridgley’s thesis:
There is one primary reason for the rise of U.S. military power over the past century and its overwhelming capability to fight and win wars: American football.
Decried by some as a simple-minded sport that “glorifies” violence and appeals to the blue-collar, beer-bellied crowd, football is a phenomenon woven into America’s social fabric and into the psyche of her people.
The United States is a football nation – football players and football fans – and this sociological factor sets Americans apart from every other nation on earth. American football is a brutal collision sport in which every player’s mettle is tested on every play. At its supreme level, the mutual human violence done in football is greater than that of any other sport in the world.
The only other sport that approaches football in bone-crunching controlled mayhem is rugby, another Anglo-Saxon game played almost exclusively by the British and Australians. Coincidentally, they were the two major powers providing ground troops for the war in Iraq.
This is really cool, since I like football. But it’s obviously untrue. The percentage of Americans who have ever played organized tackle football has to be infinitescimile. And, while football is indeed the most popular spectator sport, I’m not sure even a majority would consider themselves football fans. And even fewer watch football regularly. For the five out of twelve months when it’s on. And, of course, there are all manner of contact sports played in virtually every society. Does he really think the world’s richest, advanced society beat Iraq so easily because the Iraqis are less violent? Because the Iraqis are too soft? Indeed, I’m guessing a goodly chunk of the computer nerds that designed all the high tech gizmos that serve as combat multipliers for our soldiers are non-fans and that virtually none of them ever played football.