attention: ben has the floor

So this morning I tossed up a post responding to Ben’s commenting on how to cheer for the World Cup.  Here’s what Ben had to say to that, in case you didn’t read it in the comments:

It’s apparent I need to begin by pointing out that I was not saying that nobody should cheer for the US, or that people who already like soccer and cheer for the US are wrong and should stop doing so. I was merely expressing my personal view that the WC is immensely fun to watch, and even more fun if you have a team to cheer for, so if you were not a fan already there was no need to feel compelled to cheer for the US. The WC should be fun – cheer for whomever you want, guilt-free, but by no means should anybody stop cheering for a team they already support.

Ok, that’s fair enough.  I was just responding to the fact that you lumped the US in with the Nazis and The Fucking Dutch as “Worst” teams to root for.

As for birth location, I hope the argument is now pretty irrelevant, as it should be obvious I wasn’t saying stop cheering for the US if you already do, I was only speaking to the newly converted, or those motivated to watch for the first time. But since you mentioned it, I agree that birth location has a lot to do with who most people cheer for in sports, us included, and that can add a sense of pride to watching sports. But what about the fact we grew up cheering for the Cubs (and still do, to a certain extent), not the then-non-existent Rockies?

Well, we rooted for the Cubs because they were our mother’s (and grandparents’) team, which is sort of what I was trying to get at.  We didn’t pick the Cubs at random because the Dingers had not yet been birthed from an egg that was found while they were building Coors Field.  I wasn’t trying to argue this part, exactly…I was just saying that I found it interesting that we supported our local squads when available, and wondering how we’d react to soccer if our parents had been soccer fans.

There are many people who grow up without a local team (yeah, but it’s not like we make fun of people from, I don’t know…Nebraska, say, or Oregon for not having any professional sports teams…never mind) or who have reasons for not cheering for the local team, and there are many reasons people pick for choosing the team they do – maybe they have family in another city with a team, maybe their favorite player plays for a certain team, maybe they just like the logo or the colors, but whatever the reason, fans often have to choose their team. International sports should be no different – it is certainly fun to cheer for USA Basketball and there is a sense of pride that comes from cheering for the American athletes in the Olympics, but sports are ultimately about fun, and there can be reasons to cheer for other countries without feeling like a traitor (think Usain Bolt – his amazing performance transcended country and many Americans were rooting for him). It’s sports, it’s fun. If you were someone who did not have established US Soccer rooting ties, you do not root for the local team, and you should feel free to pick your team for any reason you choose.

We agree on this.

America does not care about soccer, sorry, but it’s still the case, tired and lazy or not. There are certainly Americans that care deeply about the sport, millions of them (In fact, Uncle Sam’s Army is right up there with any country’s supporters, and I applaud them for that, I just don’t applaud when they do), but it remains a fact that there are millions more who do not care. While not scientific, the various polls -ESPN, newspapers, etc. – which ran at the start of the WC and asked about how excited you were for the WC/how much you planned to watch/etc. still had in the neighborhood of 80% answering not at all/none. So yes, if you compare sheer numbers based only on population sizes, a larger number of Americans may be fans than other countries (like the Ivory Coast), but when you talk percentages of citizens, it is still just about the most apathetic.

Ok, but when you look at those polls, it’s not like any sport gets a majority of the vote.  A recent poll I looked at while researching another post asked people about their favorite sport.  The winner was, of course, pro football…but that was only 31% of people.  Does that mean America doesn’t care about football?  Or baseball, which had 20-or-so percent?  Let’s face it; there’s nothing that really unites America like that.  You mentioned cheering for the US in the Olympics, and I’d say that’s about as close as the country comes to presenting a unified front.  But the Olympics, for the most part, involve sports that would fall under the “Votes Received” or <1% categories.

I tried to find and link to or quote from an interview Landon Donovan gave right before the start of the 2006 Cup that really swayed me to cheer for another team and never look back, but ESPN appears to have taken videos that old down, and I could not find it on youtube or the web (plus I’m at work and couldn’t devote any more time to looking for it), so I’ll have to paraphrase instead. In it Donovan (Team USA’s captain, leader and arguably best player) said that for him and most of the US players, winning the MLS Cup would probably mean more than winning the World Cup, because in America players of all sports are taught that team championships are the most important, and the US players never really had a chance to grow up watching the WC because soccer was even less popular in America then, so it isn’t all-consuming like it is for players on other teams. Being the champs of one of the World’s weakest leagues would be better than champs of the World? It’s one thing if the fans aren’t all about winning, but when the players aren’t either? And I’d like to reiterate the interviews during last summer’s qualifier in Mexico that the US players are always so shocked that other country’s fans care more than the US players do. I would just rather root for players who want it.

