It’s supposed to be special when an athlete or team from your country competes on an international stage. There’s a certain pride that you feel that transcends cities, regions, states and even generations. Local rivals find common ground. The enemy of your enemy becomes your friend. It’s a global war without the destruction and death. The passion of international sports is hard to beat.
But sometimes it’s hard to openly support your national team. Especially when you’re from the good ol’ U S of A.
Other fans from around the world can dress head to toe in their nation’s colors, talk shit to rivals and sing patriotic songs. It’s OK. But that’s not always true for Americans. If you were in Barcelona during the 1992 Olympics with your American flag shirt and red, white & blue face paint screaming for the Dream Team to blow out Angola by 70, you’re a douche.
If you were in Beijing for the ’08 Olympics rooting for foreign swimmer to drown so Phelps could win even more metals and sell more Sol headphones, you’re a jerk.
As Americans, we have a worldwide reputation for being assholes. Overly proud of our accomplishments, a little delusional about our dominance, and more than willing to shove it all down the collective throats of the Earth’s population.
Even though we were underdogs, I still couldn’t bring myself to be seen buying, let alone wearing, a USA hat, jersey or shirt at the World Baseball Classic. It’s still our national pastime and we didn’t have a dream team out there. As the host nation for the finals, it just didn’t seem right.
That’s why I love USA Soccer. We’re just good enough to be proud of how far we’ve come and have hope for the future. There’s also a better chance of WWIII breaking out than us winning the World Cup. It feels safe and acceptable to openly cheer our hearts out for our countrymen without worrying about the rest of the world hating us.
MLS isn’t at a WNBA level anymore. More people, like myself, are enjoying the game without the help of EA Sports. And winning the Gold Cup in Chicago feels like a shining moment for our country. It was an accomplishment. If we had lost to Panama, not many would have been surprised. We gutted out a victory and it felt special.
I still believe watching US Soccer today has to be similar to what basketball in Lithuania was like in the early 90’s. But even so, there’s progress to be seen.
Granted someday Nike might own futbol. MLS might become more prestigious than the Premier League. The next American protégé might choose soccer over football, basketball and baseball. And the global resentment for America may extend into the soccer world. It’s all possible in our lifetime. But until that day comes, Go USA!!