Mar 012010

… or Emigration vs Immigration

It is, I think, endemic to the constitution of the USA that the issue of Club vs Country/Émigré vs Immigrant can sometimes be a difficult one, as concerned with sports. Ours is fundamentally an immigrant nation even if much of the populace is several generations removed from crossing the pond (or jumping the fence). What do you do when the country of your ancestry or childhood lines up opposite the one whose passport you hold.

That more FIFA World Cup tickets were purchased by denizens of the USA than any other nation is not necessarily a strong show of support for USA Soccer. It is as much an indication of the old-world loyalties that many Americans still carry. To Italy or Spain or Greece or England. To Nigeria or Ghana or Cameroon. To Mexico or South Korea or Brasil or Argentina.

For those who don’t have an ancestral horse in a particular race, they may develop an affinity for a country whose style (or women) they like or whose players ply their trade for the person’s chosen domestic club. Fernando Torres of Spain for Scousers. Didier Drogba of Côte d’Ivoire for Chelski’s. Kaka and Ronaldinho of Brasil for Real Madrid and AC Milan, respectively.

In a similar parallel, it was a bittersweet moment for many Penguins fans when Canadian Sidney Crosby flung the puck past USA goaltender Ryan Miller in overtime of the Olympic hockey gold medal game on Sunday. “At least it was Sid,” texted a friend of mine. But still others supported the Canadians outright to the exclusion of Team USA because of Sid, Jordan Staal and Marc-André Fleury. For my part, I supported Team USA but I’m not crushed that it was our Sid who delivered the hammer stroke. (And that once again Alex Ovagkin proved he is not clutch nor as great as Sid).

Though not particularly conflicted in ice hockey, I will admit to it in national team futbol. I’ll root for the USA but the Super Eagles of Nigeria truly claim my futboling heart even though I was only six years old when the family left west Africa. I don’t really know what I would do if the twain should meet in a match.

Does this make me less of an American or must I always root for the USA in such a trivial pursuit as sports? While political dissent is not automatically a show of dis-loyalty to one’s nation, we are taught that sports loyalties are more black and white. Yet, nationality isn’t so cut and dried an issue anymore.

In a globalized age, with so much movement of peoples to and fro, there is a certain malleability to our sporting and national identities, especially given the very founding of this country as a refuge for the “the wretched refuse of your teeming shore… the homeless, tempest-tossed.” To pledge allegiance to the USA does not mean, in my mind, to discard one’s past heritage because I believe I must find an America that is true for me. It is a fluid motion and a conversation that must needs continue through time.

Still, if you’re not gonna put a boot up my arse, I’ll gladly share some gari or fufu and goat stew with you this summer. Bring your own Yuengling or Malbec if you choose.