FIFA World Cup: A Call to Arms for the American Fan

Tom McLeanCorrespondent IJuly 6, 2010

NEW YORK - JUNE 26:  USA soccer fans watch the televised 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa match between USA and Ghana at Jack Demsey's bar on June 26, 2010 in New York City. The United States team was defeated 2-1 by Ghana in overtime, eliminating them from the tournament.  (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)
Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

I'm a soccer fan who happens to be an American.  I know, I'm as rare as a tan in New England in January.  It's fun being a soccer fan in the U.S. though.  We get to watch some of the best players in the world and have little or no obligation—we get to honestly cheer for any club team in the world.

World Cup time comes around, however, and we are suddenly thrown into a soccer tournament where we have stake.  Sure, we aren't very good, but we have a team—a truly American team—full of Californians, Texans, Southern folk, New Englanders, and players from other areas of the United States.  Our team.

So when I see other countries cheer on their teams in the middle of the day from some park or square, full of thousands of fans and nationals, I start to wonder about us.  Why is it that every time a group of American fans is shown during the World Cup, we just see a few hundred people in a New York City bar?  Where is our thundering mob?  

Now, don't get me wrong: I love bar scenes full of hardcore, fully-engaged fans.  The problem is that the United States can't seem to get a huge group of fans to fill Times Square or L.A. Live to the game on a huge screen—something that Brazilians have no problem doing in Rio, or Germans in Berlin.

Perhaps the most embarrassing moment was seeing Korean-Americans on Los Angeles newscasts, gathering in Koreatown to watch their team.  These devout fans found a way to gather as many people as possible and celebrate their team, together, in our country.  While I admired their dedication, the contrast to the deplorable support for our team was striking.

Even without their country's full support, our team not only qualified out of the group stage, but also won their group, a feat not achieved during my lifetime.  So amazing was this feat that we got together and had a full day of celebration—oh, wait, that was in Uruguay and Argentina.

My point is simple: the U.S. has a decent squad full of potential and we take it for granted.  We have become so accustomed to winning and being the best in sports like basketball and baseball, that we are now fully blinded to the fact that we might not be great at something.  

In a country that encourages taking people from the bottom and working hard, we ignore a sport where we have the chance to do exactly that: Work hard to become great at a sport, maybe even the best in the world.

No one can be the best, however, without a strong base of supporters.  Billie Jean King couldn't have become the great player that she was without the city of Long Beach.  Landon Donovan could not have become a globally-known soccer star without Redlands' citizens to encourage him.  

America, it's time to step up.  I'm calling you out—show me what it means to be a fan.

Get together with people you know and don't know, make a collection of super-fans and dedicate yourself to helping helping our soccer team in the Olympics and the next World Cup.  Practice something that is obviously not something we are good at doing: Support our team in tough times.

I loved watching this American team compete.  They are not the best in the world, but that's the attraction for me.  This team dared to stand up to the best in the world. 

They have the determination, so let's be the backup singers that every other country had this World Cup!