I don’t remember hearing Donovan say that.  I wonder if he still feels the same way, especially considering that in games, he sure seems like it means an awful lot to him.  But I don’t know that you can unequivocally say that it “means more” to fans and/or players in other countries.  Has it really seemed all that important to England players like, for example, John Terry?  Messi is one of the greatest players ever, but he is constantly criticized for sucking with an Argentina shirt on after dominating for the team he gets paid to play for.  I think there are absolutely rabid, nutso fans in countries all around the world, but I definitely don’t know enough about the culture of soccer, espcially in the big-money world of Euro soccer, to say that the players want it so bad.

And it should have been obvious the devastation remark was a throw-in joke about the policies of a certain one-letter President, come on iamwhaleman, I expected better from you on that one!

No, I got that.  I was promoting the joke and acknowledging the kernel of truth in there; that yeah, the “US” as an entity has been sort of crap at the world level for a while now, and for some little country to take out the US “powerhouse” in soccer is pretty cool too.

So the point of all of this is, cheer for whoever you want to cheer for, if you get swept up cheering for the US watching a match in a crowded bar, keep cheering for the US; if you really liked your visit to Italy and want to cheer for the Italians, cheer for them; if your family is originally from Germany, then by all means, cheer for the Germans.

Well, I know you’re just using this as an example.  But nobody should cheer for the Germans.  You and I both know that.

As you know, I am a fellow recent convert to soccer. This is only the second WC I have been excited for, and I discovered that cheering for a country made it a more enjoyable experience. I don’t want anyone to not cheer for the US, I was only saying that no one should think they have to cheer for the US if they’re inspired to get behind the WC.

Alright, that’s cool.  It’s not that we disagree, exactly, which is why I hesitated to post this in the first place.  Mostly I find it sort of fascinating that soccer is indeed so popular elsewhere in the world, but not as popular (percentage-wise) in this country.  Why is that?  I know that this question is asked over and over every time the World Cup rolls around, and nobody seems to have an adequate answer.  I guess the only thing I can think of, specifically, is that the US, probably as much or more than any other, is a society based on instant gratification and “results.”  So many people are not fascinated by a 0-0 draw, but if you’re really watching, there’s just as much excitement and tension in a 0-0 WC Match as there is in a 39-37 NFL game.  But people look at that nil-nil and the gut reaction is “BORING.”

I also thought the accident of birth thing was interesting.  Wasn’t saying you were wrong.

You wanker.

Fair enough.

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3 responses to “attention: ben has the floor

  1. Sounds like we’re more in agreement, except I have a definate quibble with the poll results part.

    The polls I was referencing did not ask “Do you like soccer more than football?” they simply asked “Are you going to watch the World Cup?” or “Are you excited for the World Cup?” and 80% said no. The analagous poll is not “What’s your favorite sport?” but rather something like “Are you going to watch the Super Bowl?” or “Are you planning on watching this week’s football games?” in which case the answer would probably be around 80% yes.
    Those polls have nothing to do with uniting the country around one common favorite sport that can then be declared The Country’s Official Favorite, but are simply meant to show the interest level in soccer here in America – and the fact remains that there is none on a national level. Whether or not someone likes other sports as well is completely irrelevant and none of the polls even reference other sports at all.

    • Well, that makes sense. That brings up another thing I was thinking about…it’s sort of fascinating the way football has established itself as a ritual. I was thinking about that when I saw an NBC commercial touting its Sunday Night Football as something the whole family can sit down and do together. Now, I could not give two shits about football, but how many Sundays do I somehow find myself sitting on the couch watching football? It’s really pretty remarkable that the NFL has cornered the market on Sundays (and the NCAA on Saturdays). No other sport really has that kind of established time thing down. It’s the same thing with the Super Bowl…it’s an established ritual that hundreds of millions of people participate in, and I’d wager there’s a pretty high percentage of people who watch that game who couldn’t name a player on either team (or even, for that matter, the teams involved in the game)–and for whom it’s the only football they watch for the entire year. The World Cup is most definitely not that; you’re right, but I don’t think that means anything for football in general.

  2. a “friend’ of mine on fb is cheering for South Korea, calling it the home team. She adopted 5 kids from there. I asked her if she didn’t live here in the U.S. Her daughter replied that the U.S. is so corrupt right now, she thinks she cheer for South Korea.

    GO U.S.A.!!!!

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