Nothing Is Un-American

Submitted by Brian on June 16th, 2014 at 4:46 PM


A German coaches the US National team, and it's time for the World Cup. This combination results in people who don't know what they're talking about making big, sweeping generalizations about what it all means. The result: a rather spectacular 24 hours wherein the New York Times published a piece claiming Klinsmann was making US soccer less American and the Wall Street Journal published one claiming he was making it more so.

Meanwhile, Brits are whining that USA fans use their own lingo too much and shouldn't use correct lingo… in the same article. A classics professor is writing the de rigueur "Soccer is Un-American" article. (The premise of this brief piece is obvious, but if there is anything that is Un-American (there isn't), it's some fusty old twit in a tweed jacket getting the vapors about the Romans.)

This self-contradictory pile is all very American. One of my wife's most prized possessions is a keychain from the Eugene V. Debs Memorial Kazoo Night. The Eugene V. Debs Memorial Kazoo Night was held annually at Tiger Stadium until it was torn down. Labor people would show up at a baseball game to give each other trinkets and pay tribute to a guy who was locked up for protesting the USA's involvement in World War I. With kazoos, evidently.

The keychain created for this event at the national pastime of the most capitalistic society yet implemented reads "Lock Up Capitalist Lackeys." The United States contains multitudes.


One of these multitudes last washed his hair in 1976, several years before he was born. He brought an acoustic guitar to the World Cup. Another is here because his family was fortunate enough to emigrate from Haiti. Clint Dempsey's parents sold some of their guns to finance their kid's soccer career. Jermaine Jones is here because his dad was still in Germany 30 years after World War II ended. Michael Bradley is the spear-bald son of a spear-bald soccer coach. Matt Besler's just a normal guy.

The confusion about just how American soccer is, and how American USA soccer is, is based on a conception of America that erroneously excludes things. The US soccer team is a bunch of second or third generation immigrants and Americans who fell in love with the weird kicky game, because who knows why but go to hell if you want to tell me what to do.

If we didn't invent it we stole it, or are in the process of stealing it, and putting it in ourselves. We are less advanced in our assimilation of soccer than we are pizza. We are nonetheless coming.

If you hate it, oh well. No one cares, because the most American thing is: don't tread.





June 16th, 2014 at 4:56 PM ^

Not sure, as Brian mentionned. 
But historical note to Brian's post- the rattle snake was chosen to represent the US colonies during the revolutionnary period because this animal's only known habitat was North America making it unique and completely un-related to Europe. 

Sort of ironic and maybe odd to choose your national animal as a snake. The U.S. flag that we know today is very similar to the British East India trading company flag. I wish we had stuck with  the snake. 

Ron Utah

June 17th, 2014 at 12:15 PM ^

It was truly an American tale.  The lightning-quick surprise strike 34 seconds into the match showed the best of our team: Clint Dempsey taking advantage of a half-chance by beating two defenders and hitting a perfect shot.

Perhaps the worst moment of the match came at about the 20 minute mark.  Ghana had taken control of the game, and a well-played outlet pass to Jozy appeared to give us a good chance at a counter-attack.  Jozy had the speed and position to get to the ball first, but then, inexplicably, he fell to the grass, clutching his hammy.  The significance of this loss can hardly be overstated.

We proceeded to show our worst.  For nearly 80 minutes, we looked nervous, unskilled, and exhuasted.  Top player Michael Bradley played so poorly with the ball that I joked in the second half with a friend of mine that he might not complete a pass before the game ended (he did, but just one or two).  We could not possess the ball, and every time we had control of it we managed to find a way to give it back to Ghana in short order.  Bad passes, sloppy dribbling, poor movement off the ball--we looked like a team without confidence.

The inevitable struck in the 82nd minute when a US player--Fabian Johnson--finally lost his mark in the box and allowed an easy shot.  Tim Howard's superhero powers weren't even enough from that range.

But a team without confidence does not rally.  A team without belief does not win games when their best player has what was likely his worst game in an American uniform.  A team without a heart does not have a 21-yr-old substitute nod home a brilliant header from a corner kick taken by another substitute.

The American flag is iconic, and its symbols are powerful: the stars for the states, the stripes for the original thirteen colonies.  But the snake is the appropriate symbol, and it's one that I wish the USMNT would embrace as the French sport their cock (rooster), the Czechs, English, and Dutch using lions, and the Australians the kangaroo and the ostrich.

