For once, we're the underdog
We already have so much else
The morning of the USMNT's World Cup opener against Ghana, I saw a tweet from SI's Paul Fichtenbaum that read: "How important is the World Cup to Ghana? The country is rationing electricity so the population can watch the games."
For a moment I felt deeply guilty for being one of many casual U.S. fans rooting for the big, bad Americans against soccer-crazed Ghana. For many of us here in the States, the World Cup is a chance to dip a toe in the soccer waters, giving attention to a sport that is usually just an afterthought. Knowing how much that day's game meant to fans in Ghana and what sacrifice was demanded of them in order to view it, it felt a little bit wrong to root against them.
But by the time I'd zipped up my U.S. soccer jacket, put on my American flag sunglasses and joined thousands of patriotic peers at Chicago's Grant Park, I'd forgotten any sympathy for Ghana. I was there to cheer on my country and root for the unthinkable -- advancement out of the so-called Group of Death. There are so few times the USA is considered the long shot, and the World Cup is one of them. There's something very different, and very special, about cheering for the dark horse. An early round Dream Team Olympic victory is a given; an early round USMNT World Cup victory is a cause for great celebration.
It doesn't matter that the U.S. is home to three times as many people as Ghana, Germany and Portugal combined. The number of fans back home cheering a team on has nothing to do with the result on the pitch. That's the best part about sport -- it's a meritocracy. The best team wins. Kenya (population 43 million) whups everybody in distance running, Canada (population 34 million) dominates hockey and the Netherlands (population 16 million) owns speedskating. It isn't about the size of the dog in the fight, it's about the size of the fight in the dog.
When it comes to futbol, America is the underdog. And everybody loves a good underdog story.
I've always thought of myself as a patriot, but then something comes up and I stop and question myself. ...
It comes from deep down inside. It bubbles up when, for instance, I'm watching the U.S. men take on Ghana in the World Cup. And then it comes out.
There. I said it.
How on earth can I get excited about the United States -- the land of plenty of pretty much everything (except, possibly, die-hard soccer fans) -- beating a team like Ghana? Ghana. Where in my conflicted brain (and heart) resides a population that lives, breathes, eats, sleeps and you-know-whats soccer.
Wouldn't there be a whole lot more joy in the world if Ghana prevailed? And aren't we being greedy, as fans, for wanting more? When we, as Americans, already have so much?
I catch videos and see photos of American fans -- decked out in red, white and blue faces, and tutus and headdresses -- going nuts in Chicago's Grant Park, and I scratch my head and wonder what's wrong with me. I like a party every bit as much as the next gal. So why can't I get behind my country? Even if it's in a no-effort, private kind of way?
Because it just doesn't seem right. Let's all get pumped up to take down big, bad Ghana? Ghana. Population 25 million compared with our 315 million. Ghana. Per capita gross domestic product of $1,605 compared with our $51,749. Ghana. With a coach who represented his nation as a player and gets paid a fraction of what the U.S. pays Jürgen Klinsmann, who represented Germany as a player.
All right. I'm just going to come out and say it right now. Why not? I've said it before. Go, Portugal!