[EDIT - Apparently someone also named Dan Loney works for the Wall Street Journal. I am not him. He is him, I am me. I hope he doesn't take blame for this, but then again, he does work for the Wall Street Journal, so maybe if he's upset, he can just go sell some housing derivatives or something.]
So I woke up this morning and thought, "Man, I'm in way too good a mood. I think I'll follow some Facebook links until...ah, HERE we go."
Yesterday the Wall Street Journal decided to commemorate D-Day by publishing something called "Why I Hate American Soccer Fans." No link, because the Wall Street Journal doesn't deserve it, let alone for this kind of attention-whoring. You know the saying, "I could eat alphabet soup and crap out a better article"? Well, same thing here, only with vegetable soup.
Since this is typical Internet landfill runoff, I'm going to respond in the typical Internet fashion. Quote the whole thing, and intersperse my responses every few paragraphs. Because (a) fair use, so screw your damn copyright, and (b) "fisking" has been out of date for at least ten years, but then, so has this kind of article. If you don't like rat poison, don't come into my house and pee on my cheese.
Growing up as a soccer fan in England,
I should have stopped reading here, of course. If there is one fan base that has absolutely no room to criticize American ignorance, obnoxiousness, pretence, affectation and general overall intolerability, it's England first and everyone else nowhere. At the risk of invoking Godwin's Law, this is like Hitler criticizing your taste in armbands. It's exactly this sort of...wait a minute.
Growing up as a soccer
It's a troll. You used the s-word. An English fan running down Americans and doesn't call it "football"? This is an elaborate parody, and I've fallen victim to it.
I've witnessed my fair share of horrors. I've seen shocking acts of violence, overheard hundreds of abusive chants and watched Pelé retire to sell erectile dysfunction pills.
I know it's a joke, but it's like a McDonald's coffee lawsuit joke - the premise is stupid. Johnny Cash had a cheesy variety show, Lou Reed endorsed Honda scooters, Bob Dylan shilled Victoria's Secret (wait, what?), Johnny Rotten did a butter commercial, Muhammad Ali sold roach spray, and Abby Wambach sold out to magicJack. Actually that last one was pretty bad.
Over the years, I've been angered, saddened and ashamed by these things. But through it all, my love for soccer remained undimmed.
But lately, I've discovered there's a new scourge on my beloved game that I simply cannot tolerate: Americans.
New. Qualified for seven straight World Cups, have been sending players over to the Premiership and beyond since John Harkes, beat Spain in the Confederations Cup, won your World Cup group last time around. During that same period, the only thing England came up with was David Beckham, who was only famous because he married the lead singer of Elastica or whoever.
Understand that I'm not talking about the vast majority of you, who still regard soccer as a distinctly European product of dubious worth, like espadrilles or universal health care.
I don't begrudge fans here who have only recently awakened to the charms of what the rest of the world has long known as the beautiful game. Welcome to the party!
Thanks for welcoming us! By the way, we hosted this party twenty years ago. Where were you again that year?
The problem is your soccer obsessives. By my reckoning, they may be the most derivative, excessive and utterly ridiculous collection of sports fans on the planet.
Ricky Hatton fans, kindly step forward.
If you've ever stumbled across this tribe as they spill out of a bar on Saturday mornings after 90 minutes spent watching a game contested by two teams based thousands of miles away, you'll know the sort of fans I'm talking about.
Well, there aren't too many good reasons to hang around bars on Saturday mornings unless you're watching a game. By the way, watching games contested by teams thousands of miles away? That's kind of what we're about. That's how Americans consume sports. Most Lakers or Cowboys fans will MAYBE attend one game in their lives. Most Cubs and Yankee fans don't take the el or the subway. It's nice that England has teams every six blocks, but in a big country, dreams stay with you.
They refer to the sport as "fútbol," hold long conversations about the finer points of the 4-4-2 formation and proudly drape team scarves around their necks even when the temperature outside is touching 90 degrees.
Because scarves are colorful and more convenient than flags, assuming your stadium even allows flags. You don't wear them, you hold them. Are scarves unusually heavy in England, or something?
Again, I'm aware these are jokes, but the premises are just painful. Bobby Slayton once had a bit along the lines of "Sugar-free chocolate? Who's this for?" And Andy Kindler's response was "They're for diabetics, you moron." Same thing here. It's good fun ribbing from across an ocean that isn't wide enough and doesn't have enough sea monsters, granted. But don't be god-damned stupid about it.
It is this band of soccer junkies who have turned the simple pleasure I used to derive from heading to a bar to watch a game into something more akin to undergoing root canal surgery.
So watch it at home, you freaking crybaby. Or find another bar. Or actually go to a game. You're not watching two teams from thousands of miles away play, are you?
It's not that they all have the same stories about study-abroad trips to Europe, or that they get wildly excited about the simplest saves, or even, for inexplicable reasons, that 90% of soccer fans in the U.S. seem to root for Arsenal.
English fans don't get excited about saves because they haven't seen one since 1970.
My biggest gripe is that all of this feels like an elaborate affectation.
Like getting all upset about athletes doing TV commercials? Again, if you wanna joke, joke, but don't insult my intelligence.
Instead of watching the game in the time-honored way of American sports fans—by thrusting a giant foam finger in the air, say, or devouring a large plate of Buffalo wings
Ah, how fresh, a fat American joke. If only there was an equally hoary English stereotype to fire back with, like "Hey, at least we brush our teeth afterwards." And what's the deal with airline food?
—your soccer fanatics have taken to aping the behavior of our fans from across the pond.
See, if only there was another helpful stereotype or two I could use, like "Shaving their heads and beating up foreigners?"
The scarves thing is an obvious example, but it's far from the only one.
Wait, I didn't realize England had the world copyright on scarves. I mean, I'm pretty sure I've seen them in Scotland, too.
There's the self-conscious use of terms like "pitch," "match" and "kit,"
"Match" is off-limits? Fine, "pitch" and "kit" are arrant Eurosnobbery, but "match" is banned? How about "ball"? Or "player"? Can we keep using those? Christ.
the songs lifted directly from English soccer stadiums,
Can't argue with that. The White Stripes wrote "Seven Nation Army" at Vale Park during the second half of a cup-tie against Leyton Orient. True story.
Yes, Seattle does cover Cock Sparrer, but Seattle doesn't have much of a music history.
and even the appropriation of terrace couture.
You half-assed it here. This needed to be couture du terrace.
On a recent weekend, I went to a bar to watch the UEFA Champions League final
Really? Why? Were you from Madrid? Did you grow up supporting either team? Why is it okay for you to watch a game from thousands of miles away in a bar, but not other people?
and found myself stationed next to a soccer fan wearing a replica Arsenal jersey, a team scarf around his neck and a pair of Dr. Martens lace-ups. He looked like he he'd been born and raised along the Holloway Road. In fact, he was from Virginia.
I'll bet on some Virginia soccer blog there's a post about how a guy was trying to enjoy the Champions League Final, but some douchebag from the Wall Street Journal had a problem with how adults choose to dress themselves.
The whole thing seemed to be less an expression of genuine fandom and more like an elaborate piece of performance art.
Yes, because if there's one thing a self-respecting England fan won't abide, it's looking ridiculous in public. After I do an Internet search for pictures of England fans, I'm going to find some fish, put them in a barrel, and fire away.
Didn't we fight a war so you guys wouldn't have to take cues on how to behave from London?
Didn't we fight TWO wars because your mouths wrote some checks against Germany that your asses couldn't cash?
It should come as no surprise that the situation is particularly heinous in New York City. This is a town where artisanal toast is now a thing. So of course there's a peculiar species of fan here whose passion for soccer seems to be less about 22 men chasing a ball up and down a field and more about its intellectual and cosmopolitan qualities.
Well, there's your problem. I'm not going to tell you your job, but we need to distinguish between American soccer fans and Eurosnobs. Those kind of fans do not attend or support American soccer, and thank God for it. I don't want them at my stadium any more than you want them at your bar.
Which again speaks to the premise, viz., its crumminess. You can't conflate American soccer fans and Eurosnobs. Doing so leads to....well, you're soaking in it.
Never mind that no other sport is so linked to the working class.
Because when I want lessons on authenticity and the working class, I turn to the Wall Street Journal.
Are there no mirrors in your workplace? Because you clearly have no idea what you look like here.
For these fans, rooting for an English soccer team is a highbrow pursuit and a mark of sophistication, like going to a Wes Anderson movie or owning a New Yorker subscription.
Or eating a prawn sandwich. It's cute that we pretend that English fans are all wearing suits and trilbies and paying a shilling to watch the White Horse FA Cup final, but a cursory glance at Premiership match - sorry, game tickets shows that the working class has been priced out of their own game for about thirty years now.
It's not just English soccer that's been fetishized in this way, of course. Your soccer snobs have pilfered elements of fan culture from Spain, Italy and Latin America.
That's...a problem? Didn't you just whine about taking orders from London? I'm fine with the joke, but at least do a decent job with the clown makeup. Don't just slap it on like some meth-head juggalo.
These days, half of your national team has been imported from Germany.
Well, maybe if you hadn't done such a half-assed job against the Nazis, maybe you could have occupied Germany and had some kids learn the game, instead of having it to learn it from English coaches.
There's the curious obsession with 'tifo'—those enormous banners that are unfurled in stadiums before kickoff. They work at Lazio, Bayern Munich or Boca Juniors. At Real Salt Lake, not so much.
Who says? Why not? What do you care? And who are you talking about? All the sophistoes in Sandy drinking 3.2 wine with their pinkies extended?
