Bay Area Reporter
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Jock Talk
Man-whores of the World Cup

With the past few years in sports having brought historic progress in breaking down homophobia, sexism, racism and transphobia, it seems a good time to review just how far we have or have not come in the world of all things jock.

Never mind that some wing nut named Ann Coulter blogged recently that the growing American fascination of soccer showed an alarming socialist influence from people whose ancestors committed the sin of not eluding immigration by arriving on the Mayflower. We begin our contemplation with the biggest sports fest going on at the moment, soccer's World Cup, aka Luis Suarez' impromptu buffet lunch. Like the Olympic Games, the World Cup is advertised as a gathering of the world's most elite athletes on the biggest stage, symbolically unifying the world in peace, acceptance and tolerance for all - in other words, the very things Coulter loathes in modern America.

As with the Olympics, this blissful mission is achieved by the governing body awarding the event to the highest bidder with no concern of the cost to be born by the host nation's citizenry and demanding construction of expensive, highly specialized facilities that will be of little use to the people displaced. Also with no concern as to the host country's treatment of its minorities as long as it can foot the financial bill.

And if there are pesky government rules that get in the way of the commercial interests of one of the event's sponsors, say, regulations that forbid the sale of alcoholic beverages in stadiums filled with tens of thousands of violently emotional sports fanatics supporting clashing teams because of the almost inevitable potential for bloodshed, well, those, too, can be whisked away by decree because, you know, gotta be able to sell beer.

We are told there is no place in sports for politics - you know, politically-charged things such as same-sex couples in Russia kissing in public, or people protesting the $11 billion spent by the Brazilian government that triggered a troubling growth in inflation - so such protestors are rounded up into isolated gulags of protest, as in Russia; or are arrested en masse in the streets, as in Brazil. This assures that the television commentators do not need to worry their pretty little heads about any social unrest behind the scenes because, well, you know – it's behind the scenes, not in the camera shot.

Of course, sometimes the cameras do pick up an objectionable sight or sound and then the event organizers are quick to step in to make sure nothing will upset the sensibilities of millions of their viewers, hopefully sitting safely far away at home on their couches consuming the sponsors' products.

Before the Winter Olympics were under way this year, for example, a female skier was spotted with her fingernails each painted a different color. She was warned never to do such a politically volatile act again because, you know, parents would then have to explain to their daughters that those multicolored fingernails meant that they would either have to marry other girls or else have sex-change operations. What other reasonable explanations could there possibly be?

Thankfully, Brazil experienced few problems with that during this year's World Cup because that kind of fabulous fashion statement is usually done earlier during Carnival. But those damned furriners who come in to the stadiums and drink too much of the sponsors' product can occasionally chant things that border on the offensive, because, you know, this global unity thing brings in a lot of furriners, as Coulter has lamented repeatedly. Then organizers must really be ready to respond quickly and decisively.

Puto foot in one's mouth

We saw such a demonstration when Mexican fans bombarded opposing goalkeepers with the chant "¡Puto!" during games.

Now, puto is one of those funny little four-letter Spanish words that does not translate beautifully. At its literal core it means a male prostitute. It was being shouted at the opposing goalkeepers during World Cup games to suggest they were faggots who were going to be dominated by the macho Mexican players and would be scored upon. It was a metaphoric reference to receiving anal sex, although in fairness to the fans, they were probably too inebriated by the sponsor-sold beverages to be thinking about metaphors of social tolerance, or the message sent to a global community that was supposed to be celebrating inclusion and all of the trappings of this grand commercial, I mean, sporting event.

FIFA, the sanctioning body, said it would analyze the usage of the word and take appropriate action; and ESPN, which was televising the games, said it would mute the audience sound if the offensive chant was repeated.

Now, FIFA could have made a quick study as to the street usage of the term puto by sending 10 of its representatives into almost any Hispanic neighborhood and had each of them walk up to a man and say simply, "¡Puto!" The responses might not have been articulate, but I think the cumulative data of broken nose cartilage would have given ample anecdotal proof that the term is offensive.

But instead, the aptly named Sepp Blatter and his FIFA colleagues decided that there would be no sanctions, even though slurs against race, gender, or sexual orientation or identity are violations of FIFA code; and that in "this context," i.e., in a game globally televised to millions of viewers around the world, puto was just an affectionate joshing meant to inspire good sportsmanship. ESPN nodded and did not mute the repetitions when they, of course, recurred.

FIFA did find more offense when a Uruguayan player, smelling garlic and thinking for a moment he was in a trattoria, bit an Italian player in a round-robin game. FIFA suspended him for four months and sent him a thank-you note for giving the fans something to distract them from the tournament's egregious officiating.

At first the puto inaction might seem a setback for tolerance, but perhaps not. Perhaps we should, like FIFA, focus on the "whore" part of puto - that is the enterprising profit aspect, not the "male" part of the slur. Perhaps the Mexican fans were praising the goaltenders, such as the Dutch keeper who held Mexico to one score in its karmic quarterfinal elimination defeat, for their ability to cash in on their athletic talents.

Thus, when I say that Blatter is the biggest puto of all the putos in FIFA, I am complimenting him on his ability to squeeze so much in the way of cash and concessions out of Brazil and expressing my confidence that FIFA putos will be able to do the same in four years when they hold the Cup in Qatar, a scorchingly hot and homophobic place that will make the past Winter Olympics seem like one big Gay Pride Festival.

For precedence to back up their inaction on the word puto, the FIFA putos needed look no further than the putos who own and run the NFL's Washington R—————ns. In that case, the ruling putos were able to determine that at the precise moment when its racist, segregationist founder originally decided on the moniker, he wasn't being racist. Never mind that the term is patently, horrifically offensive: the psychics who currently run the team were able to determine by reading tea leaves that the racist founder wasn't being racist when he named the team in honor of the practice of violently scalping native people's heads for bloody trophies. In that context, it was that kind of great thinking that made him the marvelous puto he was.

Oh, and you remember all the global pressure that was being brought on Olympic-level sporting bodies last winter not to award future major events to homophobic hosts, and the assurances that keeping a stiff upper lip while we competed in Russia would help soften the government's stance?

Since Sochi, government pressure on businesses to drop LGBT clients have stiffened in Russia and laws to remove children from LGBT parents are still being debated, the international ice hockey championships were held in human rights abuser Belarus, the world fencing championships will be held in Russia this year and next - and FIFA will bring its quadrennial puto-act to Russia in 2018.

Can hardly wait to see what Coulter blogs about that!