Coulter's analysis is not a serious one, sadly; and it seems there isn't any need for more people rebutting her claims, whether with or without calling her names. It seems to me that Coulter is not so much ignorant about soccer as she targets people who are ignorant about soccer. Only people who have never really paid any attention to a soccer game can think that there in soccer there are 'no heroes, no losers' since 'blame is dispersed'. Coulter seems bent on making sure these people, who typically identify as Americans and tend to really love sports, never even try watching soccer because it's foreign or something. That's a shame, but despite all of those responsive rants, I suspect that she is successful. In any case, she is garnering attention, which seems to be another one of her perennial goals.
Whatever the merit of her argument, despite herself Coulter points to an important direction. Most responses ignored the incredibly bombastic headline of piece, but it is, arguably, the best part of it. Coulter is not just complaining that she doesn't love soccer, but that 'any growing interest in soccer can only be a sign of the nation's moral decay'. She makes lots of twists and turns on the way to reaching that conclusion, including the offensive remark that the growth in interest in soccer is only among immigrants, but the main thrust of her argument is true: sports, and games in general, are based on rules that could and should be evaluated morally. A growing interest in a particular sport reflects a cultural shift, and that's something we can ask about: is that a good shift? Are we going in the right direction? Cultures are systems of values and the practices that we form around them; we shouldn't just accept them as they are.
If Coulter was right that soccer is a sport in which individual achievement does not play an important role, the rise of soccer would truly be a cultural and moral shift. In fact, anybody who ever coached a variety of sports with children would know that soccer sadly turns on the one player in each team that really knows how to play. In contrast, one truly great player can usually not carry his team in baseball against of a team of players who are of average skill level. On the field, it's not enough that one player can throw - somebody would have to catch. But if you're really interested in a sport that focuses on teamwork, I really recommend ultimate frisbee - no one player can do anything in frisbee, every throw has at least two ends.
If soccer's popularity is rising in the US, I don't think it signals a great cultural shift. The biggest reason for that is that soccer is very similar to most sports that are already popular in the US. Coulter might be right that it reflects a US that's more open to outside influences and wrong to lament it, but it remains to be seen if that's really the case.
Moral and political analysis of games is the subject of this blog. Soccer is not the kind of game I intend to focus on, but Coulter's question, if not an answer, is an interesting one. Games are systems of rules that embody social values. As we play games, we practice and rehearse behaviors that are played and replayed in various social settings. What moral values are encrypted in soccer? I leave this question for the reader for the time being, with the tentative promise to revisit the subject in a future post.