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Scrappy, Plucky, Outnumbered: The U.S. (For Now)

U.S.-based Guardian correspondent Steven Wells thinks that the time to get behind the U.S. in the World Cup is now — while we still don’t have a chance:

… Both (Brit and Yank) cultures revel in inverse snobbery. We like underdogs. Give us a super-horse and we’ll cheer. Cripple the bugger and we’ll cry ’till Christmas. Invincible super-cyclist Lance Armstrong was a bit of yawn until he got cancer. America’s endless legions of hypertrained Kryptonian super-sprinters and swimmers are forgotten almost as soon as they leave the winner’s podium, but the 1980 ‘Miracle on Ice’ – when a rag-bag US ice hockey team scored a Rocky-style famous victory over the allegedly invincible USSR – still brings a tear to American eyes.

More importantly, despite the fact that we’ve taken turns to run the world via vastly superior firepower, both Brits and Yanks desperately need to portray themselves as outnumbered and outgunned. We’ve got Rorke’s Drift, Dunkirk and Arnhem. They’ve got the Alamo, Guadalcanal and dogfaces firing rifles at Tiger tanks during the Battle of the Bulge.

… Sooner or later the US will get spanked in this World Cup. But we are not talking here about New Zealand or Australia. Or even Cameroon or Nigeria. The US men’s team is an overdog in embryo. A glance at the stats (pro soccer in the US is already better attended than in most European countries while the grassroots game continues to explode) tells you that the US will soon be a soccer superpower. And when that happens this intensely patriotic country will – for the first time ever – have a men’s sports team that can consistently kick international ass (the US women’s soccer team has been doing it for years).

… I suggest US soccer fans enjoy being underestimated, derided, mocked and written off while they still can. It won’t get any better than this.

The fact that we’re underdogs is one reason to support the U.S. team; we’ve also argued that soccer rewards what we think of as American traits: “creativity; cooperation; and adaptability” (well, I have. Insider wrote this week that soccer is “boring,” except for the parts with large-breasted Italian TV babes).

The U.S. may not even make it to the round of 16 this time, but that will be a minor setback. As Wells failed to note, was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? No. We eventually won that one too.

Hop on the bandwagon while there’s still room.


The piece is titled “Get ready to dislike America” … at the Guardian, don’t they do that every morning?

For an example of marketing the underdog U.S. team, see Gatorade’s “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” commercial here. And Nike’s “Go Tell The World” ad — which Wells mentions and opens with a radio DJ saying “soccer just isn’t important in this country” — is here.

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One Response to “Scrappy, Plucky, Outnumbered: The U.S. (For Now)”

  1. 1
    Atlantic Review - Analysis of U.S. foreign policy and transatlantic relations Says:

    I think they misspelled and polled all Americans rather than just American World Cup fans. They give it a negative twist, but I think the numbers are remarkable and prove that soccer is becoming more popular in the US. I am not sure if the enthusiasticIndependent Sources Blog is ignorant of history or trying to be funny: on Tuesday, June 13th 2006, 2:00-4:00 PM, room 340.The U.S. may not even make it to the round of 16 this time, but that will be a minor setback. As Wells failed to note, was it over when the Germans