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Deja Vu

August 8, 2011

Kick the Habit

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2011: The newly minted coach of U.S. Men’s National Team, a former German soccer star, as well as coach of the German National team and European powerhouse Bayern Munich, has decided to excise a distinctively German diacritic from his name for the sake of simplicity and assimilation. The Wall Street Journal reports on the acquisition:

In any other sport, coaches view their jobs and measure their success in very simple terms—the idea is to win more often than not by molding the skills and talents of the players on their roster with their personal style and approach to the game.

If only soccer were that simple. If it is, Jurgen Klinsmann, the former German star who held his first news conference as coach of the U.S. men’s soccer team Monday morning in New York, certainly doesn’t see it that way.

To him the style of play of the national team “should reflect your mentality and your culture,” and part of Klinsmann’s task, as he sees it, is to define an American style of play in a way that it has never been defined before. He’s not starting from scratch in that regard—he’s lived in this country the past thirteen years and is raising a family in southern California. (And in a nod to just how much a part of this country he has become, Klinsmann has told U.S. Soccer he’s dropping the first E from “Juergen” and wants no umlaut over the U in his first name. “He says it’s just easier that way,” said chief U.S. Soccer spokesman Neil Buethe.)


330 BC: In the course of his attempted annexation of the known world, Alexander of Macedon gradually and deliberately started adopting Asiatic customs, calculating that a blend of the two cultures would endear him to his new subjects and augment his authority. Plutarch’s biography of the man explains the rationale:

[H]e marched into Parthia, where, during a respite from fighting, he first put on the barbaric dress, either from a desire to adapt himself to the native customs, believing that community of race and custom goes far towards softening the hearts of men; or else this was an attempt to introduce the obeisance among the Macedonians, by accustoming them little by little to put up with changes and alterations in his mode of life. However, he did not adopt the famous Median fashion of dress, which was altogether barbaric and strange, nor did he assume trousers, or sleeved vest, or tiara, but carefully devised a fashion which was midway between the Persian and the Median, more modest than the one and more stately than the other. At first he wore this only in intercourse with the Barbarians and with his companions at home, then people generally saw him riding forth or giving audience in this attire. The sight was offensive to the Macedonians, but they admired his other high qualities and thought they ought to yield to him in some things which made for his pleasure or his fame.
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