Diversity Is Strength!—It’s Also, Paradoxically, All-White US Women's Soccer

As we’ve all been lectured, diversity is the biggest and bestest thing in the whole world.

Except when it’s not.

Everybody in the Main Stream Media is enraptured by the success of the U.S. women’s soccer team in reaching the July 17 finals of the Women’s World Cup. (Where they lost, to the Japanese), It’s a triumph for the American Way of Life over less enlightened countries that oppress their women by forcing them to wear their Manolo Blahnik pumps instead of the soccer spikes they dream of. You know, like France, Italy, and England.

Or something like that. The reasoning isn’t exactly clear, but the sentiment is obvious.

Female soccer embodies many of the most deeply-held values of white American upper middle class families: gender equality; parental (especially paternal) investment in their children; organized practice instead of play; ambitions for college scholarships; tacit race and class segregation via spending; and chauffeuring … lots and lots of chauffeuring.

So nobody in the American MSM has been so rude as to point out the remarkable lack of racial and ethnic diversity on the U.S. women’s soccer team.

Judging from the latest roster—if our World Cup team was the Tea Party, it would be denounced as nativist and racist. Certainly the women’s national soccer team would fail the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s notoriously Four-Fifths Rule for sniffing out possible “disparate impact” discrimination—discrimination where it doesn’t have to prove intent.

Yet Google News records no mention by the MSM of the lack of diversity on this lauded squad.

Moreover, even though soccer is cited almost as often as ethnic restaurants as proving how crucial immigrants are to American success, every single one of the 21 players was born in the U.S.

I found a grand total of one blogger, Professor Harold Black, an African-American economist, who complained about the team’s shortage of ethnic diversity:

“I admit I am not a soccer fan, but we have been inundated with US women’s soccer and the World Cup. This is the whitest, least diverse squad I have ever seen. It makes the BYU sports teams look like the University of Memphis. … There is one Hispanic-surnamed player who looks like a blond Barbie.”

In fact, one player, Shannon Boxx, is a little bit black. But she’s not exactly from the ‘hood. She was raised solely by her white mother in the beach city of South Torrance, CA. Rather like Barack Obama, another beach kid who was dumped by Dad, she says she learned about being black by majoring in African-American Studies at the U. of Notre Dame.

imageAnd yes, one player, Amy Rodriguez, has a Spanish surname. But she’s about as nonwhite as actress Cameron Diaz of Bad Teacher. Rodriguez (see picture left) is a blonde born in Beverly Hills. She grew up in Lake Forest, one of the wealthiest towns in southern Orange County. Her California-born father is of Cuban descent.

And that’s it for diversity on the Women’s World Cup team.

What’s the story here? Isn’t soccer the global game? Don’t Portland hipsters who get up early on Sunday to watch the English Premier League on television believe in diversity? Haven’t we already seen headlines in the New York Times like Swiss Team Enriched by Ethnic Diversity? [By Rob Hughes, June 6, 2011] Or For Host Germany in Women’s World Cup, Diversity Is the Goal? [By Jeré Longman, June 25, 2011]

And where are all of America’s vibrant Latina soccer players?

And why doesn’t anybody talk about it?

The first question is: Why are Americans relatively better at women’s soccer than at men’s soccer?

The answer is, obviously, that countries that care about soccer haven’t cared much about women’s soccer. When the U.S. won the Women’s World Cup at the Rose Bowl in 1999, the only countries that were competitive were America, due to decades of Title IX affirmative action scholarships for female athletes; Communist China; Brazil; and the Nordic usual suspects. Americans bragged so hard in 1999 that some countries that actually know how to play soccer, like Germany (which won the FIFA Women's World Cup in 2003 and 2007), got sore and taught some of their girls.

Hispanic cultures were especially uninterested in women’s soccer. Anne-Marie O’Connor wrote gingerly for the Los Angeles Times on July 16, 1999 in A Cultural Snub for Women’s World Cup:

“There was something missing at the Rose Bowl when the United States won the Women’s World Cup:

“Latinos.

“Latinos, the dynamite behind the Los Angeles soccer explosion, were strangely absent Saturday, making up no more than 10% of the crowd—a far cry from the overwhelmingly Latino crowds that usually support Rose Bowl and Coliseum soccer …”

Title IX, which demands that colleges give almost as many sports scholarships to females as males—with grand Politically Correct indifference to whether or not teenage girls actually like, say, golf—is always trumpeted as Good for Diversity.

