Watching the US vs Ghana game on Saturday was a familiar feeling. Not a warm fuzzy familiar feeling like well-warn shoes or a hug from your grandma. It was more like the familiar sting of dentist drill. Gnawing, grating and painful, but at least all the waiting is over.
Normally I hate people who look down on people who are new to there chosen hobby. I think it's elitist and counter-productive to mock the people you should be welcoming into the family of the fandom.
But as elitist and counter-productive as it is, I can't help but think a lot of the reaction from newer US soccer "fans" is down right pants-on-backwards stupid. There is a real sense of anger among some of these people. They feel the team is nothing but a bunch of "posers" who have let them down personally.
These people who obviously weren't watching back in 1998 when these United States took butt last in the tournament and were flat out told by the world that we didn't belong there. When some one says America let them down after their first time ever winning their group, I want to scream, I want to yell, I want to point back in time and demand to know where they were when we were picking up the pieces of 2006 saying "Well, at least we did OK against Italy" (and we really didn't).
Now am I upset that the American's aren't going to the quarter finals? Of course, that second goal 5 minutes into extra time stung like a soccer ball to the gut when playing on the "skins" team. I was devastated that they lost. It was a winnable game, and after watching so many unwinnable ones, I was distraught to see this one slip away.
The difference is that I knew full well at some point between June and July 2010, team USA was going to break my heart and I was going to enjoy every minute of the ride until then. It's like if the head cheerleader decides to "go out" with you as part of a horrible joke, but you go along with it for the free make outs.
People new to cheering for the red, white and blue aren't used to the fact that rooting for the Yanks is like being a Milwaukee Brewers fan. You know you're not going to win, you just hope the team makes a good show on the way.
And did they ever give us a good show!
The luckiest shot in the history of the game.
A come back from down 2 only to have the go ahead goal taken away in a hair pulling example of what makes this game so awesome.
And finally, a stoppage time goal to lift the team from elimination to the round of 16.
The Mighty Ducks would never have such a script because no one would believe it. And I don't know if my heart could handle the US going all the way to the final game and this rate.
It was a heck of a ride and I enjoy (almost) every minute of it.
And so, I say to Team USA, thank you.
Thank you for playing your hearts out.
Thank you for showing the world what American grit is all about.
Thank you for winning your group.
Thank you for proving that Americans can play soccer and play it well.
Thank you for never giving up, and I promise I'll never give up on you.
Next time though, trying to have some semblance of defense for the first 15 minutes of the game. Thanks.
Besides, now that my team is out, I don't have to worry about a single other game. I can just watch the highest possible level of the beautiful game and enjoy each game for the event that it is.
That's the real thing for me, I may be a US soccer fan, but I'm a soccer fan first. I want to see America do well, but when they don't, so long as I can watch some one else do well (in a completely separate match mind you) I really am ok. I wish the World Cup would never end. I wish every day of the year I could turn on the TV (in America) and see world class soccer. I can't though. That will not be happening any time soon. So for the one month out of 48 when it does happen, I don't have time to be pissed off for very long.
I've got too much great soccer to watch.
Steve Shinney is a huge Soccer fan. He hopes to get back to the business of this blog soon. Comments can be left below.