The World Cup is finally back, and unless you have a bunch of friends to invite over, you’re probably heading out to a bar to catch the United States’ games so you can engage in the semi-spiritual experience that is cheering for the U.S. with a large group of people in a tournament we, by all rights, shouldn’t even be playing in. That’s what makes it perfect. The U.S. is dominant at everything now, which can get boring. We want to feel like underdogs every now and then. So grab a pint, pull up a stool, and check out the people down the row from you, because they are your companions on this athletic journey.
The amount you can tolerate this guy is directly proportional to how he treats his role. I actually have a lot of respect for the dudes who keep up with the game year round. It’s a hell of a lot harder than most sports, because there’s not a massive fantasy following–or really any kind of following. Sure, the profile of the international game has increased in recent years, and at least you can catch Premier League games on NBC now. Make no mistake, though, that these people are fighting an uphill battle with their love of the game. That can mean they’ll be super willing to get more people involved. They’ll lean over to tell you fun facts about the players, to explain formations, and to just be generally helpful and fun. Or, they could be frustrated about everyone just now showing up to give a shit after they’ve spent so much time following the sport. Bitter soccer fans aren’t fun, but you can pretty much blame their attitude on…
2. The Bandwagoners
These guys are the worst. Just the worst. They’re consistently talking out of their asses about everything, and everyone in the bar knows it. Even the girl at the end who didn’t even realize the World Cup was happening and thinks Ghana is the name of a venereal disease knows that they make up shit. Don’t try to call them on it, because they’ll just start sputtering and rattling off irrelevant stats to prove they’re diehard fans. To be honest, it’s just more effort than it’s worth.
3. The Foreign Guy Who Doesn’t Care As Much As You’d Assume
Soccer is the world’s game, so we just assume that everyone else in the world is a massive fan of the game. If we really considered it, is kind of a dumb assumption. I mean, the NFL is monstrously popular in the U.S., but think about how many people don’t give a single thought to football, or those who only vaguely follow it (Peyton Manning is a Bronco?!). It stands to reason that not every Englishman you meet in a bar will rattle off the names of the dudes on the bench. Chances are, he knows Rooney because of the tabloid stuff and maybe one or two other “blokes” running around. It’s a weird feeling, explaining soccer to a British guy. It feels…wrong.
4. The Aggressive Anti-USA
Look, if it’s someone from the country the U.S. is playing, that’s fine. Hell, I’m even cool with the foreigner cheering against the U.S. on principle. I mean, fuck that guy, but I get it. But there always seems to be a born and bred American in every place who finds it necessary to loudly cheer against his or her own country. Why? No, seriously, why? Is this your form of protest against drone strikes and Guantanamo Bay? Because if it is, it’s fucking stupid. Look, I have just as many concerns about our foreign policy as you do, pal, but I’m also intelligent enough to realize that annoying everyone around me with incessant cheers for a country whose capital I definitely can’t name isn’t going to have the slightest impact on it. In fact, you might actively be hurting your cause, because now everyone else in that bar is going to associate civil dissent with jackasses like you. Good job, dickweed.
5. The Casual Sports Guys
This is the vast majority of the people involved in the ordeal, including me. Look, if you want me to make a structured argument and back it up with stats about who’s had the better career between Tim Duncan and Kobe (Duncan), discuss the best quarterback to never win a Super Bowl (Marino), or tell you the all time category leaders in MLB history, I’m down. I don’t watch a lot of soccer. I’ll catch a few Premier League games, the major cup tournaments, and maybe one or two MLS games, but I’m not an expert on the sport. Guys like us can probably name most of the starters for the USMNT, but probably can’t give you a lot of detail on their strengths and weaknesses. (Michael Bradley is…smart but undersized?) We’re who makes up the bulk of the people screaming when USA scores, and ultimately, isn’t that what we’re here for? To agonize, pray, and celebrate in hopes of a Cinderella story? I think so.
Well, except the anti-USA guy. Can we kick him out already?