So I’m a Liverpool fan. For most of my life things have been pretty good. In the early years, they were winning the League, the FA Cup, European cup and the Milk cup (Carling cup). I loved my team but I was too young to be completely overwhelmed by wins or losses. Sure I was disappointed when they lost games but I got over it pretty quickly.
Internationally things were different. I’m English but I grew up in Switzerland and like a lot of kids those days my footballing heart was with Brazil. Their 82 and 86 teams were amazing. They boasted world class players like Zico, Falcao, Socrates, Careca etc… and were a pleasure to watch. Their 82 team is often considered the greatest team never to win the WC. They all came back in 86, seasoned, wiser and favored to win. I was 100% on their bandwagon though now my allegiance to my country of birth was playing a greater role. My ultimate dream/nightmare was for England to meet Brazil in the final. Obviously I would root for Brazil but I was fine with an England win. England as you may or may not know were divinely eliminated in the quarters by the “hand of god” (admittedly his second goal was pure class) and Brazil were eliminated by France, a day earlier, in one of the greatest matches ever played. They say no team deserved to lose that game and the footballing spectacle was one for the ages. It came down to penalties and when it was over I was in shambles. It was up until then the hardest and saddest two days of my life.
It was the first time a non parental scolding or physical injury brought me to tears. I was so invested in the Selecao, followed them with such passion that their premature exit from the WC was something that I couldn’t understand, I couldn’t grasp that it was just a game and everything would be ok…my life as I knew it was in ruins.
Liverpool in the past decade has enjoyed some success. The League has alluded them and chief rivals Manchester United have caught up to them as far as domestic championships won, but the past ten years has brought a couple of FA cups, Carling Cups, a UEFA cup and one incredibly memorable European cup. Last year was their closest challenge to the League and if wasn’t for some atrocious home draws and two random defeats they would have won. I followed every game and it’s result determined my mood for several days. The 4-1 defeat of Man U put me on cloud nine for days where as the draws to Stoke and loses to Spurs and Middlesborough put me in a deep funk.
When The Shin Guardian started up, I began doing live commentary as well as random articles for the site. I think both brothers and I were surprised that I didn’t do live commentary for the Man U/ Liverpool game but its hard to type when you’re shaking and often covering one’s face with a blanket or pillow. I’m glad they won but it wasn’t fun. It was a nerve racking affair, especially as their form of late had been so poor. The following week I did commentary on the Lyon game. I was critical of Liverpool’s play but when Lyon scored that late equalizer I was devastated. As Matt pointed out I could barely write anymore and just wanted the game to end.
So why do we care? Its because we invest so much into our passion that is the team or country we support. As I have told many a girlfriend “how can I love one girl when I’m in love with 11 guys”. I urge you not to use this Nick Hornby quote from Fever Pitch to any significant other (boyfriend, wife, girlfriend, husband etc…) as an explanation as to why you’re up at 5am watching a game or in crap mood cause your country lost a meaningless friendly. They just look at you funny, question your sexuality and eventually realize that the you feel the game is more important than they are (AND no matter how hard you try to convince them otherwise, you and I both know we will always lose this battle)…expect for my last girlfriend who understood but broke up with me anyways. I digress.
The question is…is it harder on oneself to be disappointed when you expect your team to win and they don’t (Brazil in every World Cup, Yankees past 8 years, Patriots in 08 etc…) or when you’re team does far better than expected but eventually loses (Devil Rays in 08, Golden State Warriors a few years ago, Russia in the 08 Euro’s etc…)? This all brings me to the current USMNT.
Writing for this site, I’ve become very familiar with the USMNT. They’re an exciting, talented well rounded team that plays with incredible passion and heart. They play as a team and they play for each other. They’re gutsy and embody the never say die US attitude. They don’t boast any world beaters but they have a very solid spine in keeper Timmy Howard, Gooch (when on form), Bradley, Dempsey, Landon and now Jozy Altidore. Losing Charlie Davis is devastating but the way they rallied for him in DC was incredible and heart warming. Be careful people, this is a team one can fall in love with!
Their improbable but deserved run at the 2009 Confederations Cup was devastating to the fans. They started the tournament terribly. Oh hum I thought… another US mediocre performance albeit in another group of death… and out they go in the group stages…BUT they played great football against a very good Egyptian side in their final group game, beat European champions Spain in the semis on two well taken goals and were up 2-0 at half against the Yankees…I mean Brazil in the final (The second goal was one of the best counter attacking goals i have ever seen). But Brazil are Brazil and the US were unaccustomed to such lofty heights and sadly lost 3-2. I watched the game and when it was over I was heart broken. Out of nowhere I had developed a special place in my heart for the USMNT, the national team of the country I have called home for 20 years. I was proud of the team but at the same time I was in a bad mood for the rest of the day.
We’re 7 months away from the WC and a couple weeks away from the World Cup draw. The draw will determine the US’s chances in getting to the group stage and further. Group of deaths suck but the US’s recent performances should get them a second seed which will help tremendously. After that, TSG and I will be going through every possible scenario, player selection, opposition that the USMNT will encounter. We, as well as every other die hard fan, will become engrossed in every stat, game, injury report that is associated with the players. As the months and days approach, the casual and neutral to soccer fan will also become engrossed with the USMNT and the increased media coverage of the WC. After this past Confederations Cup run, there will be a “fever pitch” of a 102 regarding this years WC.
I believe and hope that young and old will get behind the USMNT with the same passion that I followed Brazil as a kid and Liverpool all these years. Personally for me, as a Brit who loves (and often disappointed by) his Three Lions, I now will have another team to cheer, root and cry for…oh what fun…sigh.