By Hua Hsu
It's going to be quiet in these parts today: I have to move, one among us is taking a massive exam, it's dangerously hot outside, etc, etc. Unless you're Raymond Domenech—whose mother just weighed in on the French squad's troubles—we'll trust that you can successfully find amusing YouTube clips on your own.
In all seriousness: despite our amusement at France's troubles, it is a real shame that they have bowed out, and in such spectacularly pathetic fashion at that. They were a talented yet almost predictably petulant side; they had some of the best and, in Franck Ribery and Djibril Cisse, most unusual-looking players on the planet. And for fans of underdogs: who enjoyed less global support than the French, who needed that handball to qualify in the first place? At least the North Koreans possessed a certain Je ne sais quoi (literally—we knew nothing about them).
Sadly, their World Cup disappointment has occasioned the most nefarious kind of pulse-taking among French cultural observers. Les Bleus' poor showing has been blamed on immigration, the inclusion of too many black players, a banlieue defiance that runs counter to traditional values. They came to embody the "new" and more diverse France first glimpsed in 1998. Their refusal to play for the universally scorned Domenech—now, suddenly, a victim?—has come to stand-in for a society of despised "bling-bling traders" adrift from fraternite. It's a re-staging of the infamous war-of-words between then-Minister of the Interior Nicolas Sarkozy and outspoken French defender Lilian Thuram after Sarkozy dismissed Parisian banlieue rioters as "scum"—only Thuram was a winner. (One of the best interviews I've ever read with Thuram was in the great but sadly hard to find South African magazine Chimurenga, whose World Cup "Pilgrimages" site is beyond excellent.)