If there is one thing that infuriates me more than that silly ass chant, it’s the questioning of how “American” this US Men’s National Team is makes my blood boil.
Let me just put all of my cards on the table. I’m a son of an Army serviceman. My father is Puerto Rican. My mother is African-American. Every man on both sides of the family tree have served in the military…except me. I am the first man in my family to go to college. but as far as the men in my family are concerned, they all refer to me as ‘civilian’.
My black grandparents, one from Brooklyn and one from Delaware, were a family who’s life was dictated by the Army. For 27 years, my grandfather served in almost every capacity possible. From fighting on the line in World War II, to training and leading units as a Sergeant in the 50’s and 60’s, Uncle Sam made sure my family got plenty of stamps on the passport. However, one place the grandparents talked about constantly were the years they spent serving in Germany. I can remember seeing all of their fancy plates, glasses and artwork they got in places like Heidelberg, Wurzburg and Munich while being stationed there. They absolutely LOVED Germany, as many Germans were eager to remove themselves from the Third Reich and rebuild their infrastructure, they were also learning western culture from America’s servicemen and women. They talked about how friendly people were there, how good the food was, and how much they actually considered living there permanently.
As a kid, they might as well been Charlie Brown’s mom speaking that nonsensical jibber-jabber that no one could understand. It was totally over my head, and I couldn’t fathom living in the place where Detlef Schrempf was from. (I was about 10 years old when these stories stood out, and Detlef was the only popular German person I knew so leave me be) My grandfather told me that he felt like it was his duty to make sure his kids understood what life was like outside of the United States, and that they’d be better for it in the long run. My aunt was in Germany for so long that she had to learn english when they finally moved back to the United States. There was definitely an adjustment period.
But no one questioned if they were “American”, in fact, in my mom’s words…it made them all cooler because of it.
However, when we talk about being “American” in the sporting world, it seems that everyone has their own definition of what an “American” actually is. To be clear, we’re talking about 7 dual-national players in particular. The five German Americans: Jermaine Jones, Fabian Johnson, Timmy Chandler, John Brooks and Julian Green. (Four of which are the sons of U.S. servicemen. All were raised in Germany, and English is their second language.) The other two are Mix Diskerud (born to an American mother but grew up in Norway) and Aron Johannsson (born while his parents were studying in Alabama and raised in Iceland).
Here’s former USMNT head coach Bruce Arena’s opinion on the matter:
“Players on the national team should be — and this is my own feeling — they should be Americans,” Arena told ESPN the Magazine’s Doug McIntyre. “If they’re all born in other countries, I don’t think we can say we are making progress.”
Here’s US Soccer President Sunil Gulati’s response to Arena:
“I understand the point. I don’t agree with the point,” Gulati said. “What would one do? Say to the coach, you can only pick players who have been here for 25 years and have certain roots? Well, I’d be talking to a coach who has roots somewhere else if I made that sort of statement. My very strong comment about it is four of the five (German-American) players we’re talking about here are American citizens by nature of having an American serviceman father. If Bruce Arena or anyone else wants to tell me they have less of a right to play for the United States, we strongly disagree.”
I get it when people say they struggle with their patriotism when it comes to their rooting interests in sports. “OH, WE’RE NOT AMERICAN ANY OTHER TIME, BUT WE WANT TO BE ALL U-S-A WHEN IT COMES TO THE OLYMPICS AND THE WORLD CUP? BULLSHIT!” To that, I do agree. We don’t go that hard for AMERICA when LeBron and KD are trouncing Angola by 80 points or when Allyson Felix and Sanya Richards-Ross complete gorgeous baton passes in the Olympics, but that’s different, right? We’re underdogs, so AMERICA EFF YEAH, right?
No, this isn’t about faux patriotism at all. This is about how you want your AMERICA served to you.
When I watch Jermaine Jones on the field, he reminds me a few homeboys I grew up with back in Oklahoma. With those braids, a tendency to randomly be yelling at people and always having that look in his eye that says either I’LL KILL YOU or DEAR GOD WHAT AM I DOING? I don’t know Jermaine Jones, but I know Jermaine Jones. Is his English the greatest? Nope, but my ability to speak Spanish is way worse than his English speaking ability. Does that make me any less Puerto Rican? I don’t think so.
There’s nothing more American than exploitation of the system. When the United States were looking to dominate in basketball, they never worried about the dual-nationalism of big men like Patrick Ewing (Jamaica, 1992 Olympics), Hakeem Olajuwon (Nigeria, 1996 Olympics) and Tim Duncan (Virgin Islands, 2004 Olympics). Exploiting the system is the most American thing ever. From their relationships to their taxes, anything folks can do to get ahead is truly the American way. What Jurgen Klinsmann’s doing by bringing on 7 different dual-nationals to play for America in the World Cup isn’t even exploiting a system, it’s just a smart man taking advantage of the system in front of him.
The best part about being American is having the ability to make choices. The seven players in question had that choice and they decided to put on for the Stars and Stripes. It was the best choice for them. I don’t know what’s more American than that.