Making The Case: The Great Jersey Question. Buy American
Planting the Seed of Soccer Across America: Danny Beerseed
At Saturday's shambolic U.S. National Team game the goal was the fill the stadium with red.
Nike had earlier debut their red national team strip and helped outfit the American's unofficial supporters group, the American Outlaws, with a cool Shepard Fairey designed "Indivisble" collaboration to add to the already red 2011 AO members shirt.
The result? A "Red All Over" supporters section to rival any other behind the goal.
The rest of the stadium, from crowd shots and close ups revealed a similar red wave, but fueled less U.S. fans, but the brighter red of the Spanish National Team and red and blue Spanish side Barcelona's jersey.
Sigh. Here we go again.
In the United States, a nation of immigrants and one of the most diverse countries in the world, American soccer fans are no longer surprised to be outnumbered within their own stadiums. Its one of the reasons the American Outlaws and the Free Beer Movement were founded; to grow the sport here and grow our presence each game day. It's readily conceded that for matches against teams like Mexico and other nearby Central American nations the visitors will turn out in force.
On Saturday, however, the USMNT was betrayed by its own. Americans in Spain jerseys. Americans with Messi's name splashed across the back. Americans in Manchester United jerseys!
|Let's play a game. How many DIFFERENT jerseys can you spot?|
For high profile matches this is also not uncommon. But it is infuriating. Americans who seem to go out of their way NOT to support their country of birth.
Were many of those people from Spain living in the United States? Yes. Completely acceptable.
Were many of those people of Spanish-decent honoring their heritage? Yes. Also totally fine.
Were many of those people Americans of little connection to Spain or Spanish teams sporting the colors of World Cup, European Cup, and Champion's League winners? Yes. Not OK.
The beauty of the Spanish National Team was on full display on Saturday and the dominance of Barcelona a week earlier at Wembley against Manchester United in the Champion's League Final and we can appreciate the fact that both of these teams are probably the best example of the greatest of soccer in our day and, for many, represent what has brought them to the sport of soccer and created their connect to it.
If this is what soccer IS for you... super. If this is what you want to treat people to for the Free Beer Movement... go for it.
But we just cannot condone wearing those teams to our National Team games.
It isn't something jingoistic or Tea Party-fueled nationalism, but a enduring and deep love for this nation and the desire to see AMERICAN soccer succeed so we don't replicate Saturday's result again and again.
We own loads of soccer jerseys. Many different clubs from around the world. Many different National Teams as well. One from Honduras where we once lived. Another from the Netherlands, our ethnic roots, and even one from Hong Kong where a sister once visited. They are worn with regularity, but NEVER on a U.S. game day.
We get it. America likes winners. Spain and Barca are winners. Here's Sporting News' Brian Straus, post-game in the media zone:
As someone said to us on Twitter, "That kid, if alive in 1980 would have worn a USSR hockey jersey at Lake Placid."
That's the mentality for many soccer fans in America, "Maybe if the U.S. wins a few more games."
Sure this Spain game was a set up, but what else does the National Team have to do for some people?
Isn't qualifying for six straight World Cups good enough?
Paul Caligiuri's 1989 "Shot Heard Round the World" (to qualify the U.S. for its first World Cup in 40 years) didn't get ya?
Didn't our magical run to the 2002 quarterfinals and oh-so-close knock out to eventual finalist Germany grab you?
What about Landon Donovan's stoppage time game winner against Algeria last summer? Really? That didn't do it?
What will do it? Maybe the goal posts (for lack of a better term) keep moving for some soccer fans in America.
What is comes down to is really a choice. A choice where, today, right now, we can make an investment in American soccer and not just soccer in America. We've got an opportunity to get in on the ground floor of building American soccer and soccer in America. To invest, to spread, to share, to love through ourselves and through others and to others.
It's not perfect, but it is ours. It still has a long way to go, but as the Preamble of the Constitution states, "In order to form a more perfect union". We're working on it.
Spain and Barcelona and Liverpool and AC Milan are going to be just fine, but Major League Soccer and the U.S. National Team need your support because if American soccer fails.... soccer in America fails.
No more high-profile international friendlies. No more World Football Challenge. No more World Cups in the United States. It all dies.
We're not being dramatic. If Americans can't prove they're hungry for soccer (and watching loads of English Premier League on Fox Soccer doesn't count) then the clubs take their business elsewhere. They chase the China yuan or friendlies in Qatar.
The Free Beer Movement wants everyone to become fans and everyone's path to becoming a soccer fan is different. In the end, though, we want you to become American soccer fans. Even for us our first experience with soccer was Michael Owen and Liverpool, but more crucial to our development was the 1998 Men's World Cup and the 1999 Women's World Cup. Locked. Us. In.
That the natural evolution we're going for. Get into soccer. Get into American soccer. (And, of yeah, do it with beer!)
When the United States National Teams rolls into your town, fold up your other jerseys, and put on the red, white, and blue.
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