|This tank top is very low cut.|
I had a professor tell me I should cover myself better.
Last Tuesday, I did a report for class on the Syracuse chapter of the American Outlaws, cheering on the U.S. in their first match against Ghana from the (relative) comfort of downtown restaurant Small Plates. You would think the name may suggest that it's a rowdy bunch of
The problem with being a trained journalist with a keen interest in sports is that it's nearly impossible to be just a "fan." You may try, but this is a challenge; you have spent years developing an analytical mind, and it just doesn't translate into being a sports fan. The rest of the room is whipped into a ballistic (yes, they may actually throw things) frenzy when Tim Howard makes a dramatic save... while you're carefully breaking down why and how the defensive unit let Ronaldo and his perfectly coiffed hair weave almost entirely unchecked toward the goal, and why that relaxed effort will become a problem in, say, the end of stoppage time.
Knowing this... I tried anyway. I carefully selected the
|The Outlaws' aim is unity.|
Nothing says unity like encouraging bar patrons to chant "U-S-A."
At halftime, I approached Steve to drop $20 on an "American"-motif scarf from the Outlaws, which I had promised him (and, more importantly, myself) last week that I would do. The soccer scarf is a time-honored tradition, and you will almost always wear it in a room that's already ten degrees warmer than outdoor temperatures. When I put that scarf on, I immediately
Countless examples in history suggest that the culture around sport is one of solidarity. For one: look at the way FC Barcelona serves as a nationalist bastion for Cataluña, and how its supporters historically regard Real Madrid as the symbol of everything wrong with Spain. Politics aside, fans of one team tend drop their differences and unite under one banner.
Not that this outing was anything like that—it wasn't at all—we just wanted to see our boys competitive in a sport that defies the American model for almost everything. American society has evolved such that in every situation, there is a clear victor. I'll come back to this.
|An expected reaction to poor performance (perceived or actual) by FIFA officials.|
Granted, this is hindsight. In the moment, I was just like every other fan; chanting with a renewed sense of hope ("I BELIEVE THAT WE WILL WIN") that we would guarantee our spot in the next round of play, and that we would send Ronaldo, who is more altruistic than the average American fan would like to believe, packing. Mind you, Jones only scored the equalizer. I regard level-headedness as one of my greatest strengths, and I had my own tempered swagger for the next 18 minutes. Any notion I had of being analytical was mostly gone. Like everyone else in the room, I just wanted to see an American victory—assuming there were no Portuguese present, which none of us would have cared enough to look for anyway.
|Most often, cheers of adoration were focused on|
Tim Howard, Clint Dempsey, and Jürgen Klinsmann
How did I get here?
I grew up a basketball fan, converted to a football aficionado (the kind where tackles are emphatically encouraged), and flirted with tennis on the side before using track and field as my social and fitness outlet while gaining media experience. Yet, here I am, reveling in the excitement of a 2-1 lead over Portugal in a sport that I played for a year in elementary school and generally don't give much thought to...and I loved every moment of this celebration.
Stoppage time begins, and we know that all the USMNT has to do is hold on until the final whistle. The USMNT knows this, too. That's where things fell apart on the pitch. Silvestre Varela made the U.S. pay for becoming complacent, tying the game with seconds on the clock to spare.
There was an unnerving silence as all of the bar patrons watched Howard hold his head in his hands.
This is when I realized something about Americans. We hate losing, but a tie is unthinkable. No popular sport in American society lends itself to a tie. Basketball and football go into overtime, baseball has extra innings, hockey has golden goal overtime and shootouts, tennis has a tiebreaker, golf has a playoff... We perceive everything bilaterally, and we favor dominance as often as possible.
As we all chanted "thank you, Small Plates," while somberly leaving the bar in an orderly fashion, I realized that I was in the middle of something beyond a story for journalism class.
|Although... adding beer never hurts.|