Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Pre-World Cup Thoughts No One Asked For, 6 Months In Advance (a.k.a. "Agenda? What Agaenda?")
[Random note on this picture: I did a Google search for "USA soccer fans", and this came up. It's from USA v. Argentina at Giants Stadium in '08. If you have your Where's Waldo skills up, you can see me , the boys and girls of the mighty ESC and Shawn "MLS Insider" Francis right behind me in full on drunken patriot mode.]
After my (first of many) anti-Mexican soccer supporter rant yesterday, I decided to take a few trips around the 'net and do a temperature check of the average American fan, now that the dust of the draw has settled and we know exactly what we're up against in 6mos. time. I'd have to say the general American opinion going into the Cup is pretty clear: Cautious optimism. The one thing that Americans know about their own team, is that we don’t know anything about our own team.
We have no idea what to expect. It feels very different than this time in 2005 when entirely too many people's ignorance and hubris let to a consensus of "Ghana and The Czech?! Pffff, efph that noise, we're through!". Whoops. In fact, I’d say a third of American fans are scared of this Cup BECAUSE the group is so "easy". Soccer or not, Americans have this weird complex when we can’t accomplish shit unless unless it’s difficult. Don’t know why, but as people we function better as underdogs...and that characteristic has bled onto our national team.
I have yet to encounter any worthwhile amount of people assuming a USA walk-through. Unlike the "Mexicans" here in the US, we've learned from the arrogance in ’06. We can take rational and objective looks at what out team has done in the last few years and make an honest assessment. In fact, I've even developed a sure-fire formula (shut up, it's science):
(Confed. Cup "success" + the relative ease of WC qualification) - Recent Friendlies
(The uncertainty of Gooch, Davies, Edu, DeMerritt + The status of Torres & Jones)
Multiply that by the on-paper "easiness" of Group C, and you get the American Fan Coefficient of "I Don't Know". That's it. We just don't know. Neither a 3-and-out crash, or a group victory would shock most people for the 2010 World Cup.
On second thought . . .are we being honest with ourselves when we claim to have no idea what to really expect, or is it just false humility? Have we really learned from the fan mistakes of 2006, or is this sudden humble streak the way Americans are dealing with the fact that this is the first time that everyone on the planet is EXPECTING us to advance into the second round? Are we humble, or are we afraid of what it means to go into South Africa without the soft cushion of low global expectations if we happen to fall?