We’re still learning how to cheer for our boys.
Not to mention the sport.
While the 2014 edition of the World Cup ignited soccer fans from host country Brazil to Belgium, Americans are still taking lessons on the field and, surprisingly, on the sideline.
Places like Finn McCool’s Irish Pub, nestled in a residential Mid-City neighborhood, serve as the venue.
Locals gathered in the hundreds for Tuesday afternoon’s Round of 16 match against the Belgians, a thriller of fabulous saves, near goals and anxiety.
The crowd, clothed in patriotic red, white and blue, yelled when Belgium’s Kevin De Bruyne just missed a shot in the 75th minute. They cheered when each of Clint Dempsey’s shots for the U.S. came within reach of a first goal and, in extra time, they became still when De Bruyne scored in the 93rd minute.
Then, someone started a modified version of the signature chant of this World Cup:
“We believe that we will win. We believe that we will win. We believe that we will win. We believe that we will win.”
Other than that, they watched intently, focused. No texting, if you can believe it, as if they were at a movie theater. So fixated on the match yet close-mouthed that co-owner Pauline Patterson tried to get a couple of patrons to start a chant.
“I don’t think people know about it; they’re not educated about it,” Ally Devar, a Finn McCool’s regular and soccer fan, said about soccer cheering.
It’s a different fan experience than Ireland native Liam O’Brien is accustomed to. Back home, O’Brien said, fans cheer every aspect of the game — not just shots, goals and saves.
“You see us jumping around for 45 minutes (every half) because there is no stoppage (of play) like football, basketball, baseball,” said O’Brien, who has lived in New Orleans since 1985.
Unlike our American sports experience, international soccer is a 90-minute experience of constant cheering, regardless of the action on the field.
The average football play lasts less than five seconds. In basketball, there’s 8 usually carefree seconds to cross halfcourt — plenty of time to check your phone for no apparent reason. And let’s not get started on baseball.
Overseas, they know the game, as we know our sports, so they cheer every aspect. Here, we get excited when our team or the opposition approaches the box, and sometimes for loose balls.
The good news: We’ve got the look. Fluffy Uncle Sam top hat. Sunglasses with red, white and blue-colored lenses. American bandanas and headbands. U.S. jerseys with matching socks. Hawaii-inspired flowered necklaces and leftover Mardi Gras beads.
Painted faces? Well, not really. But one step at a time.
More good news: We’ve already mastered the consumption of traditional soccer libations. Now if only the Americans could have gotten past Belgium, which prevailed 2-1.
“It was just hard, dude,” said Corey Alonzo of LaPlace. “We didn’t give up. We tried.”
Alonzo has a plan for the future.
“If our kids grew up playing soccer their whole life, just like every other country, we’d have LeBron James (of the NBA’s Miami Heat) playing goalie, Calvin Johnson (of the NFL’s Detroit Lions) playing forward.”
Keep dreaming, Corey.
Well, there’s always 2018.