Our discussion following the reading of Amy Bass’s One Goal: A Coach, A Team, and the Game that Brought a Divided Town Together revolved around the issue of cultural identity and American soccer. This discussion, to me, perfectly captured the essence of the course as a whole, and felt like a perfect closure to the semester — how soccer can be effectively used a platform through which we can evaluate the larger social issues at hand.
Bass’s novel paints the picture of the Lewiston Blue Devils’ victory as “what happens when America works like it’s supposed to” — a real-world manifestation of the cliché of a melting pot of different cultures, mending a city that was drastically divided across racial lines. This interpretation seems to be an idealistic narrative of the Lewiston soccer team’s success, for of course, not everyone subscribes to this melting pot vision of the country’s diversity; amidst the Lewiston soccer team’s success, the Trump administration continued to divide the entire country with harsh rhetoric surrounding immigration and refugees on the national level. And as Amy Bass even says herself, “it doesn’t mean that they’re going to stay together. Community is still really hard work. But now they know what it feels like.” It appears then, that soccer is not necessarily the answer for the troubles that plague our societies, but rather it’s an avenue through which we can witness how to organically establish and maintain relationships through teamwork, communication, and the undergoing the trials of a season.
Nonetheless, I found it inspiring to understand how soccer specifically can successfully bridge the gaps between communities through the story of Lewiston. After all, it was soccer that united the community of Lewiston; it was not hockey, it was not football, and it was not basketball — three sports that had previously dominated popularity in Lewiston, and Maine on the whole. To me, this speaks volumes about the nature of the sport itself, that is, that there is something integral to soccer that enables it to establish global communities. Moreover, in the same way that communities cannot flourish without accepting its diverse elements, Lewiston’s success is a testament to the notion that American soccer will truly not be able to realize success until it embraces its immigrant identity as well, no longer demanding to “leave your culture at the door.”