I’m in Aspen for Fortune‘s fifth Brainstorm conference. It’s not the fifth annual one because we skipped last year, but I came here last summer anyway to follow Tom Friedman around for a Fortune story. So I’ve been here six summers in a row, and know my way around (even on the bike paths). But the place still weirds me out. Too many billionaires in jeans, environmentalists driving SUVs, and actual Aspenites who can’t afford to live here. Or maybe I’m just envious.
Anyway, we Fortunistas are blogging our conference. Very 21st century of us. And only five years late!
I had hopes of blogging during my World Cup visit to Germany a week-and-a-half ago, but the demands of looking after a seven-year-old on the road, plus the fact that I forgot my laptop and thus had to share computer time with a 13-year-old in possession of gaming software, got in the way of that. And then I got sick after my return.
So it’s now a little late to weigh in on the U.S.-Italy match in Kaiserslautern, except to say this. Much has been made of the fact that the U.S. fans outshouted the Italian ones, and that this cheering advantage may have played a role in the result (it certainly seemed to reflect the referee’s calls over the last 20-30 minutes of the game). This was a great thing, one of the few bright spots of this World Cup for the U.S. But it wasn’t because there were more dyed-in-the-wool U.S. supporters on hand than Italian ones. It was because the neutrals — the Germans, that is — turned on the ref and the diving Italians toward the end of the first half.
The Germans with tickets to the World Cup matches not featuring their country’s team have endearingly adopted a policy of rooting for the underdogs, and in particular for the teams least likely to bring tens of thousands of supporters. At the Netherlands-Ivory Coast match we attended, lots of the Germans had gone so far as to buy Ivory Coast shirts. With U.S.-Italy, things were of course more complicated. We were the soccer underdog, but are the overdog in so many other ways that the Germans weren’t going to be comfortable dressing up in red-white-and-blue. Some, like the fellow pictured here, split the difference. Others dressed as disinterested civilians.
But once the game got going, and the Italian team played as its wont (defensively, cynically, etc.), sentiment shifted toward the Americans. We were sitting in a section that seemed to be filled mostly with locals, supporters of the team that usually occupies the stadium, FC Kaiserslautern. And at some point around the middle of the game, they all began chanting “U-S-A! U-S-A!” They did get bored with that after a while, and began chanting “Deutschland!” and singing “Wir fahren nach Berlin” (We’re going to Berlin) instead. But they kept cheering U.S. attacks and whistling derisively at the Italians.
It may not be much to be able to claim that your country’s soccer team is more beloved (outside of Italy) than Italy’s is. But these days we Americans ought to take whatever we can get.
After Monday’s debacle against the Czech Republic, I seriously considered writing another fortune.com column using the World Cup to make exactly the opposite point as last week’s plea for U.S. optimism in the face of globalization.
Landon Donovan was too much of a wimp to stick it out at Bayer Leverkusen and learn how to be tough rather than just talented, I could have written. DaMarcus Beasley’s lack of worldliness is dooming him to second-rate status at PSV and has halted his development as a soccer player. We Americans can’t hack it in a world that doesn’t revolve around us. Those Czechs, meanwhile, all have to go abroad and learn new languages if they’re to get anywhere in the sport. They’re the ones who are ready for globalization. Or something like that. That’s the great thing about opinion journalism. Starting with a given set of facts, you can make almost any point you want.
I just did my first bit of Fortune work in a month. It’s a web column on the World Cup and U.S. economic competitiveness. Kind of a stretch, I know. But I needed to make some use of all those hours I spend reading soccer news online every day, right?
I’ve been off working on my book. I had initially thought I might post comments about whatever chapter or subject I was working on each day, but that didn’t happen. I got into full I Am a Book Writer and I Cannot Be Interrupted mode. Not that it got me to finish the thing. I’ve still got some big empty spots to fill toward the end. But I’m getting there. And maybe, now that I’m back to the daily interruptions of life at Fortune, I’ll actually get around to discussing the book occasionally here. Which was the whole idea of this blog in the first place.