Yesterday I watched the U.S. team nobly crash out of the World Cup in a bar filled with USMNT fans, and I realized that something was not quite right. I've long been the pretentious jerk who folds his arms in the corner and goes on about growing up in England, but most of the time it's just for laughs. But as I took in everyone watching the game (a tense 0-0 affair after 90 minutes that saw three goals in extra time and a slew of U.S. chances to equalize in the final seconds), I realized what was bothering me.
#1: Stop Cheering Saves
Tim Howard gave a magnificent performance in goal yesterday, making a World Cup-record 16 saves and drawing a lot of press from the national media, who maybe were unaware that the U.S. has had one of the best goalies in the world playing on its team for many years now.
But every time Howard made a save, the crowd I watched with would…cheer. Which seems totally logical? The goalie did what you wanted him to do, he did it spectacularly, it's worth cheering! But it really rankled me. You're not supposed to cheer if your goalie pulls off a save, you're supposed to breathe a sigh of release through a twisted grimace. If a goalie is making a save, that more often than not means your defense has failed—that was especially true in the U.S.A.-Belgium game, where so many of Howard's incredible saves came after Belgian attackers slipped through the defense and challenged him one-on-one. You should only erupt into cheers for goals.
#2: Stop Saying "I Believe That We Will Win"
So apparently this chant was cooked up at the Naval Academy back in 1998 and has gone viral. It makes sense that it has military origins, because there's a hypnotic rhythm to the words, as there is for any good chant. But…you believe that you will win? That is not an inspiring thought. If you'd gone to Belgium before the game and asked even a casual onlooker what they made of their team's chances, they would have told you they were going to win. Not that they believed it, either because of a higher power or just sheer force of will. They knew it. "I believe that you can win!" is just a step away from "I believe in you!" which is something your grandma says to you. Cut it out.
#3: Sometimes Players Fall Down; It's Not the End of the World
This is not a problem unique to American fans, I will admit. But it was very prevalent at the game I just watched. Football is a contact sport—sometimes a player will tackle another player, and one or both of them will fall down. Sometimes one player will stay down for a second, maybe to milk things or just to catch their breath. It doesn't always mean that a foul was committed and play should be stopped. There's no need to yell about the officiating unless there's a replay showing something horrible that a referee missed. Otherwise, play is continuing, and it's better to focus on that.
#4: Offside Isn't a Stupid Rule. Stop Saying That.
Plenty of U.S. soccer fans have figured this out already. But I don't know how many arguments I've gotten into, on Twitter and in real life, with people who think offside is a boring rule that slows the game down and ruins everybody's fun. Without the offside rule, it'd be a lot of booting the ball down the pitch to try and get it to goal-hanging strikers. It exists for a reason.
Postscript: It's Not All Bad
I watched all 120 minutes of that often-brutal game with a packed house; even after Belgium scored two goals, and things got quieter, nobody exited the bar out of frustration. After the second goal, when all really did seem lost, everything got quiet and then everyone started clapping and cheering in support of their boys. It was a stirring moment, and exactly what can make football such a religious experience. Everyone's obviously on the right track — just a couple more World Cups, and I'm sure you'll have it down.