First, a brief warning.
My axiom: Get to where you are going using the least words possible. Once I get there, I go back over the column and try to eliminate even more words. Sometimes I’m aghast at just how superfluous my writing is. After that 2nd purge, I’m done. It’s hard for me to re-read and proofread my prose because I’m a constant tinkerer.
So I immediately publish (or sometimes my brother proofs first) and I leave a whole bunch of easter egg misspellings and typos for you the reader to find. That’s unintentional and something I must work on. However, this is a Thanksgiving piece not a New Year’s Eve resolution.
Over the course over the past few months I’ve wanted to write multiple pieces with amorphously the same theme: “Why I love to root for the USMNT.”
Every time I began writing the piece, my inner monologue scolded me that I should not color the fans with my opinion on USMNT fandom. Sure I can provide insight on line-ups, strategy and soccer in general, but I fiercely believe that, like the infamous cliche of asking someone why they love someone else, that “to each their own” when it comes to rooting for your team.
Everyone can be a fan and everyone should celebrate how deeply or thinly they root for a team. It’s their choice of involvement, time commitment and enjoyment.
Just a few weeks ago, my brother was half the way through an entry entitled “How to Root for the USMNT.” I believe it around the time everyone giving the team guff for faltering in the Confed Cup.
I fought him not to publish that. If he was in the same room as me, I can guarantee I would have had no qualms about gouging his eye sockets or slamming him into a figure-four leg-lock.
Well, I’m going to go against my argument that day with this column: “USMNT What We’re Thankful For!”
There are probably three things that draw me most to rooting for the USMNT. First, it’s a geography-less team within the United States. I hate the Blow Sox and their fans….I really do. I can’t identify with them. When it comes around to USMNT time though, we all share equally. They belong to all of us. There is no sense of “Well, I grew up in the Bronx” or “How can you be a Cowboys fan if you live in Chicago.”
Second, they are often the underdog. The USMNT does not, at this point, possess the best players in the world. And really if you shake the magic-8 ball and ask when they will, you’ll just get an “Outlook Not So Good.” An injury to just a single player on the team, throws the team out of whack and has the fans in the tizzy. I needn’t remind people reading this publication what I mean.
And finally, the players play for the pride. Check out this job description and tell me if this is a position that you’d apply for.
Role: US Men’s National Team Player
Payrate: $0, non-negotiable [TSG Note: Players are paid, but most receive less than they are worth on a per game basis to their club.]
» Must be able to travel up to 5 to 25 hours to arrive for a training camp or a game and be ready to go.
» Must be able to be thrust into practice three days before a match and develop chemistry with your teammates.
» Must be able to play a different role or position than you do in your day job.
»Must prove yourself every time on the pitch.
» Must take endless flack from the domestic and foreign press who both expect you to win
» Must be okay with a love-hate relationship that exists with your fans.
» You are expected to win; must win.
If you weren’t knocking a ball around on a pitch and instead building TPS reports, would you want that job? It’s thankless, really.
Which is a nice segueto the title of this post and picking out why I’m thankful for what the Yanks give us.
• First I’m thankful for the USMNT for my mom. Yeah, that’s right my mom. I will guarantee you that my mother would be extremely competitive in a contest for “Who’s the biggest female sports fan, 50 or over?”
My Mom doesn’t care what salary an athlete is making or whether he just got caught going 400 MPH is a school zone. I do; she doesn’t. With the USMNT, the team is there for one thing: to represent their county. My mom and I both identify.
My mom will call my brother after every big win with the following euphoric pronouncement, “They won. I can’t believe they win. They were so good, Matthew. They were just so good. They did it.”
Mark and I don’t often get personal on TSG, but that moment, that aforementioned call from our mother is always special because our mother is a survivor of countless major brain surgeries.Yet she takes the time to relate to her children on their terms, their teams.
I’m thankful that my mom is a fan of the same team I am.
• I’m thankful for Stu Holden’s near-death strike against Haiti in Gold Cup group play. A big win for the up-and-comers and Stu Holden thumb-tacking himself to the senior squad. Stu’s carries himself well and is as a great ambassador. The Iceman is going to be a part of American soccer for awhile. Enter stage left: Stu Holden. Thanks Stu for the future.
• I’m thankful for the community that has developed at The Shin Guardian. When my brother and I started TSG, we wanted a place where we could provide content and we could have astute observations by others who are more well versed in soccer strategy and knowledge than we are. I think we’re on our way to achieving that.
In the process, we’ve gotten to know many in this community personally. I know that “Tuesday” loves Clint Dempsey and will defend him until his death…or at least until his kid needs help going to the bathroom. I know that “Dan” loves Frankie Hedjuk, not because he’s challenged at defense from time to time, but because he can crush a can of beer and he’s “one of us.”
I’m thankful at the depth of the community here.
• I’m thankful for, as TSG calls it, “The Counter Attack Heard Round the World.” Shaun, a Brit, called it the best counter he’s ever seen one week ago. Everything about that play screamed to USMNT fans and haters, “Hey, this team can compete at the highest level.”
• Speaking of Shaun, I’m thankful that others who don’t possess the hometown lens recognize the never say die attitude of the US team. Thanks Shaun.
• I’m thankful that I get to write again. As a graduate of Syracuse’s vaunted Newhouse School of Public Communication and an alumnus of ABC News and CNBC, a big part of my enjoyment in life was missing when I decided to switch professions. It is now back. And your visits to our pub validate my passion. Thank…you. (I swear I’m hunting down the typos like rabbits in this piece.)
• I’m thankful for Clint Dempsey. Clint takes a lot of stick on The Shin Guardian, sometimes warranted, sometimes not. We question your pitch behavior and play sometimes Clint, but we never question your heart.
• I’m thankful for Danny Coyles, the Small Bar and all the bars that hosted USMNT viewing parties for the Honduras game. Sure, I’m not happy that fans missed the games and that I paid $20 to watch TV (would have much rather had my vegetables to earn the tube time), but the experience to stand, cheer and lose my voice side-by-side with fellow Yanks’ lovers and ring in a World Cup bid was sweet! And not just because I was drinking White Russians during the later stages.
While I’ve thanked you bar owners many a time at 2am in the morning on the way out, this time I mean it and I remember exactly why I’m saying it.
• I’m thankful for statements this year of Brian Ching, Landon Donovan and Tim Howard who constantly stood up to the press and gladly accepted the responsibility of representing the US and the necessity to win. We don’t often think about how tough that part is on the team.
Here’s a quote from Landon in August:
“We’re going to go out, be aggressive and give everything we have. We’re a better team, and if we do that we’re going to win the game.”
Taking responsibility. Thank you Landon.
• I’m thankful for the American Outlaws who reached out to The Shin Guardian to provide an audience for our voice. In turn TSG learned a little more about the USMNT uber-fan experience and learned about a group of guys and gals who make it their business to improve that experience for everyone. Thanks AO.
• I’m thankful that Charlie Davies is alright, he’s on the road to recovery and that a fanbase of tens of thousands of people mobilized in just over a day’s time to salute the USMNT’s fallen teammate, proving that the USMNT is a community bordering on family status. Thank you fans.
At this holiday time, with the U.S. on the verge of learning their next major competition in 2010, let’s all be thankful that the USMNT brings us together, perhaps like no other team.
TSG invites you to share your sentiments below. We’d love to read them.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and your families (from New Zealand).