Nowhere Man please listen,
You don’t know what you’re missing,
Nowhere Man, the world is at your command!
‘Nowhere Man’ by the Beatles is supposedly an autobiographical song about John Lennon and his self-uncertainty. I think that theory may be a farce. At least that’s what I was thinking when I listened to it today as I prepared for the Gold Cup Final, featuring the U.S. Men’s National Team versus Mexico. (In case you’re unsure, I’m talking about a soccer game. Wait—don’t stop reading! Bear with me, here.)
So here’s my theory about the song. John Lennon is from England, and what do the English love more than anything? Soccer. (Or football, but let’s not get into semantics.) Anyway, I think that around the time ‘Nowhere Man’ was written, The Beatles were touring the United States. And at this time the Fab Four probably learned that Americans hate soccer. “Hey John, I think they actually hate football.” “That can’t be, Ringo; how could that be?” (Picture that last line said in John’s always comical English accent. Why? Because I said so, that’s why.)
It’s no mystery to Americans that soccer is at the bottom of the food chain in the American sports landscape. Soccer fans in this country are treated like second class citizens by fans of other more “American sports.” Over the years, there have been many theories as to why Americans generally dislike soccer so much while the rest of the world calls it THE sport, but I won’t go into those reasons now. (Well, I’ll at least a give my parenthesized opinion: Marketing, winning, and impatience.)
This disliking anomaly may never fully be solved and abdicated. And frankly speaking, it’s a shame.
Doesn’t have a point of view,
Knows not where he’s going to,
Isn’t he a bit like you and me?
Personally, I grew up eating the American rhetoric about soccer. As a kid, I was obsessed with sports. At one point or another, I either played regularly or in a league in just about every sport you can think of. But not soccer. I think the reason why was because as a kid the only reading I ever did was the Sports page of the newspaper. And the only times soccer was mentioned (and those times were scarce), the sport was treated with disdain and condescension. So, as an American kid, I said “No thanks, you foolish foreigners …USA! USA!” Like many Americans, the media formulated my opinion for me, and I did as I was told. “Yes, Big Brother, as you wish …USA! USA!” (Did I just go ‘1984’ to push my point? You betcha’. Look, I’m in a bad mood.)
By the time I was 19 and fell in love with soccer (roughly the exact same night the U.S. Men’s National Team beat Portugal in the 2002 World Cup), I felt like my life to that point had been a lie. And to a certain degree, as a diehard sports fan, it had been. I had no idea what I missing. For the next few weeks, I watched the international soccer tournament with baited breath and a perma-grin on my face. I felt like I was given a whole new and exciting version of March Madness, but with cute foreign fans and funny celebrations.
In the coming years that have passed, I have come to love the game more and more. And I love the game for all the right reasons, too. The same exact reasons, as a matter of fact, that I love basketball and football (my two favorite sports). But I’ve never been able to fully jump into soccer head first because, frankly, it requires way too much effort in America to be a proper soccer fan. I might as well join the Libertarian Party.
Tonight, as I watched the Gold Cup Final, this thought of the American ‘Nowhere Man’ kept creeping into my mind. As a huge fan of the U.S. Men’s Soccer Team, watching an immensely important game played on American soil should have produced excitement. But I was left feeling annoyed as the game started, since the stands were almost completely filled with Mexican fans. Mexico almost never loses a home game. So, sure enough, after the U.S. went up 2-0, Mexico was buoyed up by their fans to storm back and won 4-2. The Rose Bowl stands were cascaded with cheers of joy, all spoken in the Spanish language.
As my soccer-loving friend Charlie drove me home after the game (We had to find a place to watch the game on TV since our satellite services didn’t even broadcast it), we joked that next time they should have the immigration police camped outside the stadium to scare off Mexican fans. The pathetic part of the joke? After a few minutes, I decided we really should do that. As an American soccer fan, desperate thoughts like this aren’t that rare.
Somewhere in America this weekend millions of Americans are going to watch car racers go in a circle for hours at a time, talk about how great America is, and drink beer. They won’t have a clue that Mexico just punked America in America. In fact, the only mentions of Mexico that will escape their mouths are probably some misguided jokes about a people and culture they don’t understand.
But today it is my own countrymen that I don’t understand. And that’s a shame.
He’s as blind as he can be,
Just sees what he wants to see,
Nowhere Man can you see me at all?
Bryson Kearl wrote this article. He is the editor of The Van Gundy. He is also a standup comedian who changes diapers with his free time.