What Would Buddy Do?
Sal Pal extends global reach, earns derision of rational human beings abroad as well as at home
Posted on October 2nd, 2008 at 5:30 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

salpalbook.jpgApparently BountyBowl non-favorite Sal Paolantonio is peddling a new book publishing product (in the greater interests of humanity, I’m not going to link to site that sells his book). Longtime readers (all seven of them) know well that we would be hard-pressed to name a journalist more worthy of the term “blathermonkey” than Sal Pal. This judgment is based solely on Mr. Paolantonio’s penchant for “making sh*t up” about the Eagles, typically of the discourteous, WIP-fodder variety, but hey, I’m a simple guy.

I had always assumed this passionate distaste for SalPal was a localized sort of thing, but apparently his latest publishing effort has netted him the loathing of a worldwide audience — at least in those places unfortunate enough to accepted Sal’s book into their publishing retail distribution system. If you haven’t caught it yet, I heartily recommend this review of Sal’s book from the UK’s Guardian newspaper, subtly titled, “The worst sports book ever?”

Apparently Sal’s book attempts to parrot the Franklin Foer book “How Soccer Explains the World” by connecting our favorite TV show, gambling platform, and live event with stereotypes about the national character of the US.  I haven’t read it (whew!), but I’ll let the Guardian’s reviewer, Steven Wells, give you his summary.  My favorite bits:

Foer argues that soccer can be used to explain an entire planet. Paolantonio — while beating his chest, waving old Glory and strutting like a cockerel — boasts that American football can be used to explain why one corner of it is, like, awesome.

The contraction in scope and ambition tells all. One hopes other authors pursue this logic further. How Welly Wanging Explains West Yorkshire. How Bog Snorkelling Explains Llanwrtyd Wells. How Lying on the Couch Reading This Crap Book Explains My Living Room. How My Cat Sylvie Explains My Stomach. The possibilities are endless. 

And,

The prologue is a masterpiece of bombastic ignorance in which Paolantonio inadvertently reveals that he has apparently never actually watched any other sport. Or indeed read about them.

“Go ahead, you try going to a rugby game and writing about it. Soccer? Ninety minutes of whatever and then maybe one goal scored by accident. Tough to create a coherent narrative out of that.”

It gets worse. Paolantonio is the sports journalism equivalent of the saloon bar patriot who doesn’t actually own a passport. 

And, 

“Football explains America,” says NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on the book jacket, “because the game is about teamwork and camaraderie, competition and passion, strategy and emotion. You can look at football and see the heart of America.”

This is at least three different kinds of bollocks.

1) You could cut and paste “because the game is about steroids and growth hormones, antiquated gender roles, blatant sexism, a bloated bureaucracy and a veneer of politically correct corporate blandness” and the statement wouldn’t be any more or less true.
2) The US is more passionate than Italy? Or more teamworky than, say, North Korea?
3) You could replace “football” with sudoko, darts or pornography and it would still be equally true (and equally meaningless). 

So yeah, it’s pretty solid.  Treat yourself. 

Also, in case you’re wondering (and I doubt you are), the Franklin Foer book “How Soccer Explains the World” is itself a cheap, hollow echo of the defining text on the subject, 1994’s ”Soccer [Football] Against the Enemy: How The World’s Most Popular Sport Starts and Fuels Revolutions and Keeps Dictators In Power” by Simon Kuper.  Foer’s book gets talked up because of his foofy New Republic associations, but the Kuper book is much better (and 12 years ahead of Foer).   

See here for the rest of my reading list (again, I can’t imagine you care, but what the hey). 

Anyhoo.  Go Birds.

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