The Americans have more than held their own this World Cup. And I'm not talking about just the team.
A record number of U.S. fans -- more than 25 million -- tuned in for the U.S. team's commendable draw against a heavily favored Portugal on Sunday, and that's not counting the ones who watched at bars or in public places. Clint Dempsey and Co. are doing a fine job of getting sports fans excited about an event other than the World Series or the Super Bowl.
And with the United States having a real chance of making it out of the toughest group in the competition against Germany on Thursday, the fans have good reason to be excited. For once, the U.S. team cannot be brushed aside or dismissed as in the past. And neither can its fans.
But as Slate writer Jesse Hyde, a Salt Lake City journalist, discovered on the eve of the Portugal game in Manaus, northern Brazil, other countries are not very inclined to welcome U.S. fans into the fold of football supporters.
"The city, it seemed, had been taken over by Americans," he wrote. "And that, more than anything else, is why the Brazilians quietly hoped we'd lose."
The mild annoyance that Americans usually encounter from the fans of other countries when they use terms like "cleats" instead of "studs" and "field" instead of "pitch" has diminished this time around, but has given way to something else.
"Soon, Brazilians in our section were chanting for their team, even though they weren't on the field, with something that was morphing into outright hostility, as if to say: This is our game," Hyde wrote, describing the defiance American fans faced at the U.S.-Ghana game on June 16. "Suddenly, we were a threat on the field, and in the stands at least, we were a bully."
And when they aren't being called bullies, U.S. supporters who try to adopt the vernacular and habits of their European counterparts are seen as pretentious, an attitude exemplified in English sportswriter Jonathan Clegg's column in The Wall Street Journal titled "The Problem With American Soccer Fans."
Before going on a tirade against American soccer obsessives, whom he maligned for trying to ape the behavior of European fans in what he wrote feels like "an elaborate affectation," he added a disclaimer: "Understand that I'm not talking about the vast majority of you, who still regard soccer as a distinctly European product of dubious worth. . . . I don't begrudge fans here who have only recently awakened to the charms of what the rest of the world has long known as the beautiful game."
So American soccer fans are welcome to get involved in the World Cup, as long as they understand that they're not on the same level as countries that worship the sport?
Instead of treating what is a supposedly global event like an exclusive club with stringent rules and guidelines, the world should cut Americans some slack and let them enjoy the game however they want to.
Rishi Iyengar is a Newsday Opinion intern. He moved to the United States from India a year ago, and was warned by his friends not to start calling the game "soccer."