3QD’s World Cup Analyst Alex Cooley: Anti-Americanism, An Ugly Blight on The Beautiful Game

[Alex writes] In between the borefests that constituted today’s offerings and the resolution of Team USA’s Group of Death tomorrow, I wanted to share some thoughts with 3QD readers about some of my more political interactions here in Germany, especially the noticeable tide of anti-Americanism that has been injected into the tournament by fans and the media.

Most comments are the typical “what do you Americans know about football?” or “I am certain you will never win a World Cup” or “you have no appreciation for the game..blah, blah.” Taking it from the other supporters is part of what the World Cup is all about and Yank supporters know how to take their licks (and also dish it out). But I have noticed that the level of anti-Americanism has definitely risen in this Cup and the tone of many comments has changed from just jibing to genuinely nasty.

Consider this particularly vicious little piece of work by Marina Hyde of the astonishingly patronizing Guardian. What was the purpose of this piece? Surely it was not to introduce US soccer fans as much as it was to project every imaginable European stereotype about Americans being militaristic simpletons onto a bunch of fans having a good time, before and after a football game. Notice that it includes no serious named quotes, bios or references to Sam’s Army, the official organization of US traveling supporters. In fact, Hyde could have asked a number of things but chose, instead, to ridicule, patronize and insult.

The American fans I talk to happen to be some of the most respectful, knowledgeable and informed in the world. Indeed, the maniacal US soccer fan can be an intellectually scary proposition for anyone – a sports nut who has developed a baseball-type statistical knowledge of the game and combined it with a passion for serious research and digital cable hook up to the Fox Soccer Channel. College-age Yanks drinking before a match??!! Shocking! I am sure that Hyde will similarly indict the chanting English, Ukrainian and Swedish supporters that she meets during her tournament coverage. US fans predicting that their team will win? How insulting to the rest of the world…that’s just outright hegemonic hubris!! The final insult of a delusional superpower.

Later in the column, we get the real motivator behind the attack as Hyde inserts the gratuitous:

Team USA had spent the two nights preceding the game at the local Ramstein airbase, along with the 55,000 US servicemen and -women stationed there (and possibly a few CIA guests on a brief stopover on their way to being disappeared into some shadowy eastern European prison with a relaxed approach to the Geneva Convention. You don’t like to ask).

Gee – was this something that she actually stumbled across at Rammstein? Since Hyde cares so much about secret CIA torture centers, then I assume she and her Guardian colleagues protest weekly outside all of the US bases (excuse me joint facilities) in East Anglia. No? Oh, ok, well then I’m sure she’s writing similar searing columns about all the European countries in the World Cup (Spain, Portugal, Italy, Poland etc.) that passively allowed these flights landing rights? But hey, why actually address Europe’s political passivity on a range of global issues when instead we can write a football column that makes Yanks look moronic and throws “CIA flights” into the mix?

But if we are going to mix the World Cup and politics then I would expect Hyde and the Guardian to indict every country in the tournament with a dodgy human rights record. Go on, seriously, take your pick – see what Human Rights Watch has to say about at least 28 of the 32 teams here (US included). Quality of life index? Development levels? How about we point out every corrupt and kleptocratic national FA in the tournament that just pockets their World Cup cash while the majority of their populations live in abject poverty; that would be a good humanitarian story with a lefty angle? Really, why not? In fact, making a political point about any country seems to be a taboo during this World Cup (which I really don’t mind) except when it is about the United States.

The point is that it is far EASIER for many Europeans to simply dismiss the United States and Yank fans rather than actually engage in a reasoned debate and pretend not to know everything about our team and culture. It is easy to paint the ugliest picture possible of a group of supporters who did nothing more than proudly follow their team during the greatest party in world sport, after standing toe-to-toe with a world football power. In fact, why even bother going to the match when you can just file a nasty, pre-determined narrative rather than learn something about the culture, history and passion of US soccer supporters. “Hilarious Maria darling, however did you survive those chants of U-S-A, U-S-A? How simply awwwful.”

The irony of the whole matter is that Eurosnobs and anti-America bashers have much in common with the type of Americans that openly dismiss the game back in the US. Both prefer to paint caricatures about people and cultures that they don’t know; both prefer to simply dismiss a movement that they don’t understand; and both would prefer that the US fail abysmally at the global game and remain an object of ridicule within and outside of the US.

At its core Anti-Americanism of the sort now regularly practiced and relished by much of the pompous European left exposes a remarkable lack of intellectual curiosity and just pure meanness. More than that, if you were to say any of these things or write a similar piece about any other country in this World Cup it would be rightly slammed as jingoistic and racist.