19 August 2005

Sam's Army

I've followed the US Men since the '94 World Cup — in other words, since I've been watching soccer. But my fandom has built slowly over the years, and it's only in the past year that I've attended any games in person. I guess I'm slowly building the commitment that leads one to drive several hours, or fly 2000 miles, to see the games.

I do have an example to follow: Sam's Army. The US supporters club brings dedication, energy, and excitement to the games, and they do credit to the team. I've been in the Sam's Army section once, for the US-Costa Rica game in Salt Lake City, and I'll try to be there for every game I can attend going forward. It's the right way to watch the game: on your feet, loud, involved, and united. Politely applauding is fine for some, but I was weaned on college football and basketball, and the Sam's Army Way is the kind of atmosphere I thrive on.

They are doing things right. But there are a couple things I would change, if I were king:

We need better songs and chants. Some are quite good, but I tire of the extensive variety of "U-S-A" chants. They're good at times, but frankly they're overused, and I'd like to see more songs with melodies.

I l-o-v-e LOVE the giant US flag that is brought out for goals and kickoffs. It's stunning, and really makes the point that this is a united group of supporters, behind the team. I do not, however, like the individual flags that are commonly brought and worn as capes. I was always taught to show more respect to the flag than that. I'm behind the sentiment, and I know those with the flags do so with only the best intentions. I just don't like to see it treated so casually.

I applaud the drummers and the work they do. It really adds to the atmosphere. But from SLC — the only time I was close enough to hear them — I have to say I hoped for better skills. It sounded like several folks were having trouble finding the beat, and the cadences weren't all that interesting. CONCACAF is tough for this; many of the teams have great percussion traditions behind them, and their fans really know how to bring it. Perhaps more organization is too much to hope for... but I can dream, anyway.

My biggest complaint, however, isn't about Sam's Army but the rest of the US fans. People, listen to me: you've got to stop bringing those stupid plastic horns. They sound inane, they're not making the right kind of noise, and if you're blowing the darn thing, you're not paying enough attention. I know they're probably mostly used by kids, and I'm sure they enjoy them. So... join the band. But just say No to the plastic. (From what I've seen, Sams' Army frowns on the horns too.)

I know I sound negative, so let me reiterate: I love Sams' Army, and I'm sure I'll be a paid member before the US - Mexico game. (Only wish I could have got tickets for that section before they sold out.) I just want to help us get better, is all.

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