But in reality, it benefits well-to-do whites—especially those from intact families. With over 50 percent of Hispanic mothers and over 70 percent of black mothers being unmarried, few Latino or African-American girls can expect much coaching from their fathers.

A dead give-away is that Title IX is seldom enforced at community colleges. The kind of hard-charging businessmen who guide their daughters to golf or soccer scholarships at a state flagship university don’t care about junior colleges.

The U.S. isn’t going to stay at the top of women’s soccer as countries that actually know how to train young soccer players get interested in the women’s game—unless we change our entire grass-roots program. Right now, white upper middle class people have constructed a youth soccer system in the U.S. that is much more expensive, elitist, and ineffective at nurturing talent in young men than any other country’s system.

And soccer moms and dads like it that way—because it provides a de facto white-dominated environment for their children.

The current American youth soccer system of expensive pay-to-play travel squads and countless away games is not designed to win World Cups or even to create professional soccer players. Young players learn how to handle the ball by practicing one-on-one, not by playing in eleven-on-eleven games. It’s designed by affluent parents to get their kids some exercise, let them experience some level of success in a game away from minorities, and maybe win a college scholarship.

Everything that can be said about the motivations of American soccer parents regarding their sons can be said double regarding their daughters. They don’t care about training their daughters for non-existent women’s professional leagues. They care about giving their daughters something wholesome to do with their time so they don’t get pregnant and marry losers before they finish college.

Next, let’s focus on men’s soccer, since that provides the baseline.

Although you don’t hear about this much, the teams that win the World Cup are, with the exception of mighty Brazil, usually quite white. Italy won in 2006 with an all-white team, and Spain’s 2010 World Cup winners were nearly so.

It’s not just the best teams that are mostly white. It’s also the best players. Of the 50 top male players in the world in 2010, 39 were white, ten West African black by birth or descent, and one mixed. None were Asian or Amerindian (although the most exciting player of a generation ago, Argentina’s Diego Maradona, might be somewhat mestizo).

Across a variety of sports, the best athletes in the world tend to be white or black, with other races an afterthought (although there are occasional exceptions, such as the huge and fast Samoans).

Therefore, a sports’ balance of power between Europeans and West Africans can, in the long run, depend on subtle rules that determine, for instance, how many rest periods and substitutions are allowed.

American spectator sports have evolved in the direction of ever more stoppages in play to accommodate television commercials. This gives athletes of West African background with more fast-twitch muscle fibers time to rest up between sprinting and leaping. And that helps make American spectator sports blacker, at the expense of white athletes with better endurance.

In contrast, soccer remains a game with remarkably few TV timeouts. Soccer’s ruling body, FIFA, could easily change the rules to make it more TV-friendly, and thus more black-friendly, like the NFL and NBA. Americans, you’ll notice, are always suggesting ways to change the rules to make soccer more exciting on TV (i.e., blacker).

But FIFA doesn’t want to change. It’s apparently happy with a sport that, while integrated, remains far more dominated by whites than the NBA or NFL.

The ethnic breakdown of the U.S. men’s World Cup team has been roughly the same as the global top 50. In 2010, out of 23 male players on the American squad, there were 13.0 non-Hispanic whites, 7.5 blacks, and only 2.5 Hispanics. In 2006, there were 6.5 blacks and, similarly, only 2.5 Hispanics.

The Hispanic total is down from 1994. Andrea Canales complained on ESPN in 2007:

“One might guess that as a wave of Latino influence sweeps America, the effect on soccer, the U.S. game many Latinos adore more than any other, would be even more profound. Instead, their numbers on the U.S. men’s senior team have dwindled—three were on the World Cup roster for 2006, compared with five in 1994.”

To be frank, the long-anticipated tidal wave of Latino cultural influence has yet to arrive in any area of American white. Generally speaking, Whites, blacks, and Asians all pay strikingly little attention to Hispanics.

Still, you’d think that at least in American soccer there’d be a high level of Latin accomplishment

There are two levels of selection to keep in mind when thinking about who gets picked for an American World Cup team: the top level; and the preceding question of who gets into the pipeline.

The American men’s World Cup coaches have recently striven to select “the best athletes” (which is sportscode for “black”), even though only a tiny number of African-Americans actually care about soccer.

The results of this strategy have been mixed for the U.S. team. Sprinting speed and leaping ability play a role in soccer, but not as much as in football and basketball. Ball-handling matters hugely, and that takes innumerable hours to master.

