Over the last week, everyone from the New Republic, to Reason Magazine to the various inept corners of the right wing blabbospehere (neocons, libertarians, and wingnuts OH MY!) has taken a whack at my little blog post in the Nation After Donovan's Goal: Joy or Jingoism? The article seemed innocent enough. I wrote about my drunken joy over seeing the miraculous US win over Algeria, but regretted the ugly openly racist jingoism I heard in the immediate aftermath on DC Sports Radio. My lament seemed innocent enough. But to hear the response from this fraternity of my pasty-thighed social betters, you would have thought I had defiled Ronald Reagan's grave or said, "Jeepers. Maybe Israel isn't always prudent in how it handles the Gaza Strip." The only arrow that actually cut was Reason's reference to me as "an indefatigable sports grump". That stung because when it comes to this World Cup, as my pulse will attest, if there is one thing I am not is grumpy.
In the aftermath of the US's 2-1 loss to Ghana, a nation the size of Oregon, no fan in the US should be grumpy as well. Yes, it was a bitter, tough defeat. Yes, Landon Donovan spoke for many when he said to ESPN afterward, “It sucks man…. Soccer is a cruel game.” Yes, the US seemed overmatched in the first half, and as coach Bob Bradley said, "fell behind one too many times." But it's not a day to cry in our beer. It's a day to appreciate the electric excitement of Ghana's victory and look back fondly the terrific run by the US team. We should remember the rugged grace of Ghana’s goaltender Richard Kingston who made save after save. We should also appreciate the play of US keeper Tim Howard who fought his way all the way up the field into the Ghanaian goal box and almost scored on Kingston himself in extra time. We should be satisfied that, despite the best efforts of Glenn Beck's lunatic, nativist, anti-soccer rants, the sport has taken a major step forward in the USA, with the ratings to prove it.
We should also take a step back and appreciate just exactly how much Ghana’s win means to the continent of Africa and the development of African soccer. Africa's teams underperformed dramatically... except for the Black Stars of the country known as the avatar for Africa's independence. The advancement of an African team at "Africa's World Cup," means a continent celebrating as one. We would also be naïve not to realize that one of the reasons for the unbridled joy is that it was the United States they vanquished. It’s no secret that far more people from the US will be watching World Cup matches in South Africa than non-South African Africans. It’s no secret that there is resentment over the way US multi-nationals like Coca Cola and McDonalds have taken over the country, pushing street vendors to the margins of the cities. It’s no secret that the record television rights go entirely to FIFA, while the costs of stadiums and infrastructure are on South Africa’s bill. Off the field, the game is rigged and the West will win no matter the final score. On the field, revenge is sweet. Let the vuvuzelas blow.