Brian Blickenstaff at deadspin reflects on the differences how Americans and Germans express their nationalism at the world cup.
Years ago, at the beginning of Cherundolo’s professional career, a young German writer named Gunnar Berndt asked Cherundolo to describe the differences between the two countries. Cherundolo said, “The US is a hero culture.” He isn’t the first to make such an observation, but it’s pretty astute, especially in the context of soccer. In the absence of a of WWII veterans’ parade, there’s no better way to observe America’s hero culture than by turning on the tube and watching 11 of them run around in Brazil.
There’s a problem though: heroes are often impervious to criticism. It’s one of their powers. Rather than look into what went wrong, the immediate aftermath of the USA-Belgium game featured a lot of praise of the US players, who never gave up and fought hard. (Did other countries give up? I can’t think of any.) They did play hard, and they didn’t give up, but the longer we sit around and praise their “American spirit,” the harder it becomes to engage in constructive criticism and really grow. And not to belabor the point, but our view of World War II suffers from the same problem. We talk a great deal about the Greatest Generation, the important things they accomplished, and their sacrifice, but we rarely see past the heroes. We rarely wonder about the more morally murky parts of that war—the fire bombings of Tokyo and Dresden and the use of nuclear weapons against Hiroshima and Nagasaki, to name a few