on cheering for us soccer

So back in the day, last time yer old pal iamwhaleman hopped on the ol’ blogwagon, it was to talk about the World Cup.  And if you ask me, the World Cup has thus far lived up to the hype that was heaped upon it by people that include me.  There have been a lot of really exciting matches and plenty of fruity French drama (which I’m sure they’re loving in Ireland since Ireland were screwed out of a berth by Thierry Henry’s handball) and even a few goals here and there.

Tomorrow the US will play Algeria.  If the US wins, they move on to the next round.  If they lose, they go home.  If they draw, they could still move on, but they’d need some help.  They should win.  They’re better than Algeria.

Now, there was a brief but spirited round of comments on my WC post about who you should and should not support in the World Cup.  I thought there were some fair points made, though of course it is just silly to root for the French (just playin’.  The Zidane Headbutt was one of soccer’s all-time finest moments).  Anyway, Ben made this point under the category for Worst (as in Worst Teams to support):

USA (There is no rule that you need to root for a country in sporting events due to accident of birth location. America does not care about soccer while the rest of the world stops during the World Cup, with citizens of other countries living and dying by their team – it seems to me it would be horrible if our apathetic country devastated millions of people who actually care (but somehow fitting that America is responsible for more devastation of the world’s citizens))

Now, yer old buddy i am whaleman has been percolatin’ on this for the last 10 days.  I think there are some really good points in there, but I disagree here and there.  So let’s disagree, shall we?

Let’s talk about the “accident of birth location” point.  As you may or may not know, yer old friend i am whaleman and Ben are both natives of Colorful Colorado and are devoted followers of the Denver Nuggets and Colorado Rockies, and keep up with news of the Broncos because even though we don’t much care for football, it’s the Broncos (and these days, the news is pretty consistently either funny or depressing).  We both spent significant time living in Minnesota, and in many arguments we had with our father about why we hate Minnesota’s sports teams, one of the main reasons we gave was that we already had teams that we rooted for, and that you don’t switch your lifelong allegiance just because you happen to live somewhere else for a while.  But I wonder…would we have been fans of those particular teams if we hadn’t by “accident of birth location,” been born and raised in Colorado?  If we had been born in New York, wouldn’t we have been fans of the Knicks and (hopefully) the Mets?  If we had been born in, say, Salt Lake City, wouldn’t we have been Jazz fans (it makes me throw up in my mouth just a little bit to say that, but I comfort myself with the thought that if I was born in SLC, I’d probably be functionally retarded at best anyway, so what’s the difference, right)?  Now, part of the reason that we became fans of those teams in those sports is that our parents were fans of those sports.  But if they had been soccer fans (beyond my mother wishing that yer old pal i am whaleman had chosen soccer over football when he was six), wouldn’t we have naturally become supporters of USA soccer in the same way that we support USA Basketball?

How about “America does not care about soccer?”  Well, this is the argument that I most disagree with, I think.  Frankly, I think this is just a tired, lazy argument.  Millions of Americans care a great deal about soccer.  Many Americans follow their relatively weak MLS team with a fiery passion.  “America” does not care about soccer in the way that “America” thinks that Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck are humans who should continue to exist and that “America” loves the music of…well, I can’t even think of any terrible pop singer I hate at the moment.  But you know what I mean.  Additionally, size matters.  Compare the United States to, say…Cote D’Ivoire.  The US has 16 times the population and is 28 times the area.  Of course you’re not going to have the kind of unity and support for a team here that they have there.  It’s true that soccer is not a nationwide, stop-everything, super-big deal in this country.  But that does not mean the team is not worth supporting.  And the contrarian in me wants more to support the US team every time I read some jerkoff writing about how boring soccer is and how nobody cares.

I waffle on the last point, about devastation.  The US has been pretty dickish worldwide over the last 10 years or so.  But even though the US is a behemoth, it’s not a soccer powerhouse.  Unlike other countries, our elite athletes do not pick soccer.  They pick basketball and football and baseball because that’s where the money’s at.  I like it when the little guy sticks it to the big guy (and, somewhat perversely, especially when the big guy is the US).  I don’t know that the US is a behemoth in this situation.  But if the US is knocked out by some tiny country, that’s cool too.

I wouldn’t call myself a huge soccer fan.  I love to watch it, and I love to cheer in a room full of screaming people.  It’s fun, and yer old buddy i am whaleman is fairly easily suckered into that (somewhat false) feeling of unity.  I watched the USA-England match in a bar with three dudes from St. Louis.  It was a great time.  I don’t root passionately for any team; I root for good games and I enjoy the spectacle of it all.  Maybe that makes me an uncaring wanker.  I suppose that’s fair enough.

i am whaleman: uncaring, rambling wanker.

USA Soccer: Not one of the “Worst” teams to support.

U! S! A!!  U! S! A!!

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One response to “on cheering for us soccer

  1. 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.
    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? There are many people who grow up without a local team 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
    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.
    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.
    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!
    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.
    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.

    You wanker.

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