What do the Dutch think of the U.S. national team?
By Jeff Maurer
I had this conversation with Stanley, the bartender at the Comedy Cafe Amsterdam, where I was working this weekend:
Stanley: Where are you from in the States?
Me: Virginia. It's on the East coast, kind of in the middle.
Stanley: Yes, I know, next to Maryland and West Virginia. I always thought it was funny that there was one state called Virginia and another called West Virginia.
Me: Yeah, well, the reason for that is...
Stanley: I know: West Virginia seceded from Virginia during the Civil War, back in the 19th century.
Holy hash pipes, Stanley! What percentage of Virginians do you think know that? Maybe half? I was about to roll out that story out as if it was some little-known historical fact, like that Kennedy had a secretary named Lincoln and Lincoln had a secretary named Kennedy. But that's the thing about the Dutch: they know everything about the rest of the world, including the U.S. Here's another conversation that I had with about twenty different Dutch people this week:
Me: Excuse me, do you speak English? (they all do, but I figure it's still polite to ask) Random Dutch Person: Only a little. Regrettably, my inability to master the idiosyncrasies of your language are a source of great personal embarrassment. But I digress...you were about inquire about something? Me: Where near here can I eat good?
Encounters like this make you wonder why Goldmember was the first spy movie made about the Dutch. I mean...they know everything about us. They know our culture, they know our politics. It's eerie. And it's not just us, either: they all speak English, German, and usually one other language in addition to their native Dutch, which to the untrained ear sounds like the Muppets' Sweedish Chef coughing up a hairball. They have their own culture and history, but are interested in yours...perhaps a little too interested. Maybe I'm a cynic, but whenever people are that friendly and polite to me, I squint my eyes and think: "What's your game?"
Their game, of course, is voetbal. And my God...they know everything about it. The person I'll use to speak for an entire country this week is Marco Rodrigues Fereira (Portuguese name, but a Dutch guy), one of the comics I worked with this weekend. All I had to do was mention that I blog about the U.S. National Team, and he provided me with insights and opinions that most SportsCenter anchors would need three hours on Wikipedia to come up with. On the U.S. team as a whole: "They have some good players. They're getting better, though they're still a work in progress. They play passionate, they play as a team. In Europe, the players play for themselves, but the U.S. plays as a team." On specific U.S. players: "Michael Bradley was great at Hereenveen, and now he's doing well in Germany. He's a good player; he deserves to play even though he's the coach's son."..."Landon Donovan is a good player. England seems to fit him better than Germany."..."John O'Brien was one of my favorite players when he was at Ajax. He always played hard." On the future of the US team: "They need to develop the youth system, but I know that they're doing that. I know that soccer is a popular sport for kids in America. With so many people, all they need to do is find that one player -- that one Maradona -- to take their team to the next level."
This is pretty much the way things go in the Netherlands. The guy driving the streetcar has an opinion about Damarcus Beasley. The woman serving your pancakes thinks we should switch to a 4-3-3. The guy at the "coffee shop" can't remember what part of his body his shoes go on, but he remembers Alexi Lalas. It makes you understand why the Dutch make such great coaches: they're passionate about soccer, and their interest -- as with all things -- goes beyond their borders.
I ended my conversation with Marco by asking which he thought would come first: mankind is conquered by robots of our own design, or the U.S. wins the World Cup? Marco thought the U.S. would compete for a title within 10-20 years, which puts a World Cup trophy in our carbon-based hands well before the cyber apocalypse. It also made my follow-up question -- which happens first: a US World Cup trophy, or the Netherlands bans bicycles? -- unnecessary, since bicycles play a bigger role in Dutch culture than corn syrup plays in ours. I asked similar stupid questions in France and Germany, and based on the responses I received, I predict that these events will happen in the following order:
1. Time travel is invented 2. U.S. wins the World Cup 3. Man walks on Mars 4. Mankind defeated by robots 5. French retirement age is raised 6. Netherlands bans bicycles 7. Budweiser becomes the most popular beer in Germany
So, hang in there U.S. fans...as soon as time travel is invented, we're going to win the World Cup (though possibly because we will be able to recruit better American players from the future)! And if that doesn't make you feel good, then maybe this will: based on my completely unscientific research, the French, Germans, and Dutch seem to have objective and generally positive opinions of the U.S. team. They're aware we exist, and they think we're not bad: in particular, they like the hustle and never-say-die attitude that we showed in the last World Cup. They rank us about where I would rank us: in the tier of teams below the likes of Spain, Argentina, and Italy. I also didn't detect any cultural bias to their opinions: they seem to be giving us a fair shake. And all generally agreed that if we continue the course we're on, we'll be World Cup contenders sooner or later. All we need is youth development, continued growth of MLS, a DeLorean, a flux capacitor and 1.21 gigawatts of plutonium.
Box Seats blogger
| October 26, 2010; 9:54 AM ET
Categories: Jeff Maurer, United | Tags: Jeff Maurer, U.S. National soccer team, United
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