08 May 2006

America, I've Given You All


President Bush admits that he didn't grow up with soccer, but he's starting to learn. Along those lines, I want to make an argument to some people who might not read this blog if it weren't for the fact that it is DC based and might reach some local ears. To those who hate soccer, to those that view it as effete export of a corrupt and decadent European society, I ask you now - Support the USA in the World Cup.

Since the start of the American Century, Europe (and especially England, the birthplace of soccer) have taken uniquely American products, repackaged them, and sent them back to our shores in a new-and-imrpoved format. America invented Rock and Roll, we got back The Beatles. We had the Ramones, we got back the Sex Pistols and The Clash. America popularized the mockumentary with This Is Spinal Tap, and we got The Office for our trouble.

I know that some of your distrust the "foreign" element of soccer. But the ultimate revenge is not to ignore. Oh no, my friends, the ultimate revenge is for our country to take that foreign game and learn to dominate it. Look, the US has fallen on the international stage in basketball and baseball recently, both American inventions. We owe them now. It's time for us to take "their" game and beat them at it. Turnabout is fair play, and revenge is a dish best served with Freedom Fries.

I understand that some of you believe that soccer is symptomatic of a culture of non-accountability, where draws are celebrated as "everyone wins" and trophies are handed out to all. I say to you that there's nothing like that at the World Cup. The United States isn't going to get out of its group, much less get a trophy, if it collects a measly three points in its matches against the Czech Republic, Italy, and Ghana. No sir. There's one trophy, and only one country in the world that can claim to be the best. That's the ultimate truth of soccer as practiced at its highest level. One winner, one nation.

My friends, the World Cup is the perfect expression of nationalism and patriotism, a chance to be unabashedly jingoistic for ninety minutes at a time. I love it. What's more, sometimes we're not sure we believe in the myths of our own country. Are we truly a melting pot? The USA team features players of all colors. Is there really such a thing as American Ingenuity? Under Bruce Arena, the US is known for a style of soccer that adapts to its opponents in order to overcome them. Are we the Home of the Brave? Ask Cobi Jones after Mexico tried to take him out with a headhunter in Korea. The better angels of our nature exist, and they enact those shared myths of our country wearing the red, white, and blue.

Soccer is a chance for our country to have a true unifying factor this summer, and I ask you to join it. Even if, like the President, you never saw a soccer ball until recently, you can still join in support of all that should be right with America, even when it isn't.

Okay, pontification over.


At 08 May, 2006 22:48, Anonymous Suzy said...

It's true that a sample size of one is no basis for analyzing anything, but I can only reflect on my own experience every time I wonder if I must live to be 100 before I see soccer become popular in the U.S.

Sorry for that long and winding sentence.

I always loved anything European, found soccer to be the only sport I ever enjoyed playing as a schoolkid, and the thought of a game ending in a tie...didn't bother me at all. Yet I was indifferent to the game when I first was exposed to it. And that was in London. If you can't get excited about the EPL when it's on the telly and the papers, it would seem that there's little hope that it will ever take.

But I did become addicted to the sport. It just didn't happen overnight. I had to watch a critical mass of games and become familiar with the top players and their clubs. I suppose it happened by osmosis, because I didn't view it as a homework assignment ("Must learn about football today" wasn't penciled into the diary).

So my point, in reponse to your post (with which I completely agree; I just don't believe it will convince anyone, sadly), is that I don't think it's possible to convince our compatriots to adopt soccer through an appeal to logic or patriotism or by any other such means. They need to watch lots of games. They also need to be willing to just accept the rules as they are (no whining & moaning about draws or low-scoring games). They need to be the sort of person who doesn't need to believe that we (Americans) are always right about everything and must always be #1. The World Cup is the perfect vehicle for the necessary drama and emotion, but if we do poorly (ridiculously unfair group assignment), it may well set us back a decade or two (in terms of popularity, not the program).

Whoa--I apologize for my long-windedness. I do hope that you've convinced at least a few readers to watch some games next month!

At 09 May, 2006 15:22, Anonymous Brian said...

wow. i'm sure suzy had a point somewhere in there, but your blog has simply inspired me the way this does:
"I put it to you, Greg - isn't this an indictment of our entire American society? Well, you can do whatever you want to us, but we're not going to sit here and listen to you badmouth the United States of America. Gentlemen!"

At 09 May, 2006 15:39, Blogger rwhgeek said...

I agree with what you say but think you are preaching to the choir. The best thing we can do is continue with Operation Deflower, that is the way to get fans. Words will rarely win over the doubter but seeing and feeling the passion will. It is how I became a fan, I had never seen a game until I moved to DC. Get people to the games. Get people to the pub for not just the US games but the ones were you know there will be a good crowd.

At 09 May, 2006 16:00, Blogger D said...

Suzy / RWHGeek: Yeah, I'm preaching to the choir. You are correct there.

Brian (and all): I think that's what I'm trying to go. I want to give a quick and ready response to those that view soccer as unamerican, and turn the rhetoric against them. Sorta. I dunno. I was just talking and seeing what I could come up with for myself. Sometimes this blog is just me blathering.

At 09 May, 2006 17:11, Blogger D said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 09 May, 2006 17:12, Blogger D said...

Ah, I see the evil proxy fairy has double posted me. I'll delete my redundant one.

At 09 May, 2006 19:08, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One thing to keep in mind is that the sports landscape can shift a lot over time. In the 50s boxing, horse racing and baseball were the big three sports. In the 70s, basketball was a minor sport. Soccer has immigration going for it and it also has millions of kids growing up playing it, some of whom will turn into fans. Have hope Suzy!
Meanwhile, Viva Operation Deflower!

At 09 May, 2006 20:15, Blogger scaryice said...

We could've had a president that played soccer in college, and even scored a hat trick against Harvard. But noooooo....


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