It's a pretty big day for soccer in the United States, with the U.S. Women's National Team competing for a record third Women's World Cup title this evening, in a rematch of the last WWC final, no less (4 pm PT, FOX). It's exciting, especially if you're an American soccer fan and you want to see a win for your country.
But consider your conduct when rooting for your team, cheering if they win, dealing if they lose. I hate it when folks seem to have an internal rulebook on how to be a "good" fan, so instead of telling you what you should do, I would like to share the four levels of being an obnoxious U.S. soccer fan. Do what you will of the information.
Level one: Ironically throwing in some 'Muricas
Team America: World Police is a seminal movie from 2004 featuring puppets who save the world from itself. The key point is that the puppets are American, and its layer of satire over the whole thing helped make many Americans more conscious of the jingoism that was rampant at the time (and maybe kinda always is rampant).
There's an attitude, therefore, among some American soccer fans who don't know how to deal with their love of country without seeming like total a-holes. Easy solution: Say how proud you are of the USWNT/USMNT on social media, then throw in a #Murica/#Merica hashtag, and we get it - you're not trying to be a total jerk.
This is largely acceptable, if kind of lazy. Still, it shows at least some recognition that even if you totally love your country (and there's nothing wrong with that), you realize it's not perfect.
Level two: Moar (ironic) freedom, pls
The amp gets turned up a whole bunch on this level, by design. People who really believe in their country, on like a blind level are kind of scary, but people in this category say, "Hey, I know how over the top I'm being." So they figure they have license to do a parody of Stephen Colbert's "Colbert Report" persona, which was itself a parody in the first place. Are you still following me?
The problem with this kind of obnoxious U.S. fan is that they are probably totally cool, but their play-acting at being some kind of rootin' tootin' pure American is lame and worse, very obnoxious. I'd say one in 10 people find the balance of being funny and winking at going over the top with freedom gifs, bald eagle photoshops and the like, but the other nine just can't pull it off and pretty much feed into the dumb American stereotypes they are purporting to make fun of while still celebrating. It's too hard -- we can't all be Stephen Colbert, you know.
Level three: Historical symbols are totally lost on me
Do you remember learning about Manifest Destiny in school? A policy used by American intellectuals and then government officials in two separate eras in the 1800s, first in the 1840s to expand the U.S. across the continent, inciting the Mexican-American War, continuing to drive Native Americans from their land, and provoking a showdown with England over the Pacific Northwest, and then in the 1890s to try and turn the United States into a superpower globally, inciting the Philippine-American War, conquests over various Caribbean countries, and more displacement of peoples all over the place. These campaigns were successful, but built on ideologies of white supremacy, extralegal means to get what was desired, and you know, actual bloodshed.
So when this famous painting is used as a joking reference to growing U.S. soccer supremacy...
...it's not just in poor taste, but it also misunderstands what Manifest Destiny was and what it really meant.
Blithely throwing around symbols and concepts like these tend to be more ignorant that hateful, but it feeds into actual hate and lumps you in the category of fools who don't know what the eff they're talking about. If you're going to call on history and/or symbols to express your patriotism about soccer, make sure you actually understand what you're using before you use it, whether you're being ironic or earnest.
Level four: I can't stop this horrible hate!
We've reached the level where showing your patriotism on a knowing, winking level certainly doesn't stand anymore. Where every cheap stereotype against an opponent is trotted out. Where racism isn't too low -- this is a really important game, you guys, after all.
Needless to say, this is the most obnoxious type of fan of all, and the one that makes everybody else look bad by association, especially if you're creating ironic superpatriot collages to show your ardor for your national team.
And with the U.S. playing Japan tonight, get ready for some dum-dums to bring up WWII, or casually throw around racial slurs, or misogynist tropes about Japanese women. It's not just a joke, it's not ok to bring up "in the heat of the moment," just pay attention to soccer and rooting for your own team and don't resort to messages of hate. It seems obvious, but given the idiotic things written on social media during games, it's still a message that hasn't filtered all the way through.
I'm not trying to be a killjoy here, honest, and I root for the U.S. National Teams, too. But there's no secret contest to be the most obnoxious American fan around, and there's no need to one up other folks in a desperate quest for attention. Be a considerate fan, and be a good citizen -- of the U.S. and the world -- and you won't make Americans look awful in the process.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!