You don't have to be a diehard fan to enjoy the World Cup

Mark Hammontree

Does this mean that I’m going to start recording Premier League games or pledge my devotion to an MLS team? Probably not. Maybe when Atlanta gets their team in a couple years. I’ll probably still continue to be a pretty casual fan, watching professional league games when I happen to stumble across them, tuning into marquee cross-league match-ups, but mainly just watching when the national team plays. And that’s OK. You don’t have be a diehard fan to still be a fan, and sometimes it’s OK to just jump on the bandwagon and enjoy the ride.

There are plenty of long-time soccer fans, the kind that might even insist on calling it “football,” that may be chafing at all the newcomers like me who are yelling with them at the TV in the bar before asking clarification about the rules of legal challenging. There are probably those American soccer fans who look down on their still-naïve peers like lifelong Celtics fans look down on recent Miami Heat supporters or old Auburn alums look down at the fans who don’t share their degree.

I’ve never understood that compulsion of exclusion among fan bases. Why on earth should it matter whether someone is as devoted to your team or sport as you are? Why do I need to understand the relegation process of the Premier League to be able to properly cheer for the U.S. Men’s National Team when they score a goal in the World Cup? Let’s not forget that at some point none of us knew anything about any of the sports or teams we pull for. You’ve got to start somewhere.

This World Cup has had the highest viewership among Americans than ever before, and it is almost a certainty that most of those new fans have never watched a full MLS game. But they’re invested here and now, caught up in the patriotic rush of watching our guys take the field against old and established powers. Sure, a large chunk of that fan base will disappear after the USMNT ends their unlikely run. But ask them if they’d rather have had only a small group of longtime supporters instead.

We have a different kind of football as our religion here, and it will certainly not be supplanted by soccer. But there’s plenty of room for soccer too, and you can expect to see the ratings continue to rise for matches. So don’t mess it up by acting arrogant when it comes to a new fan who keeps saying “I just don’t understand why they keep passing it backwards.” Give them time. They may still be confused, but at least they’re watching, and they’re excited.

Oh, and stop calling it football if you’re an American in the U.S. We’ve already got our own football. And it will always be better. Roll Tide.

Mark Hammontree is a junior majoring in secondary education.