Cumberland Times-News

August 11, 2012

What would they prefer? An apology?

Jim Goldsworthy, Columnist
Cumberland Times-News

— Now and then — especially during the Olympics — we can be assured that someone will express dismay at the fact that American fans raise the chant of “U-S-A! U-S-A!”

Usually, it is an American who does this.

It’s not like people from elsewhere don’t cheer for their athletes and their countries’ victories. Who among us — particularly those like me who have relatives in Australia — could object to “Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! Oi! Oi! Oi!”? (It’s pronounced “Ozzie!” by the way.)

Also, the intensity of American sports fandom comes nowhere near the horror of soccer hooliganism that in some European countries almost rivals the rioting experienced in Chicago at the 1968 Democratic National Convention.

I’ve read some of the explanations for this anti-“U-S-A! U-S-A!” business and still haven’t figured it out. But then, there are folks who hate “The Wave,” and I also have no explanation for that.

Maybe they don’t like “U-S-A! U-S-A!” because we hear it when an American has won something. There are people in this country who seem not to want America or its people to prevail — something else I find hard to explain.

Seriously, what do these people want? Would they like the Americans to chant, “Sorry we won! Sorry we won!”? It’s not like they’re yelling, “Uruguay stinks! Uruguay stinks!” — which would be offensive — or something like that.

As near as I can figure, they don’t want someone else’s feelings to be hurt. Well, guess what: The other guys lost. Their feelings already have taken a beating. Sorry for their luck.

I would like to see these apologists come to Cumberland on Homecoming Day and stand outside Greenway Avenue Stadium to ask Allegany and Fort Hill football fans not to engage in cheers that might ruffle the feathers of whose who are sitting on the other side of the field.

That is something I would pay to watch, particularly since I went to Keyser High, which loses to Fort Hill and Allegany more often than not, and I could cheer for both sides.

To be against “U-S-A! U-S-A!” is about like being against “How ’bout them ’Eers!” or “Fear the Turtle!”

Head Coach Rich Rodriguez abandoned West Virginia University’s football team at the most unforgiveable time — right before it was to play in the 2008 Fiesta Bowl — and defected to the University of Michigan, where he promptly began sending the Wolverines’ program into the tank.

A year or so later, Capt. Gary and I were at Little Round Top when some tourists wearing Ohio State sweatshirts walked by.

I called out, “Go Buckeyes!”

One of them asked if I was from Ohio.

“No,” I replied. “West Virginia.”

He and his buddies howled.

(Speaking of which, breathes there a Mountaineer fan with soul so dead, who never to himself has said, “Beat the hell out of Pitt!”?)

I hope we haven’t degenerated to the point where it is not politically correct to be successful or to celebrate one’s success. So what. To hell with politically correct.

The impression one gets from certain types is that those are who successful should be ashamed, particularly if it has enabled them to achieve a measure of affluence.

Tell you what: If you don’t expect me to apologize for being successful, I won’t expect you to apologize for being a failure. Those who mock excellence, but are content to embrace mediocrity, probably do so for a reason. (As Dirty Harry might say, they know their limitations.)

Consider, too, that folks who might otherwise fail often become wildly successful when they are given the opportunity, incentive and inspiration to do so, and someone who knows how to be successful shows them the way it’s done.

The day we lose the desire to succeed — the will to win — will be the day we have become second-rate. Neither I, nor a lot of other Americans, will stand for that.

There is no such thing as a “Second-Place Winner,” and you can stick your “Participation Trophy” in a place where the sun don’t shine.

And it’s like Catfish Hunter said: “The sun don’t shine on the same dog’s (beast of burden) all the time.”

The Brooklyn Dodgers lost in the World Series to the hated New York Yankees five straight times. When the Bums finally beat the Yankees in the 1955 series, the outpouring of joy was something to behold. (Just as it was when the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Yankees in 1960.)

My father lived long enough for both of us to actually see West Virginia beat Penn State in football not just once, but twice.

It is just a damn shame that Maryland’s fans haven’t had that pleasure, because after Penn State absconded to the Big 10 and quit playing them, the Terps fielded teams that could have done it. (Maybe someday in a bowl game?)

When the American men’s hockey team beat the Russians in the 1980 Olympics, no one really cared that it still had to play another game to win the Gold Medal.

And even those of us who didn’t care give a hoot about soccer went bananas when the U.S. women’s team won the World Cup in 1999. (“But bananas is good,” as Guy Fieri says.)

At times, we Americans also are capable of displaying a form of sportsmanship that sets everything else aside.

When the University of Connecticut played West Virginia at Morgantown less than a week after one of the Huskies’ star football players was murdered, the Mountaineer fans gave UConn’s team an extended standing ovation as it took the field.

A banner signed by WVU fans that read “Today we are all Huskies” was put up in the UConn tunnel entrance to Mountaineer field.

Other signs displayed by the crowd said things like, “In memory of Jasper Howard, 1989-2009,” and players from both teams wore stickers that bore Howard’s jersey number 6.

I will now admit to this:

During the 2001 World Series, less than two months after the terrorist attack that destroyed the World Trade Center and killed 343 firefighters, 72 police officers and nearly 3,000 civilians, I did something I’d never done before and probably never will do again:

I rooted for the New York Yankees.

And ... I still get chills each time a band plays “The Star-Spangled Banner” or I hear Kate Smith’s rendition of “God Bless America.” So do a lot of my friends.