I’m probably not the only red-blooded American who’s disappointed by the USMNT exit in this year’s World Cup. I have been interested in the World Cup for as long as I have been conscious of it – 1998. I played soccer as a kid, and I’m sure that had a lot to do with it, but the fact that the French won in 1998 and I had a developed an un-childlike affection for Napoleon Bonaparte was another layer to my caring about the World Cup at a time when I couldn’t really appreciate it, and no one around me cared too much either. I have been an avid WC fan ever since, and this year was the most fun I’ve ever had watching it.
I like the American interest this year, I think its a good sign that we’re moving away from some of our national idiosyncrasies that are seemingly maintained out of spite (metric system!). I don’t think the US will ever become a ‘soccer country,’ nor should we switch to calling it football, Italians call it calcio, no one gives them shit for not calling it ‘fútbol.’ I think that being able to field awesome international teams and organizing serious national support for those teams is great. The US always goes hard for the Olympics, which is great. But there’s something larger about the WC, a grander narrative because its the same people playing, you really get to know and love the players and the team in a way that is just impossible during the summer or winter olympics. This is compounded by the fact that there are 31 other countries feeling the same way. Few nations send a delegation to the Olympics like the US does, so our experience is unique, not globally shared.
I really look forward to the next World Cup, I look forward to that intense national revelry that isn’t about violence, politics or something exclusive. If you feel American, root for the Yanks, there’s little that’s exclusive about that. I think that the story of this world cup is, as far as this nation is concerned, the emergence of serious fandom. I have not idea how that will translate into success on the pitch, but one can hope.