I have never been much interested in competitive sports. I take pride in the fact that I rarely know which teams are playing in the Superbowl, much less any of the other bowls. I am even less interested in baseball and basketball, not having the slightest clue about "March Madness." I consider golf to be a colossal waste of time, almost sinfully so. I can watch 10 minutes of the Tour de France, but only for the scenery.
I do take a passing interest in soccer, however. I wish it had been around when I was growing up. Who knows, I might have been halfway decent at a sport which did not require me to throw, catch, hit or dribble a ball. And back when I was traveling overseas more regularly, I confess to getting caught up a bit in the enthusiasm of it all. With soccer, you can do interesting things--like rooting for Paraguay. How often do you get a chance to do that?
Nicholas Farrell, an expatriate Brit living with his Italian wife in her homeland, makes a few observations on the sport in The Holy Roman Church of Football
. He notes that, generally speaking, the Catholic countries are far better at the sport than Protestants who invented the game. He has a little fun looking for a correlation between the Protestant Work Ethic and poor soccer skills.
Why are Catholics so good at kicking around soccer balls but so bad at running their countries? Is it because they are Catholics?
Germany's refusal to sholder the entire debt burden of the eurozone's Catholic countries, plus that of Orthodox (semi-Catholic) Greece meant that its defeat was greeted with euphoric applause across the continent.
Whereas Karl Marx regarded economics as
society’s driving force, Max Weber
saw religion as more important. He argued in 1905’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism that
there was a causal connection between Protestantism, especially Calvinism, and
capitalism’s rise and that this explained why the Industrial Revolution took
place in the Protestant, not Catholic, countries of Europe.
Protestantism possessed what Weber called
“the spirit of capitalism”; Catholicism did not. Weber said the Catholic Church
was hostile toward the pursuit of wealth while the Protestants emphasized hard
work and economic success to achieve salvation.
Weber said that Protestants, unlike Catholics...had become detached from magic. The fruit of their disenchantment was capitalism. Weber was definitely onto something.
The huge success of Catholic countries in soccer cannot be due entirely to the sign of the cross they make each time they run on to the pitch and their belief in God, who--being a Catholic--intervenes personally each time they play....Maybe it is because Catholics prefer sport to work and that is where they direct their energy and passion. For as Weber wrote...To Catholics work is an obstacle, not a means, to salvation.
I have traveled in any number of places where the so-called Protestant Ethic never took hold(mainly due to lack of Protestants.) Some of these places can only be described as down-trodden. I do not want to romanticize these locales, and it would both arrogant and narcissistic to complain too much about the very ethic which, when you get right down to it, made it possible for me to walk those particular streets. Observing the pace of life and appreciation of the small things, however, sometimes left me envious. Winning can be just another name for losing. And visa versa.