Brazil is hosting the Confederations Cup, an eight-team tournament that serves as a kind of warm-up for the World Cup, which kicks off in about a year. Brazil is also hosting a series of increasingly controversial demonstrations: in the last week, Brazilians have taken to the streets to protest everything from high bus fares to government corruption to the construction of football stadiums.
These protests represent a rare phenomenon: the news story that gets as much coverage in the New York Times (bastion of high-quality journalism) as on ESPN Soccernet (The Worldwide Leader in Misplaced Commas) and the BBC Sports website (employer of Alan Shearer). Football has always influenced world politics – read Simon Kuper’s Soccer Against the Enemy – but, truth be told, the Times’ hard news and ESPN’s football analysis almost never overlap. This is an unusual situation, and it’s generated some interesting contrasts.