I want to move from, and even attempt to connect, Manchester United and US action, or inaction, against “Islamic terrorists.”
First, a brief word for those of you who know little about and care even less for Manchester United, futbol (soccer,) or even sports in general. I find the entire world of sports interesting in its own terms, but even more so, perhaps, as a window into how contemporary culture works in realms other than sports. Sport is like a cartoon, offering exaggerated glimpses of tendencies that elsewhere in a society may be more subtle and partially concealed: power, greed, economics, insecurities, celebrityism’s fragile face, not to mention the “thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.” Thus …..
Here’s what you need to know, if you do not. ManU is one of the biggest and most successful futbol clubs in all the world, let alone in England. Rich in every way … resources and tradition. They have suffered (the Munich air disaster in 1950 when most of their team died following a European Cup match) and gloried (many League titles, European championships, and the like.) Two seasons ago their longtime manager, the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson (yes, note the knighthood) retired. David Moyes was hired, given a six year contract. The team struggled. Mightily. They kept losing. Their season increasingly became doomed. Dramatically, and out of keeping with ManU tradition, Moyes was fired before season’s end. After the World Cup in came Louis Van Gaal, a much hailed manager and coach with an impeccable record of success. This new season would be different with a “genius” at the helm.
Things haven’t turned out that way. ManU have yet to win a game in the English Premier League. It has been like David Moyes all over again.
And so the pundits (I am now nearing my point) have spent weeks and weeks clamoring and complaining. The consensus has been that United need at least “five probably six new players.” Most commentators have baldly stated that the current team roster is “just not good enough to compete.”
So, by midnight BST last night the deadline for transfers until a January window, ManU concluded a flurry of signings, spending many millions of pounds and bringing in new stars.
Great, right? Oh no. You see, bringing in new guys means current players have to go. Go they have. Even some who signed on through the ManU’s “academy system” when they were under 10 years old.
So what are the pundits saying this morning? “This is not the ManU way … abandoning the academy system … Van Gaal will never make it work.” Not all the pundits are saying this, but many are and they tend to be former ManU players and who were the loudest moaners of David Moyes’ and this season’s “failures!”
Which brings me to “the war on terror.”
Over the last 48 hours or so it has become clear that US air power (drone and otherwise) is having a devastating effect on developments in the Iraqi army’s struggle against ISIS. This morning has also brought the news that the US targeted Ahmed Abdi Godane, the leader of al-Shabaab, the al Qaeda-affiliated group behind the Kenya mall massacre.
Just the other day following “the tan suit press conference” pundits were saying there was little the US could do against Islamic extremism and even less that it would do, under a dithering leader who had said that the country “had no strategy” right now to deal with it. Other pundits had lamented the impossibility of air power being effective without inflicting enormous civilian casualties.
It is early days for this latest step. But there is enough evidence, it seems to me, to say that punditry has gone haywire. It used to be, did it not?, that the news was reported. Now it has become a hook for agendas political and, I think, personal, by which I mean for personal gain, “Please invite me to talk, I have an opinion, I will say something controversial, I used to be a general, a colonel, an ambassador, I know, I am an expert.”
Shut up, already.