For soccer fans, the World Cup is a time of strong emotions and hypernationalism. For some Americans, it's a time to drunkenly yell misguided stereotypes at a TV screen.
The first three teams the U.S. faced in the 2014 tournament were relatively easy to verbally eviscerate. Ghana knocked out the team in the last two tournaments. Portugal has Cristiano Ronaldo. And Germany—well, you remember World Wars I and II.
But this week, the U.S. plays an unfamiliar foe: Belgium. So, what's there to dislike about Belgium, deliverer of beer, waffles, and chocolate? Belgium actually has a lot of good things going for it, which makes it easier for U.S. fans to be irrationally jealous of the country—and use that jealousy to root against its soccer team. Here, two hateful members of the National Journal staff have compiled a brief list of those things, just in time for Tuesday's match at 4 p.m.
In no particular order, here's why you should root against the Belgians:
- They outpace us in annual per capita consumption of chocolates, 15 pounds to 11 pounds. They also gave us Godiva. Chocolate is pretty much their thing.
- They do government shutdowns better than we do. While they had no government for 20 months, the country was still able to keep its government programs and social services running. Show-offs.
- They also live longer than we do. Life expectancy is 83 years for Belgian women and 78 for men. In the U.S., it's 81 years for women and 76 for men. So close.
- Their national finances are in pretty good shape. At the start of this year, Belgium's economy grew at the fastest rate in almost three years, a signal that the euro is slowly traveling down the road to recovery.
- They have Jean-Claude Van Damme, who was born in Brussels and can do this.
- They created world maps as we know them today. In 1569, Gerardus Mercator drew up a projection of the globe to help sailors navigate the seas. It was not completely accurate however, and many nations look larger than they actually are. Still, that hasn't stopped everyone from using it.
- Two major Belgian cities have profoundly weird statues. The symbol of Brussels, the nation's capital, is a 22-inch statue of a little boy urinating, called Manneken Pis. As legend says, "The enemy was at the gates ready to bring down the city walls with gunpowder. Fortunately, a little boy who happened to be around desperately needed to relieve himself and in doing so he extinguished the fuse." In Antwerp, there's a statue of a man throwing a dismembered hand. Antwerp means "hand-cast," named after the legend of a Roman soldier throwing a giant's hand into the river. There's actually nothing to really hate here or be too jealous of. Just weird.
For more fodder, U.S. fans can also turn to Monty Python, which tried to tackle the issue of prejudice against Belgium in a skit. Other than the first option of, "Let's not call them anything, let's just ignore them," the show came up with three derogatory names for Belgians: "The Sprouts," "The Phlegms," and "Miserable, Fat Belgian Bastards."
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