USMNT: What We’re Thankful For

First, a brief warning.

I don’t know where this piece is going. Most columns that I write on TSG I have a desired point, argument or review that I want to communicate.

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.

Team TSG: Production Meeting #1 of 1

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.]

Requirements:

» 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.

Clint Dempsey after the USA succumbs to Brazil in the Confederation Cup.

• 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).


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11 responses to this post.

  1. Just one correction to your job description; the USMNT players do get paid for pulling on the stars and stripes. 2005 almost saw a players strike before some important qualies due to the (bad term) Collective Bargaining Agreement that the US Player Pool has with the USSF.

    Reply

  2. Posted by Mark T on 2009/11/25 at 7:21 AM

    Thanks, Nick.

    Here is the article I dug up: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9901E7D91F38F936A15752C0A9639C8B63&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=print

    Not sure if I will be able to find anything more current.

    Reply

    • Posted by Dylan on 2009/11/25 at 9:16 AM

      That’s interesting, especially the win bonus. They should get a big bonus for winning in Azteca.

      Reply

  3. I’m thankful for the USMNT because it gives me a team to be passionate about. As a fan of the beautiful game in general I don’t have an allegiance to any club team in particular. I support the clubs that have Americans on their rosters, I support the Arsenals and Barcelonas because they often play the game in the manner I think it should be played. But if either one of them are knocked out of the Champions League, I’m only saddened that their displays will not continue. On the flip side when the National Team plays poorly or loses a game, I’m in a bad mood.

    As a former baseball fanatic that grew disillusioned during the strike of ’94, and a former hockey fan that grew jaded during the lockout sometime in the early 2000’s, I’m thankful that the USMNT gives me an outlet for my rabid fandom.

    Reply

  4. Posted by Dylan on 2009/11/25 at 9:19 AM

    I am thankful for that when I finally found the sport I immediatley had a team to be apart of. I am thankful that the USMNT gives me a healthy avenue for my passion. (My fiance may disagree that it is healthy). I am thankful for all my fellow AO members. Especially AO Detroit. I am thankful for a World Cup Birth next summer!

    Reply

  5. Posted by pckilgore on 2009/11/25 at 10:50 AM

    I’ve always been a fan of the beautiful game, but less so of the USMNT on a day to day basis because there just wasn’t anyone out there making them relevant. I know it’s easier in a WC year, but I’m thankful you guys take the time to treat this team, this game, and fans with such insight, depth, and humor.

    And that’s the goddamn truth.

    Reply

  6. Posted by Timmy on 2009/11/25 at 11:10 AM

    Right on. I am thankful for a fairly successful 2009 for the USMNT and I am looking forward to the World Cup in June. There were a couple of moments during the year that opened my eyes as I realized the fan base for the US team is expanding… One such moment was how many fanatics/fans/follows/etc were disgusted at the US team after the 0-2 start at the Confeds Cup and how many people actually cared about the success of the team. Another such moment was watching the finals of the Confed Cup at a non-soccer bar and seeing the place fill up with fans to watch the game and passionately root on the team. Even though the result was disappointing, I will remember the energy and environment of that game for a long time. And then back to noticing how many casual followers/fans were upset at the broadcasting situations of the Azteca and Honduras games. I am also thankful we have Mexico in CONCACAF. Every time we play them, I want the US to win more than anything but having Mexico in CONCACAF brings the up the level of play of the US team, and without both Mexico and the US, CONCACAF would be a region with even less respect. 2009 was definitely a memorable year and let’s hope 2010 brings success at the highest level.

    Reply

  7. Posted by kaya on 2009/11/25 at 12:51 PM

    Glad to hear you’re in the celebrating spirit even as you’re far off, Matthew.
    I’m grateful to soccer: I love how it’s a universal sport that yet takes on the personality/nationality of the team playing it. And of course to the world cup and to the fact it’s a game that’s never predictable. From the quirky seedings/pots/draws to the fact these teams don’t play as a team often, let alone who they end up playing against – it’s a crazy ride.
    My family doesn’t really understand my excitement, but I’m grateful to them anyway :)
    Hooray for your mom. That’s really awesome =)

    Reply

  8. Posted by michaelneis on 2009/11/25 at 10:55 PM

    Great post – as much as we fans like to whine every now and again, it’s important to remember why we love this team so much. I think one of the best things about being a USMNT fan is the connections it establishes…how wearing my jersey around town gets that acknowledging nod from the occasional stranger. We all share the good times, we all share the bad times. I’ll never forget the amazing response after Charlie Davies’ injury, and thinking about how unique a national fanbase can be. Being able to watch the World Cup live draw knowing your squad will get called is unbelievable – and I will relish every moment until June.

    Reply

  9. [...] Without starting the series, TSG communicated some of our reasons back in our first Thanksgiving piece entitled, “USMNT: What We’re Thankful For.” [...]

    Reply

  10. [...] Posted 2010/11/08 by matthewsf in Corporate. Leave a Comment If you are missed our Thanksgiving piece last year, it’s right here. [...]

    Reply

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