Germany 4 England 1

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Last night my wife and I watched the Seinfeld episode where Jerry is forced to rerun a high-school race. As you recall, he'd destroyed the field with a false start. Nobody noticed except his bitterest rival. Everybody thought they had witnessed a miracle. After this amazing victory, he explains, he had never raced again. Friends begged him to; coaches begged him to. He refused, "and so the legend grew".

That is what we should have done in 1966. England should have retired from international football. Asked to take part, implored to compete, we should have said no. England, mighty footballing nation, why do you deny us your talent? We'll tell you why. Because we choose not to play.

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Clive Crook is a senior editor of The Atlantic and a columnist for Bloomberg View. He was the Washington columnist for the Financial Times, and before that worked at The Economist for more than 20 years, including 11 years as deputy editor. Crook writes about the intersection of politics and economics. More

Crook writes about the intersection of politics and economics.

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