Today's Blogs

Tête Offensive

Bloggers are reacting to Zinedine Zidane’s head butt in the World Cup final. They are also wondering about Japan’s desire for pre-emptive strikes against North Korea and cheering the demise of Chechen terror leader Shamil Basayev.

Tête offensive: Italy triumphed over France in the World Cup finals Sunday, garnering Italy its fourth championship trophy since 1934. More than the result, bloggers are pondering French superstar Zinedine Zidane’s shocking skull-punch to Marco Materazzi’s chest during overtime.

Most bloggers buy Zidane’s claim that the cranium attack was provoked by something Materazzi said. Richard Brown at the New Republic’s Goal Post suspects racism: “Rumor has it that Materazzi called Zidane’s father a ‘harki’ - the Arabic term for Algerians who fought for France against Algeria during the occupation. It’s beyond all insults, the ultimate traitor.” Web consultant Mitch Ratcliffe at Ratcliffe Blog notes echoes of the racism Jesse Owens faced in the same Berlin stadium 70 years ago: “Thing is, Jesse Owens kept his temper. Zidane didn’t.” Tabula Rasa at Nomological Net psychoanalyzes Zidane’s “history of irascibility” and helpfully offers a disquisition on automatism and free will.

Deadspin says what many others are afraid to admit: “Even though it could have irrefutably damaged his team, even though it was over-the-top and violent and kind of insane … we think it’s one of the coolest things we’ve ever seen in a soccer match. We know it’s wrong to say that. But it’s true.” Ottawa blogger Mutoni at Mutoni’s Musings digs into Materazzi’s past and strikes gold: a highlight reel of Materazzi’s dirtiest deeds. Mutoni muses: “It’s really too bad Zidane’s head didn’t do more damage.”

NYU doctoral candidate Asad Raza at 3 Quarks Daily provides an explanation for shocked U.S. fans: “It may have clarified his priority for pride and honor over winning.  This is equally unfamiliar in the U.S., where sports are so heavily corporate that there is little tolerance for figures who do not, like Michael Jordan, always place the game above all else.”

Despite his blow-up, Zidane snagged the World Cup’s Golden Ball award for best player, beating out Italians Fabio Cannavaro and Andrea Pirlo. Bob Kellett at World Cup Blog thinks Cannavaro deserved the award: “Forget Zidane’s meltdown in the final. He didn’t start the tournament strong and he really only had a couple of quality games.”

Read more about the infamous head butt (and something about a game, too). Play the Zidane-themed online game. Robert Weintraub analyzed Zidane’s gesture in Slate.

Japan, back in action?: After North Korea launched missiles over Japanese airspace last week, Japan announced plans to examine the constitutionality of pre-emptive strikes against North Korea. Japan’s post-World War II constitution restricts military action to self-defense.

Liberal pundit Dean Esmay at Dean’s World suggests we prepare ourselves for Japanese rearmament: “This appears to be where the future is heading: Japan as a regional counterweight to an increasingly powerful and assertive (though, paradoxically, increasingly free) Chinese behemoth.”

John Little at Blogs of War welcomes Japan’s tough talk, noting that it might give the United States some much-needed leverage: “A reinvigorated Japanese military would scare the bejesus out of everyone in the region.” Conservative James Joyner at Outside the Beltway also likes weapons: “Considering how absolutely meaningless a U.N. resolution is, force seems the preferable of those two options.”

Conservative blogger Captain Ed at Captain’s Quarters suspects Japan intends to pressure China to quit delaying a vote on U.N. sanctions against North Korea: “If Japan determines that they need a massive naval expansion to deter Pyongyang, the Chinese will have to outpace two of the world’s most productive Western economies – and they will find that very difficult to do.”

Air Force vet Bryan Preston at conservative Michelle Malkin’s new project, Hot Air, thinks Japan feels abandoned by China and the United States: “In some ways, Japan’s push for a resolution with teeth may reflect its lack of patience with the UN, an organization that shuns Japanese influence though Japan owns the world’s second-largest economy and could become a superpower any time it decides to.”

Read more about Japan’s flirtation with pre-emptive strikes.

Beslan Butcher dies: Shamil Basayev, the notorious Chechen terrorist responsible for the attack on a Moscow theater in 2002 and the Beslan school massacre in 2004, died today in an explosion. Russian President Vladimir Putin called the act “deserved retribution” for his crimes.

Bloggers speculate about what Basayev’s death means for the Chechen resistance. Joe Gandelman at The Moderate Voice believes the message is clear: “Four words for terrorists: Don’t mess with Putin.” Conservative Robert Spencer at Jihad Watch calls Basayev’s death “as large a victory as the killing of Zarqawi.” Commenter johnnie b. baker on Sean’s Russia Blog predicts Russia’s reaction: “I just no Putin will say something like ‘We have dealt a major blow against the terrorists, but we still are not safe. Therefore I am cancelling the next presidential election and making all mayors centrally appointed and closing all the archives to stop foregn propagandists from spreading lies about our glorious Russian past!’ Alright, maybe I’m getting a little out there.”

Read more about Basayev.