Is there another country that plays with its national anthem as much as the United States? I was thinking about this on Wednesday night as I watched Kelly Rowland meander and "ooh, ooh, woo" her way through the Star-Spangled Banner before the England v. USA friendly. It is apparently musically sinful for American artists to perform the anthem straight. I realise that the United States prides itself on being a creatively ambitious country, but all that "huh, whuh, whoa" stuff makes it difficult for people to sing along, which is kind of what you'd like to do before an international match.
But it did manage to make Wembley feel more like an American sporting event, complete with random booing. As soon as England fans were able to determine that it was indeed the U.S. national anthem that was being sung (somewhere around "... o'er the land of the free..."), a handful of them started in with jeers.
Soccer fans everywhere (save, perhaps in the United States, where we live in fear-respect of our anthem and are therefore terribly uncomfortable booing another one, unless it's being played while a heel marches out during a pro-wrestling event) seem to do this. What's amusing is that the recipients of the booing always take it really personally, going so far as to make ridiculous claims of racism. I'm looking at you, country whose name starts with a "C."
I don't buy that. I mean, honestly, how many people in England (who would attend an international soccer match) are really going to boo the United States on principal: "Boo! You're overweight, unnecessarily capitalist, self-involved, bogged down in Iraq, saddled with a government that doesn't care about the majority of its citizens, and disliked by all your neighbours... Oh... Wait, a second..."
I'm pretty sure booing is much more simplistic than that. For the most part it's just a matter of child-level "cheer for the good guys, boo for the bad guys" thinking. To save deep insult, countries should stop playing their national anthems and instead develop boo-able ditties. They should have Iron Sheik-like mascots to stomp around and raise the ire of opposing supporters.
Unfortunately the U.S. wasn't able to exact revenge for the booing, going down as pretty much everyone expected. Although it's worth noting that England had put forward, arguably, the very best team it is capable of fielding and still didn't manage to do anything for 38 minutes. Usually when you go up against "a second-division team of spoilers" (fuck you sideways, John Motson), you don't have to field your big guns. But Capello felt the need.
I think that's proof that the U.S. is, slowly, coming into its own soccer-wise. I am convinced that sometime in the near future the rest of the world will get its wish and the United States will show genuine interest in the game. The world wants this for the money, but, of course, it will backfire on them because it will mean Yanqui supremacy. Then the world will have to turn to rugby and responsible financial management to find things that they are better at than the U.S.
But that day hasn't quite yet arrived. U.S. soccer is still dominated by strangely good-looking athletic fellas with unique names. For so many years soccer was the sport of the likeable fellow who wasn't quite enough of a prick to play home-grown sports like football, baseball and basketball. They are the sort of guys who don't scream, "Big game, fellas! Let's get fuckin' psyched!" before a match (a), because they realise it is silly and unnecessary and kind of negative. Take a look at the current roster and you'll see that most of those dudes are from California.
One thing fans need to do before the game gets truly big in the States: develop a few of our own songs. The majority of chants and songs recited by fans are lifted straight from English supporters. Anywhere they say "Eng-ger-lund," we've simply replaced with "U-S-A." Obviously, this trick fell a bit flat on Wednesday.
And one random additional note from Wednesday's match: Wayne Rooney is 25 years old. I am 32. But his hair is thinning considerably faster than mine. Bwahahaha!
(a) A guy on my rugby team used to do this before EVERY MATCH, no matter who we were playing.
- Slightly witty name for a band. -