The US Soccer symbol (below) is decidedly lame, and should be replaced, IMO, with the "Don't Tread on Me" motto and snake.

The game we just played proved it's an appropriate symbol: the pit viper waiting for its moment to strike, even as more powerful predators trample the earth around it.


June 16th, 2014 at 5:02 PM ^

The Englishman has a point.

I hear the same people say the USMNT are playing Ghana in 1 hour, but say Michigan is playing App State in 2 monhs.

If we make it further than England, I vote that we have the self confidence to use our own American version of English when talking about Soccer/Football/Futbal.



June 16th, 2014 at 5:30 PM ^

"Corner Kick" is correct lingo.  Changing verbs to their plural form, but only when talking about Soccer, makes you look like a poser.

There is a tremendous difference between using correct Soccer terminology and pretending you are an Englishman just because you are talking about Soccer.  

We don't become the Queen's loyal subjects just because Footy is on the telly.




June 16th, 2014 at 5:09 PM ^

Green lets it in!!  It's a Howler!!

This is when my love affair with Ian Darke began.  I will miss him.  As far as I'm concerned, ESPN should retain him and have him do College Football games.  I'd listen.



June 17th, 2014 at 11:21 AM ^

Maybe it is my nature coming from the Evil Empire down in Columbus, but this would have been more representative of world reaction and more satisfying had it included shots of sad Algerian fans. Or better yet, sad Slovenian fans who thought they were making the round of 16 only to have their hearts, still pounding with nationalistic fervor ripped from their chests by the Americans. Kind of like how SEC fans felt (before MSU took care of business the next week) when Gardner's 2 point conversion hit the ground.


June 16th, 2014 at 5:11 PM ^

I received my first kazoo at Munn Arena for a Michigan-Michigan State hockey game. Once I figured out how to play the darn thing, I spent the rest of the game playing the Victors. Barely got out of there alive. And then I got home and the scene was repeated. If you want to drive someone crazy, give their kid a kazoo.

Broken Brilliance

June 16th, 2014 at 5:17 PM ^

Outing the ignorance of journalists never gets old, especially when they continuously get away with publishing those generalities on a daily basis while being paid vast sums of money. I'd pay a dollar to see you debate that writer (or Drew Sharp) on this topic. Despite the fact that I don't like soccer, I still appreciate the sentiment.

But goddamn it, futbol americano can't get here soon enough.


June 16th, 2014 at 5:17 PM ^

Liberty? Those damn Brits and their Magna Carta!(with much influence from the French)  Democracy? To paraphrase Tony the Tiger--Grrrr--eeks!. Language? Those limey bastards again. Law? The Brits and Romans.*

Hell, apple pie is not even American.(That perfidious Albion again!) America the word comes from the name of an Italian--Amerigo Vespucci.

So in other words our language, laws, rights, food, and name of our country(and cities) come from other cultures and countries.

Nativism or xenophobia is always a loathsome behavior, but it is particularly ridiculous in a country that is a cultural collage.We try desperately to paper over that fact with crayon-categorization of Americans, but it fails at an intellectual level.

Soccer/futbol is American because Americans can be anything  and enjoy anything what they want. That is the definition of an American.


*Yes, I know simplistic. But work with me here.


June 16th, 2014 at 5:48 PM ^

Ghana with their speed will win this match...the last 2 World Cups just showed we are way too slow

Ghana = SEC Speed x 2

USA = BIG 10 speed


June 16th, 2014 at 6:07 PM ^

of mine once told shared with me his view that "Amerikaner haben keine Kultur" ("..Americans have no culture").  At first I thought he meant American culture is not homogenous, or that American culture is comparatively quite diverse.  I was completely wrong. He really meant that Americans are culture-less, that the US is a society sans culture.   I didn't feel like arguing with the guy at the time. I was young and wanted to remain politce.  I just was amazed by his conviction on this point. 

If you ever live in Germany, you quickly learn some important things. First, the long list of Prussian virtues, which help explain why Germans behave the way they do (including being straight-forward and direct, to a fault and often to the extent of being downright rude), and the fine centuries-old art of starring at other people excessively.







June 16th, 2014 at 7:04 PM ^

I'm pretty sure that also a "human virtue" and not distinctly Prussian.  By Prussian virtues, I meant the following list below.

That reminds me, I'm a punctual person, but I onced showed up late for work in Cologne by just 10 minutes because of traffic. The response from my colleague: "Amerikanische Punktlickheit" (american punctuality, i.e. late, not German). It's humorous when I reflect on it, but certainly not in their eyes. There's always healthy helping of true criticism in there meant to keep you in line.

