Greatest World Cup Commercials

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Nike


The Mirror is counting down the 50 best and worst World Cup commercials of 2010. I will be shocked if "Write the Future" is not number one, just as I am shocked that there are any World Cup commercials judged worse than the universalist Bono-narrated ESPN clip about everything the World Cup is supposedly "not"—globalization, national borders, love/hate, etc.

It would be nice if these globe-wide spectacles like the Olympics and World Cup were just about moments of we-are-one convergence. (It would be nice, too, if we didn't need sports to even imagine that.) But national character matters during the World Cup, and not just because of the geopolitical tensions certain matches might come to approximate (Match of Death, anyone?).

It's all about style—one nation's preference for marauding fullbacks, another's unbreakable passing triangles. The possibility of reclaiming some morsel of imperial glory. A national identity redefining itself in the wake of war and migration, with its players as vanguard. This is what Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's Nike commercial nails: Abidjan is not Manchester, even if fiber-optics, satellite and wirelessness (how many scenes in that commercial involve watching someone watch something?) purport to erase that distance.

That, and Cristiano Ronaldo has an incredible imagination.

At least ESPN's World Cup/Sportscenter tie-in clip got it right.

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Hua Hsu teaches in the English Department at Vassar College and writes about music, sports, and culture. More

Hua Hsu teaches in the English Department at Vassar College and writes about music, sports, and culture. His work has appeared in The Atlantic, The New York Times, Bookforum, Slate, The Village Voice, The Boston Globe Ideas section and The Wire (for whom he writes a bi-monthly column). He is on the editorial board for the New Literary History of America.
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