Friday, May 6, 2011

Alan Black: USA! USA! It's Soccer!

The root of the spontaneous eruption of USA! chants exhibited around the country on the news of Bin Laden's demise can be found at last year's World Cup finals. Facing elimination with seconds to go on the clock, Landon Donovan stepped up to score the goal that propelled US soccer into new territory populated with national pride on a global scale. The explosive USA! chants were recorded in bars around the country and re-broadcast on national media in the aftermath of the victory. Suddenly, soccer was American.

Television interest spiked, sales of USA team scarves rocketed, hardened soccer haters had to admit that the automatic bellow of USA! USA! bested the grating whoops that accompany the anthem at baseball. Last Sunday, outside the White House after Obama's win, television cameras showed USA soccer scarves aloft. The bullet had replaced the ball. The enemy had lost late in the game. USA 1 Terrorism 0.

Soccer fans in Europe are familiar with the fusion of sport and war. When European states play Germany, victorious singing in the stadium echoes revenge for World War II. The Dutch take cold baths to calm down after meeting their German neighbors on the field. The English sing Two World Wars and One World Cup, celebrating their wins to the tune of De Campdown Races. People pour on to the street with flags and voice -- our nation.

America, so often inward, rarely gets the chance to yelp its letters. Donovan's late goal fed into the creed that the USA never gives up. As long as it is engaged, it can win. The national team vents these myths and metaphors, and the narrative pools in the patriotic heart. Patriots of all stripes, your game is soccer. As the USA Women Team heads to the World Cup Finals in Germany this summer, and as the men team set their sights on the World Cup in Brazil in 2014, clear the throat for more chants of USA! USA! Happily, the ball replaces the bullet.

Check out the marvelous compilation of USA! USA! recorded moments after Donovan's lethal strike last year in South Africa.

Drea de Matteo Desiree Dymond Chelsea Handler Mandy Moore K. D. Aubert

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