The headquarters bar of the American Outlaws Seattle chapter is a place called the Atlantic Crossing, a vaguely Anglo bar in a calmer district of town. For the pivotal US game against Algeria, the last game of the group stages of the World Cup, a game the US had to win to make it through to the knockout rounds, ESPN decided to set up a crew there for their reaction shots. They’d done this for the other games so far, and it was a declared honor that they’d picked us for this crucial game.
I was there, too. Up at five, in the bar by ten after six, wedged into a spot where I could see the TVs hung on the wall, and I’m not going to lie about this, well in the view of the cameras. I’m not immune to their draw.
The thing is, it’s not all about seeing yourself. Sure, there’s that element of vanity, of wanting the world (or just your parents) to see you on the screen. But the important thing, the premier desire for me and all of us, was that we gave a good impression of Seattle and our community. This was a chance to show off what we do here. Part of it was competitive- the chance to show that we not only stood up to, but were better than, what was already seen. (That what was already seen was New York and Chicago made it particularly important – those are major metropolises, but we feel like we’re as good as they are, better even, and we want to prove it.)
But one-upping Chicago was only a portion. It meant more to show the country and the world that we care. That despite the reams of articles about how Americans feel about soccer, there was as much passion and excitement here, in this bar, in this city, as anywhere in the world. We had to be proof.
For soccer in America, there is no unmediated experience. This is probably true of everywhere, but it’s particularly true here. While an increasing portion of us do go see games “live”, more of us watch games beamed over here on TV, and our historical experience is more likely to be through the screen than not. Even for those of us who go to MLS games, we take an influence from what we see in various forms of mediated interactions – games, pictures, message boards. And for the most part, the conduit is towards us. We’re presented with how things are done. It’s exciting to have it be the other way.
So we were maybe a little louder, a little brasher, even more excited and energetic than normal. There was an awareness of the cameras, of having the biggest sports media validation in the country looking to present an experience, and the pressure to be the best we’ve ever been. It was us, but also not us. It was more than us. It was us as shown in the shots of Brazilians partying on the streets with feather plumes and the Dutch in orange mohawk wigs. Us as the flow of images, the constant discussion.