- Aufrichtigkeit - sincerity or being 'upright'
- Bescheidenheit - modesty or humility
- Disziplin - discipline
- Fleiß - diligence or industriousness
- Gehorsam - obedience
- Geradlingkeit - straightforwardness
- Gerechtigkeitssinn - sense of justice
- Gottesfurcht - fear of God
- Härte - toughness
- Mut - courage or daring
- Ordnungsinn - sense of order
- Pflichtbewußtsein - conscientiousness or sense of duty
- Pünktlichkeit - punctuality
- Redlichkeit - honesty or integrity
- Selbstverleugnung - self-denial
- Sparsamkeit - thrift or austerity
- Tapferkeit - bravery or valor
- Unbestechlichkeit - incorruptibility
- Unterordnung - subordination (ability to take orders)
- Zielstrebigkeit - determination (to achieve the goal), singleness of purpose
- Zurückhaltung - restraint or self-effacement, reserve
- Zuverlässigkeit - reliability or trustworthiness


June 16th, 2014 at 9:10 PM ^

Don't get me wrong I've watched a lot of soccer over the last decade. The restaurant that I eat at 5 if seven nights a week is owned by greeks who follow soccer with a vengance and one of my close friends refreed soccer at the international level. So over the last years I've received a fairly comprehensive introduction to soccer, and I enjoy watching the game. 

What has world cup soccer to do with Michigan sports? Specifically Michigan football, basketball, hockey, baseball, fast pitch women's softball, lacross, or ... Why is international soccer a major feature on the main page? 

I suggest you move it off the main page because it only gets in the way of Michigan sports. I understand that the owner of this web site is a soccer fan, but, at least according to its banner, this is not a site dedicated to international soccer or even USA soccer. 

I like watching soccer. I especially like watching world cup soccer, but that is not the reason I come to mgoblog. Can we all agree that international soccer is off topic on this blog?

I come here for Michigan sprts coverage, at least keep the OT stuff off the main page. 


June 16th, 2014 at 10:06 PM ^

As we can escape further wrath from AUSHHG, we seem to be in good shape. Just to be safe, I'm going to grab a steak knife and sacrifice my wife's hamstrings after she falls asleep. I'll let you know how it goes.


June 17th, 2014 at 12:50 AM ^

Congrats. It was very annoying to concede that goal so early. Appiah's decision to go with Opare, who normally plays leftback, instead of Inkoom plus Boye's idiocy made that unbearable on Ghana's right side. Good goal by Dempsey, and good job by Besler, Cameron, and Jones. I would say, however, if that game were the reverse, some people might feel hard done. That, though, is the tragedy of soccer--you can chase a game and pull of over 15 shots, but the ones that go in only matter, regardless of how well you play. Only the first game, but an important one. Ghana can still qualify and the U.S. can still get knocked out. But enjoy the win, and on to Sunday. You all have a very good chance against Portugal given their display today. Germany vs Ghana, meh. But soccer can be an enigma at times


June 17th, 2014 at 1:01 AM ^

He *was* a professor of philosophy and religion.

I don't know what's wrong with him. But all the Classics professors I know (including myself) love soccer and are ardent USMNT supporters too.


June 17th, 2014 at 10:56 AM ^

I sometimes get questions from family or friends about why I so regularly read a Michigan blog. I usually mention the adage aout keeping your enemies closer and that I typically spend a fiar amount of time and not OSU sites because I already know how I feel about OSU related news. I keep current, don't get me wrong, but it is good to get out of the echo chamber. I don't post too often because it can be difficult being a rival fan and trying to make a clever remark (I like to think I can be pretty funny) and not come across as a troll.

The other reason I come here is I recognize, identify with and admire the passion Brian has for Michigan. I'm one of those oddball Buckeye fans that enjoys Michigan doing well until they play us. if your rival is mediocre, where is the joy of victory. OSU had some great teams in the 90s and many ended their regular season with soul crushhing loses. Many of the last several years you have had soul crushing seasons. While I am happy we won, since losing to thos teams would have been embarassing, I took no great joy like I did in 2006.

Anyhow, I am wandering off topic. It is especially pleasant to come here and read Brian's work when his passions and mine are to the same goal, no pun intended. Several of my in-laws who ask about MgoBlog are big soccer fans and I am sending them a link to this post. Hopefully they'll finally understand why I spend so much time at a site devoted to That Team Up North.