science as phoenix of global humiliation

Since we’re 13 hours ahead of Rio and I’m a sabbatical slugabed, I’ve watched very little of the World Cup. But of course the big story has been the humiliation of Brazil.

With 200 million people, Brazil is the world’s most populous country for which soccer is the national passion. They gave up 7 goals to Germany, and lost today 3-0 to Holland. Holland has 14 million people, so from population alone, the expected number of Dutch among the 11 best players on the field against Brazil is less than one.

What next? No idea, but I mentioned before that I’ve been thinking about elite sport as a model phenomenon for biological-social interdependence, and that this had me reading about Australian sport. Australia has a nifty parallel to the Brazilian case.

Australia won 13 gold medals when they hosted the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne. Their gold medal tallies in the four Olympics after that: 8 (Rome), 6 (Tokyo), 5 (Mexico City), and 8 (Munich). What happened at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal? Zero gold medals, and only five in all. Not as conspicuous to the rest of the world as Brazil’s humilation, but certainly very deeply felt at home.

What did Australia do? Out of this humiliation starts the story that’s gotten me interested in Australian sports. Australia got more centralized in how they approached sport, and, in turn, much more scientific about it. That is: the Australian Institute for Sport was born.

Author: jeremy

I am the Ethel and John Lindgren Professor of Sociology and a Faculty Fellow in the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University.

2 thoughts on “science as phoenix of global humiliation”

  1. Very interesting points.

    I am a reader from Brazil, and since our defeat all the press talks about is how well Germany prepared since they lost to us in 2002. This involves a reestructuration of their league, recruitment of talente and many many other aspects.

    Maybe this can be a good case for your study. It sounds very similar to some initiatives of the Australian Institute for Sport…


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