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The International Writers Magazine: Comment

Of  Bread and Circuses
• Paul Hanley
Renowned linguist and social critic Noam Chomsky once described sports as a contrived opiate for the people; a means of distracting us from important social matters. Well, I always took issue with Mr. Chomsky on that matter, considering his opinion a little too extreme and quite frankly, the assertion one who probably was picked last for every team in gym class.

Lee Bum Young
Then on August 4, 2012 in a sweltering British pub in Thailand, sitting amongst 100 or so fervent and rather inebriated British football fans, I had a revelation concerning Mr. Chomsky’s theory of bread and circuses and of the unifying element sports, on occasion, can bring.
I had been in Chiang Mai for a couple days and had been to the pub on a number of occasions. I had become friendly with the owner and some of the regular patrons. It seemed the perfect place for me to watch my newly adopted home team of Korea take on Great Britain. The crowd seemed to be made up of decent, sensible blokes. That was until near match time when the combination of beer and nationalism changed a rather cordial atmosphere into one resembling the seconds before a Highland Charge. Having the survival sense of a lemming, I decided that this was the perfect moment to get into an argument concerning the 1966 World Cup. That, of course, was the last year England won. I asserted the most exciting team at that tournament was by far the scrappy, wildly undersized North Koreans. Lucky for me, the match began.
The Koreans dominated early and by the 29th minute when Ji Dong Won made it 1-0, I was a confirmed red devil. As we know, the match came down to David Sturridge facing off against substitute goalkeeper Lee Bum Young. (Who, by the way, due to a promise I made to God before the Sturridge attempt, shall be the name of my first-born son, or daughter). Lee prevailed and Korea won.
As I basked in the victory of my new team, it mattered not that the match had neither the drama of the 2002 Italian game or even the symbolism of the bronze medal match with Japan days later. As for Mr. Chomsky, I admit that for two hours, I did, in fact, put aside my concern and frustration at the shameful failures of the UN Security Counsel in Syria, to exalt in the luscious bread and the exhilarating circus of the moment. But more importantly, I forged a deeper connection to my new home.
© Paul Hanley August17th 2012
Paul is a professor of International Relations at Keimyung Adams College at Keimyung University.

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