“Who says Americans aren’t soccer fans?” Variations on this question appeared in blog posts, twitter feeds, and news articles following Landon Donovan’s game-winning stoppage time goal against Algeria, most linking to this video. The American coverage of the 2010 World Cup seemed persistently aware of the narratives that had plagued American soccer in the past: that Americans didn’t watch and didn’t care about soccer, that there was little hope of American victory, and that soccer was a boring sport with little spectacle and little appeal to the American viewer. But the goal by Donovan defied most of those narratives, however briefly, and newsfeeds, cameras, and webcams across the country and world captured the reaction of American viewers. American soccer fans appeared visible, vocal, and united through the shared disappointment-turned-euphoria of watching Clint Dempsey’s blocked shot quickly followed by Donovan’s goal on the rebound. News organizations in the following days posted multiple user-uploaded youtube video reactions and one user’s compilation of all the videos, featured here.
The compilation highlights the unity of the experience, with almost every video featuring the same drastic emotional shift. The save against Dempsey elicits groans of disappointment and the same gesture of halted raised arms, and the immediate goal causes screaming, jumping, hugging, and eventually chants of “U-S-A! U-S-A!” The video stitches together the same reaction experienced simultaneously by Americans across the United States, in pubs and bars, cities and homes, and among crowds from one to hundreds. The video links nationality with unity through that affective moment of shared “live” experience, and it extends the moment of “liveness” by its perpetuation through online media. For days after the goal, the video circulated--even to Donovan himself--and viewers could experience the fleeting moment of national unity again. It presents a moment of utopian representation of America that reactivates the moment of experience through its viewing. Though the representation of such unity is not total--notably, many of those viewing the game live had to be economically comfortable enough to take off from work on a weekday morning, and most are white men--it activates one of the myths of American culture: that there is a universal American experience. But before this year's World Cup, few would have guessed it would be activated through soccer.