Why Did Brazil Collapse?

It was shocking, astonishing.  The premier soccer nation in the world playing a World Cup home match against a very good, but hardly invincible, German team.

After twenty-six minutes, the score was 5-0.  The last four of those goals occurred in seven minutes.  Never seen anything like that.  Not even in FPYC mini-kicks.

Yes, the passion of Brazilians for football and their national team is not entirely unique.  There are crazy fans all over the world.  (To equal the emotional swings of Brazilian fans, just google “Auburn Alabama run back” and you’ll see an interesting comparison.)

But why did Brazil collapse so completely?  And does it have larger implications for Brazilian society, already unhappy with the state of the nation’s economy?

A few, perhaps impertinent, observations.  International soccer teams can reflect the soul of the nation.   The USA is earnest but somewhat clumsy.  The Germans are cool and clinical.  The Argentinians are passionate.  The English are perpetually unhappy.

Brazil has always been the epitome of that anthropomorphic dynamic.  Its team didn’t just play winning soccer – they played beautiful soccer, with fancy footwork and curving shots which left the other team out-classed as well as out-scored.  They smiled as they worked.  Under the great Pele, they coined the phrase “the beautiful game.”

(34th SD reference:  in 1975, I saw Pele score on a header at W.T. Woodson High School in a match for the NY Cosmos against the Washington Diplomats).

The troubling part of yesterday’s loss for Brazil was not just that the team was outplayed (it was already evident after several Cup matches that the team was not that great), it’s that they appeared to give up once they fell behind.  Playing hard to the final whistle, even when you’re losing, is the essence of sport.  In that respect, they failed.

With the loss in Brazil, it must face certain facts:  it’s national team is not that great right now.  It also has invested perhaps too much in football, both economically and emotionally, and not enough in other aspects of life — and, yes, there are other aspects.

(To quote Hal Holbrook in Wall Street:  “When a man looks into the abyss ..”)

They say that “football is not life or death, it’s more important than that.”  For the sake of Brazil, let’s hope not!

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