Americans watched soccer
Posted: Monday, June 28, 2010 10:10 pm
By CHRIS JENKINS
AP Sports Writer
It won’t be much consolation after a stomach-churning loss that knocked it out of the World Cup, but the U.S. soccer team accomplished something remarkable Saturday: It got a big slice of Americans back home to plan the day around watching soccer.
The U.S. might not be known as a hotbed for the “other” football. At least for one afternoon, that changed.
Fans — hard-core supporters and curious casual fans alike — gathered in bars, restaurants and living rooms from coast to coast, cheering on the U.S. team. They left disappointed, some shedding tears, after U.S. lost to 2-1 Ghana in extra time.
“I’m proud of our team,” said Marquette student Chris Engel, 21, who watched the game at the Highbury Pub in Milwaukee. “I’m proud of the support we had here. We fought ’til the end.”
Engel — who recently helped start a Milwaukee chapter of the American Outlaws, a supporters’ club for U.S. soccer — then added with a sigh, “four more years.”
The scene was repeated all across the country and overseas.
At the Small Bar in Chicago, hundreds of fans showed up for the match dressed up in U.S. jerseys and wearing American flags draped around their shoulders. Some patrons lined up as early as 6 a.m. for a good seat.
Alex Boesel, 28, of Chicago, said he used to watch previous World Cups at home because he didn’t think other people cared so much about soccer. But he feels like something has changed this year.
“People are more aware that other people care about soccer,” said Boesel, a computer programmer.
Boesel arrived at Small Bar at 6 a.m. to make sure he could get a seat. He had a South African-style vuvuzuela horn, but wasn’t wearing a U.S. jersey because he said every store in the city was sold out or had hiked up prices to $100 or more.
The Flying Saucer in Cordova, Tenn., had a celebrity guest for the match: Laura Howard, wife of U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard, who watched the game there with other members of the Howard family.
“I’m disappointed,” she said afterward. “I just know Tim didn’t want it to end up this way. But I do know two little children that will be very excited to see him. He will be back Monday.”
She videotaped scenes from the bar so her husband could see it when he gets back.
“He’d be blown away to know that this was the type of reception they got,” she said.
The Howard family lives in Memphis during the summer.
And given the rising popularity of the U.S. team, their offseasons of living in relative obscurity might be coming to an end.
“Not anymore!,” Laura Howard said. “I’m originally from here so that’s a big reason we chose to live here, but (Tim) loves to put on flip-flops and go to the gas station. But I don’t think he’s going to be able to do that anymore.”
For the U.S. team, Saturday’s game was a rough end to a wild week.
Landon Donovan’s dramatic injury-time goal to beat Algeria was huge from a soccer perspective, saving the U.S. from elimination. But in the age of social media, it turned out to be a community-building event of epic proportions.
For a new generation of soccer fans, ESPN announcer Ian Darke’s majestic call of Donovan’s decisive goal against Algeria —“AND DONOVAN HAS SCORED! OOOOH, DO YOU BELIEVE THIS? GO! GO! USA!” — has the potential to become their answer to “Do you believe in miracles?”
Hipster rockers Weezer penned an unofficial song for the team, “Represent”; lead singer Rivers Cuomo is a huge fan of the team. President Clinton stopped by the U.S. locker room after Wednesday’s game — then he stayed to have a beer, and then he rearranged his schedule so he could be at Saturday’s game.
Fans in bars across the country posted video of their reactions to Donovan’s goal on YouTube, leading Purdue University senior Robby Donoho to put together a video montage, complete with background music, that was passed around the world — including by several U.S. players who posted it on their Twitter accounts.
As of Saturday night, the video had been viewed nearly 600,000 times.
“To see that Landon and Herculez (Gomez) posted my video on their Twitter and Facebook accounts was truly jaw-dropping,” Donoho said in an e-mail to The Associated Press. “I could not begin to express the feelings I had (when) I saw and heard about it. I was putting this video together to try and make a tribute to those guys over in South Africa and rally the USA around the soccer team and this World Cup, and it seems to have worked!”
In the end, however, there wouldn’t be a second round of celebratory viral videos.
As he shook hands with fellow disappointed U.S. fans at the end of the match, Engel hoped the country’s newfound passion for its national soccer team would continue.
“If you stop supporting your country just because you lose, this doesn’t mean anything,” Engel said.
Published in The Messenger 6.28.10