Like Rabih Alameddine, I worried that there might not be enough properly dislikable teams at this World Cup. Especially since León Krauze has already done a fine job reminding us that there are good reasons to root against the host side in this year's jamboree.
So thank you, Tim Fernholz, for inadvertently making a fine and persuasive case for hoping that the good old United States of America enjoy—or rather, endure—a miserable tournament.
Honestly, is there a prissier shower of whining jackanapes in world football than the oh-so-wearisomely precious types who attach themselves to Team USA's fortunes? No, there is not. Mr. Fernholz complains, you see, that no one is writing poems saluting the majesty of Tim Howard or the "mercurial" qualities of Jozy Altidore. Why, even Michael Bradley don't get the respect he deserves.
This is punditry from Lake Wobegone where everyone is better than average and all must have prizes. No one writes much about the Americans for the same reason few people are minded to write hymns praising Swiss football. Average is kinda dull.
Doubtless, this is unfair on the American players. It's not their fault their supporters are so needy. Sometimes I think many American soccer fans want to have it both ways. They demand to be taken seriously but they also want the comfort that comes from being the under-dog. There's a bizarre—and unflattering—combination of entitlement and paranoia.
They want to be respected even as they whine that the system is rigged against them. A referee's mistake? Obvious anti-American bias! A tougher draw than some teams have received? More anti-Americanism! FIFA, you see, are scared of what might happen if the Yanks ever get too successful. So they won't let it happen. Because, obviously. FIFA no like the money.
Never mind that the USA, like Mexico, hardly ever needs to properly earn a place at the tournament. Tim Fernholz salutes a "gorgeous" goal Bradley orchestrated against Panama. The rest of us titter and say, "Yeah, Panama." A semi-competent USA team is gifted a place in the finals that's the envy of fans from other, more competitive, continents. Since the Americans receive a functional bye into the tournament, forgive me for thinking you don't get to complain about the draw. While we're at it, you're flattered by the rankings too: If you think the USA are the world's 13th best team, then you'll believe anything. Even, as many of you do, that the Americans might win the tournament. Hubris is so attractive, isn't it?
There are times, you see, when (some) American supporters remind me of Sally Field accepting an Oscar. There's the same desperate need for attention, the same craving for affirmation. Except we don't really like you, we don't really need you, and we don't actually even think about you very often. But at least Sally Field won an Oscar. Come back to us when Team USA has actually won something. Until then, the Americans are what they have always been: functional, organized, energetic, and dull.
But let's try and be fair here. So let's admit that the players don't deserve to be hated. They're not good enough for that and we may safely wish them well. It's the supporters who really merit your disdain.