Soccernomics, (full title, Soccernomics: Why England Loses, Why Germany And Brazil Win, And Why The U.S., Japan, Australia, Turkey — And Even Iraq — Are Destined To Become The Kings Of The World's Most Popular Sport, by Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski) as the mashed-up name implies, has much to recommend it to anyone who enjoys books about sports and its relationship to other parts of social life.
There are, however, two big problems with the book. You will find their names listed on the front cover.
It is not that the two authors of Soccernomics are bad writers, bad people, fans of the wrong club, or even bad scholars, rather it is the simple fact that they are who they are that constitutes their major failing(-s).
They are (strike 1) academics, (strike 2) economists, and (strike 3) Englishmen (one by birth and one by choice . . . "in spite of all temptations," etc).
In the first instance, academics are generally used to writing for their fellow pointy-heads. That usually means leavening their work with citations to the work of other academics (it's kind of an endless feedback loop really) with the goal of demonstrating the weight of the argument.
In Soccernomics, the two authors cite the work of others . . . a lot.
In fact, thanks to the unending references to, and lengthy quotations from, Fever Pitch, Nick Hornby probably should have been named as at least the third author of Soccernomics.
Given the authors' status as scholars rather than hackey bloggers, unending citation of the work of others can be excused as what they do and how they do it.
Similarly, what economists do is to reduce every human activity to data and then run statistical analyses on that data. They then use those statistics to "prove" or support whatever point they intended to make even before they produced the data.
So it is with Soccernomics.
For example, the book suggests that there is a single statistical relationship which can explain both Brazil's terrific record of success in international soccer, as well as England's nearly constant disappointment of her fans.
Statistics are also used by the authors to examine the social and economic impacts of hosting a World Cup, leading to the conclusion that it would be better for governments to try and stamp out poverty among their national populations rather than pursue the status and good feelings that accompany hosting international athletic competitions.
In the first case one thinks, well, whatever helps you to sleep at night; in the second, well, who amongst us is going to stand up for poverty?