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Steven Wells’ latest missive in The Guardian seeks to connect America’s war since the 1960s with the war-like metaphors of America’s version of football, which has become “America’s game” in the past few decades.
Given that the Pentagon is packed with officers brought up on American football; given that generations of American football coaches have bombarded their charges with war metaphors; given that Mel Gibson is incapable of making a war movie without a climactic battlefield scene in which Mel scores a touchdown after he shoots, stabs or impales the opposing quarterback; and given that gridiron writer Marke Mask called his new book War Without Death (“It’s about grand acquisition and aerial attack. It’s about covert intelligence”). Given all this, is it really that ridiculous to argue that the disastrous invasions of Vietnam and Iraq were at least partly the fault of the games that America plays?
This is hardly new territory, but he then goes on to discuss a very strange sounding movie from 1977 that introduced soccer to the war metaphors-mix, The Boys in Company C, “a lousy war movie and a rotten sports movie but quite possibly best film ever made about the war/sports metaphor. Released in 1977 – two years after the fall of Saigon and the same year Pele joined the New York Cosmos and sparked America’s first great soccer frenzy – Boys is a “skintight” low-budget peacenik ‘Namsploitation film made by the same Hong Kong production company that churned out the Bruce Lee flicks.”
The rest of the article then rather loses me as Wells outlines the plot in considerable detail. It turns out America’s Operation Linebacker strategies had been beaten by the Vietnamese’ cunning soccer-like counter-attacks. Captain Collins of Company C explains the situation to his troops.
“Now, our thinking is shaped by the games we grow up with. The VC don’t play by our rules because they grew up with a game that demands constant movement and fluid, shifting strategy. Now while you’re on this ship, you will learn to play their game. And, gentlemen, their game is soccer.”
“Soccer!” gasps a private.
“Kiss my ass!” growls another.
It turns out that “America’s losing the war because it insists on playing American football while Charlie plays soccer. Like some days he mines the roads, and other days he mines the paddy fields. The crazy-like-a-fox soccer-playing bastard.”
Unfortunately, Captain Collins turns out to be a poor soccer strategist, and things then get even more complicated with a homoerotic climax as “Escape to Victory meets The Longest Yard”. I’m not sure whether the movie or Wells’ description of it is more bonkers, but there are some interesting points in this somewhere.
Photos by Donchavez on Flickr