Conversely, the American coaches’ emphasis on “athleticism” hurts the chances of mestizos, who tend to be slow and short.

This Mexicans are generally not terribly good athletes. Judging merely by its large population (113 million), middling wealth, and high degree of soccer fanaticism, Mexico ought to be a soccer superpower, contending for the World Cup at least as often as, say, two-time winner Argentina. Among those middle and high-income countries where soccer monopolizes young men’s attention, only Brazil has a larger population.

And it shouldn’t be that hard for Mexico to be better than the U.S. in soccer because there just aren’t that many soccer nuts in the U.S. Heck, there may be more numerous fanatical supporters of the Mexican men’s soccer team in America than there are full-blooded fans of the American team. There certainly were more Mexican than American fans at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena last June 24, when Mexico defeated the U.S.

Ten days later, I attended a Fourth of July party at the house of an African-American lady who lives a block from the Rose Bowl. She rolled her eyes as she remarked how much better behaved were the folks who showed up to watch Independence Day fireworks at the Rose Bowl than were the Mexican team fans who drove drunk past her house for hours after Mexico’s victory, honking horns and waving Mexican flags.

And yet, despite all this Mexican enthusiasm for the Mexican team on both sides of the border, Mexico is about as mediocre as the U.S. at the men’s World Cup. Like America, Mexico usually qualifies for the World Cup elimination brackets, but then gets knocked out in the round of 16.

Still, you don’t have to be a great athlete to be an effective soccer player. What you need is a lot of practice kicking the ball. One way to learn is the old-fashioned South American approach that produced Maradona: spend your entire childhood in a shantytown playing hooky and dribbling a soccer ball around.

The other is the methodical Dutch approach: start intensely practicing at age seven under coaches with a ruthless focus on producing professional soccer players.

But the U.S. system, instead of having kids practice their ball-handling non-stop like the scientific Dutch, duns parents to send their kids on jets to countless distant games, where they mostly run up and down while not touching the ball.

Europeans also find baffling the American obsession with earning a college scholarship through soccer. If you intend to play in the World Cup, you should be a full time professional by age 18 at the latest.

But American soccer moms care more about college for their kid than the World Cup.

So, U.S. men’s soccer could probably find more Latinos from the barrios than it does. There are probably more Latinos in the U.S. with the eye-foot coordination and the soccer obsession to make the U.S. World Cup team. But the system is set up to keep them out. In an article about why there are so few Latino players at the upper levels, Landon Donovan, probably the best American male player of his generation, reflects on growing up in California’s Inland Empire:

A lot of the kids I played with growing up just didn’t have the resources, so they hit high school and they were off to do other things. A lot of them would end up in bad situations. These were kids that were a lot more talented than I was. It’s kind of sad because I think that happens over and over.” [The missing Latino link, By Andrea Canales, ESPN Soccernet, January 3, 2007]

On the other hand, Donovan’s parents might well have been happy that by the time puberty arrived, his travel squads had gotten too expensive for those of his former teammates who were on their way to winding up in bad situations.

In summary, not surprisingly, much about American soccer, especially girls’ soccer, therefore goes without saying.

And there’s a lot to be said for unspoken norms. But if nobody is ever crass enough to explain in writing what’s actually going on, nobody ever learns any lessons that they can apply to anything else.

For instance, talking honestly about soccer reveals that much of what nice upper middle class people say out loud about diversity and immigration isn’t true. There isn’t a lot of talent coming from Mexico, even in soccer. There especially isn’t much female talent from south of the border. Massive Latino immigration doesn’t make America more sophisticated; it makes the population more backward and knuckleheadedly macho. Privileged whites don’t actually want their children exposed to diversity; they will spend a lot of money to keep them, especially their daughters, in a cocoon as white as (say) the U.S. Women’s World Cup team.

These are not, when it comes down to it, ignoble desires. In fact, they’re quite reasonable.

What is unreasonable is how the same people who spend huge sums to protect their own children from diversity will, at the same time, demonize their less privileged fellow citizens as racists for asking for some help from their government in guarding America’s borders.

[Steve Sailer (email him) is movie critic for The American Conservative. His website www.iSteve.blogspot.com features his daily blog. His new book, AMERICA’S HALF-BLOOD PRINCE: BARACK OBAMA’S "STORY OF RACE AND INHERITANCE", is available here.]