It used to be when the Stanley Cup playoffs rolled around and teams started to get eliminated, we Candians would cheer for any Canadian team left – even a rival would be better than an American team (even one full of Canadians) winning the Cup.
So it’s tough for me to pull for the Americans, but I have my reasons (and I’m even going to try and make a vague connection to crime fiction and publishing, so that might be worth reading on to see).
My friend Adrian McKinty wrote a blog post recently where he pointed out that the USA can never be underdogs. As he said, “The most economically powerful country in the world is a lot of things but it ain’t never gonna be no underdog.”
He’s right, of course. The USA is only an underdog in soccer because they haven’t gotten around to it yet. When they do there’s no reason a soccer game between the USA and Spain won’t look like a basketball game between the USA and Spain.
Sometimes I point out to people that when you lose a soccer game to Canada you’ve lost to eleven guys who couldn’t make the hockey team. Well, if you lose a soccer game to the USA you’ve lost to eleven guys who couldn’t make the football team, the basketball team, the baseball team, couldn’t run track fast enough and probably got cut from the lacrosse team and the bowling team.
When the LA Galaxy is in town to play Toronto FC we make fun of Landon Donovan a lot – sure, he and Edson Buddle are still scoring goals for LA even without Beckham - but take a look at him, or any American soccer player, and try and picture them playing in the NFL or the NBA.
Or, imagine how much of the soccer net LeBron James could cover if he’d taken up that sport at five years old instead of basketball. I’ve been watching past World Cup highlights of goalies (er, sorry, “keepers”) make some diving saves and I think there are a few dozen wide receivers and defensive backs in the NFL who could be just as good or better (in fact, the USA have produced some top keepers, but so far that’s really only been scratching the surface).
A lot of kids play soccer in the USA, but not the way they play basketball. Kids only play soccer in the USA if they get driven to the game in a minivan. At home they have basketball nets in their driveways. They play basketball on every piece of flat ground they can find. Soccer hasn’t become a part of the culture in the US. Yet.
But if the USA goes deep into the World Cup that’ll move it a step closer.
Now you’re probably thinking, why is that a good thing?
And here’s where I make my connection to crime fiction.
Because it integrates the world a little more.
What I really mean is it integrates America into the rest of the world a little more, makes America more 'just another country' and less isolated. Right now I’d be surprised to hear anyone who reads a lot of crime fiction say, “I only read American books,” or “I only read British books,” or Swedish or whatever. No, crime fiction is international and better because of that. Reading books from other cultures helps people understand one another a little better, see things from a different perspective and maybe even think of things in a different way.
There’s a good book called (in America) How Soccer Explains the World . Of course, an American wrote a version called (in America) How Football Explains America . They both make some good points, but America isn’t so different from the rest of the world anymore (that’s something we can see from up here in Canada). Or maybe America isn’t any more different than Germany, Nigeria, New Zealand and Chile – and the rest of the World Cup teams are from each other.
So yes, as McKinty says, America is a lot of things, but it ain’t never gonna be no underdog. And that’s probably true of soccer soon enough.
And I think the world will be a little bit better when it’s fully integrated.
In the meantime, stuff like this is still really funny: