I’m a nerd. Also, I kind of like soccer.
I don’t want to offer up too much nerd cred (Seen every episode of every series of “Star Trek,” read “Ulysses” no shit really, installed patches on my Ubuntu box, have legit used a HAM radio) because it’s pretty slim. I have no soccer cred — don’t know a Man U from an Arsenal. I just watch the parts of the World Cup that mildly interest me every 4 years.
But, dude, I like sports. I didn’t use to ever like team sports; the closest I ever got to being a jock was a crazy obsession with cycling in the ’80s thanks to, duh, how fun cycling is, and “Breaking Away.” Apart from Super Bowl parties, I never watched football until my son played. When you’re a mama watching over your baby, suddenly everything that leads up to those thuds and hits become crystal clear. Football stopped looking stupid and started looking pretty.
Also, I moved. I moved away from an unbelievably crappy NFL team to an exciting, up-and-coming team. Helpful! But even if I had moved to Cleveland, I would have ventured into bars on Sunday afternoons. American football is conversational currency. It’s regionalism, math, competitiveness and graphic design all in one big tasty pile of nachos — and it’s a way to make friends. Definitely this is the nicest way Americans know how to be on a team. I have no interest in having a conversation about Rush vs. Rachel or Fox vs. MSNBC. There are so many issues about which people are passionate that I flat-out won’t discuss. Once I know I don’t agree with a person about marriage equality, funding NASA, serial commas, the implementation of the 1st, 2nd or 4th amendments, banjos or driving, I clam up. There goes the neighbor relationship.
But we can talk about sports.
I’m not a knowledgeable sports fan. I listen, I learn, and I try. But my Seahawks fandom is really just an excuse to make chili on Sundays and wear pretty colors. The more I watch, the more I appreciate things like Percy Harvin’s run in the 2013 Super Bowl. Still, American football is just another thing I enjoy and am conversant in but don’t love as much as a good book.
Soccer is a whole ‘nother thing. Football for the rest of the world brings people together like Esperanto and art and kissing and good food want to but never can. Football for the rest of the world is nationalism light. Football stars, football language and football moves are a thing everybody gets but middle class white U.S. Americans. I have, as a regular old white American girl at an international school, watched people bridge cultural gaps in P.E. class. This is not bullshit, people. The time seems weird to you? The play is unfamiliar? Whatever, dude. So is absolutely everything about the United States, seen from the outside.
Anybody who knows me knows I don’t give half a poo for what we call soccer. I haven’t ever been to a Sounders game, even though I can walk to ’em. But I will root for Oranje because the Netherlands still feels like home, and rooting for that team makes me feel connected to the community of people I met there. Plus, I root for Oranje because of cheesy side-picking nationalism/regionalism/us-vs.-them silliness — same reason I still root for the Redskins in U.S. football, a sport that makes only marginally more sense to me.
There are as many kinds of fans as there are fans. We all come to love our teams for different reasons. USA, be kind. Your ESPN apps and Facebook feeds are full of fair-weather soccer (football) fans. You’ll live through it. Maybe you’ll gain an understanding of how the rest of us feel during basketball season. (Which, near as I can tell, is forever.) When those of us who like ugly T-shirts and facepaint and screaming foreign words every 4 years and only every 4 years start showing our butts, cut us some slack.
We are on the same team.