Those people you were talking about? The toast snobs and the Union Jack-draped droogs? I'm going to venture a guess that they're not the biggest Real Salt Lake fans. They probably don't even support the USMNT, despite them being as American as rescuing England from Germans.
What IS the joke here? Ha ha, Americans with their songs and tifo? Let me tell you a little something about college athletics - they were singing and doing tifo stunts (not by that name, obviously) before the English discovered cooked food. (So, since last Wednesday.) That Americans shouldn't do elaborate tifo? Why on earth not? Why is it necessarily worse than German or Italian tifo - because it's not racist? If this is the joke, why is the premise that American tifo is terrible something we should accept - given dozens of examples otherwise?
Or is the joke that someone would bother to take it personally that Americans would try to have fun at a soccer game? Maybe that's it.
These soccer snobs are so intent on maintaining an aura of authenticity that when they make a slip-up or use an incorrect or ill-advised term, I feel compelled to pounce on them with all the force of a Roy Keane challenge.
Of course you do. I mean, yes. You go to a bar and correct terminology instead of watching the game. I have no trouble buying this. But who's living the performance art piece, here? The fan, or the authenticity police?
There's no such position as outside back! (It is fullback.)
This is America, pal. Fullbacks are drafted out of Stanford in the second round here.
The rest of the world doesn't call them PKs! (It is penalties. Just penalties.)
...so you're mad when we say "match," but you're also mad that we use a term that is shorter to both say and type.
Again, again, again - fine, I'm being trolled. Troll me well, that's all I ask.
Not to mention the fact that your fans happily refer to Team USA captain Clint Dempsey by the nickname "Deuce." Deuce?! This is international soccer, not "Top Gun."
Did I ever tell you the story of how I walked up to Clint Dempsey and told him he had a stupid nickname?
No, because I don't have such a story. If you have one, and it didn't end up with him melting you in a death stare, kindly share it.
Ever since a ball was first kicked into a net, it has been an inviolable law of the game that Dempsey should be shortened to Demps. Just like Michael Bradley gets cut to Bradders, John Brooks to Brooksy and Jermaine Jones to Jonesy, or perhaps JJ, at a push.
See, this is what I mean. Man sits down to troll people, which is fine. Been there. Man wants to be Jonathan Swift. Fine, who doesn't. Man wants to make a point using humor. Great.
Man wants to write about soccer, okay. Man needs to generalize in some way about the game, and needs an example. These things don't write themselves.
So he settles on the nickname thing.
Nickname rules. On the English model.
And, man also used Pele's name, complete with the accent I couldn't be bothered to add.
So...is he saying that the Brazilians are stupid for not having called him "Mento" or whatever? I don't think so, if he is he's going about it the very long way.
Is he comparing American fans to Brazilian fans, ironically but positively? Unlikely.
Does he think that was his given name, like Elvis or Madonna? Possible, but man just told a story about he corrects improper terminology.
Or is he creating an unreliable narrator, and I'm just not appreciating this bit of Nabokov in my Wall Street Journal?
See, Swift and Nabokov and Dan Brown - they let people in on the joke. It's there. This is more like Joyce.
Joyce De Witt.
Oh, really? Well, tired anti-American drivel deserves a tired, musty pop culture reference, so there.
(For the record, Mix Diskerud can still be known as Mix Diskerud.)
Who DOES this? Who makes rules about what people can call themselves? And, YET AGAIN, what is the damn joke? Foreigners and their wacky names?
The great regret about all this is that mimicking the customs of fans from everywhere else could hinder the development of your own American soccer identity.
America is all about mixing and melting and experimenting and - oh, I'm sorry, you were about to dig some more, my mistake.
One of the joys of soccer is seeing how different cultures view, interpret and celebrate the game in their own distinct ways.
Because European soccer fans are famous - nay, legendary - for their open-minded appreciation of new ideas and cultures. By the way, you dropped your banana.
I find it fascinating, for example, that while we see soccer as a broad narrative that unfolds over 90 minutes, your fans tend to think about the sport as a series of discrete events.
First of all, if I was at the bar and someone said that to me, I'd fart on them.
Second, did I ever tell you about the nation who had a goal scored against them via an uncalled handball in 1986, but promptly got over it because the broad narrative of the game was that they weren't as good as Argentina and that's the way it goes sometimes?
Or that I view the coming World Cup and England's inevitable failure with a mixture of trepidation and dread, while your fans seem positively excited about the tournament.
Maybe we like watching soccer. Instead of finding an unsuspecting bar and correcting their terminology and criticizing their clothes.
Mind you, with Team USA facing a potentially decisive matchup with Germany, there's a strong chance that your upbeat disposition won't last long.
If we're still IN the tournament leading up to the Germany game, that would be wonderful. We're actually playing Ghana and Portugal first. But you knew that, being the soccer expert and all.
That is one lesson you can take from an Englishman.
Thanks. Maybe in return we can teach you goalkeeping.