Crash Davis, Bull Durham: What are you doing? Huh? What are you doing standing here? I gave you a gift, you stand here showing up my pitcher? Run, dummy!
Sports have written rules and unwritten rules. The written rules tell you the size of the field, what to do when a ball becomes defective in the course of play, what sort of socks aren’t acceptable, etc. The unwritten rules tell us so much more:
1. Hockey fights stay on the ice. The book The Code: The Unwritten Rules of Fighting and Retaliation in the NHL had all sorts of amusing anecdotes, my favorite being the one in which the guy losing a fight yells, “Loser buys the pizza.” The guy who’s winning says, “Well, I think you’re buying.” Then the losing fighter yells, “Yeah, but the winner buys the beer!”
Then there’s this, in which a veteran hockey enforcer gives an opponent a chance to impress his coaches:
I’m not saying the code makes a whole lot of sense. But it exists.
2. When a soccer player is down on the field, someone will kick the ball out of play so the trainers can run on the field. Then the ball is returned to the other side. That’s not in the written rules. Players do that on their own.
If you missed yesterday’s arguments after the USA-Canada women’s soccer match in Toronto, here’s the deal: Former Canadian
U20 U19* striker Sydney Leroux, who has endured all sorts of abuse on Twitter and heard it from the crowd all day yesterday, scored a garbage-time goal for the USA and celebrated by waving the USA badge at the crowd and shushing them.
Canadian commentators weren’t happy. “Classless,” said Craig Forrest on TV. At TSN’s site, Gareth Wheeler summed up the unwritten rule in this case:
An act as such is an absolute no-no in soccer. You don’t pay homage to the badge against your former team, let alone the country of your birth.
This rule was at the heart of yesterday’s Twitter arguments. A lot of WoSo fans insisted that they’ve seen men celebrating the same way, taunting fans, etc. Two issues with that:
1. It’s rare to see players doing such things, as Wheeler says, “against your former team, let alone the country of your birth.”
2. If, say, an English-born player did while playing for Scotland against England, that just might make the news. The ensuing riot certainly would. And you’d have plenty of English commentators calling the act “classless” or worse. I couldn’t find specific examples, but I think that’s because it just isn’t done. More common is the example of Polish-born German player Lukas Podolski, who scored twice against Poland in Euro 2008 and refused to celebrate at all.
So as with a lot of Hope Solo’s controversies, the “sexist double standard” argument doesn’t hold water. (And as someone who greatly appreciates men’s AND women’s soccer, I get rather irritated with false stereotypes in either direction, and then I tweet too much and get unfollowed by a bunch of disgruntled people. Sorry about that, though I’d also suggest getting Hootsuite and making a few lists so you can tune it out when some people in your feed start a lively discussion that you’re not enjoying. In any case, I’ll wrap it up more quickly in the future so you don’t have to adjust your timelines. All that said, I found a lot of the discussion helpful as I tried to clarify the situation, so thanks to those who stuck around.)
I haven’t seen much reaction from Canadian players (if you see more, please leave it in the comments). But here’s Christine Sinclair:
“Maybe not the classiest of moves,” Sinclair said of Leroux’s gesture. “She scored on us and an individual can do what they like. I probably wouldn’t have done the same, but we move on.”
Did the celebration arguments overshadow the game? Well, yes. But aside from Alex Morgan’s superb goals and the solid defense of 17-year-old Canadian Kadeisha Buchanan, it wasn’t much of a game. Canada brought a lot of emotion but little else.
Playing for the first time since that notorious night in Manchester, Canada showed little of the jump they’d displayed there. Nearly a year ago, they’d gone straight at the best team in the world. They’d played with abandon. It was a bar brawl.
Now in front of a boisterous sell-out crowd at BMO Field on Sunday afternoon, they tried to muscle the Americans out of their rhythm. This was a planned assault, and as plodding as that sounds.
Tactically, it was smart. Aesthetically, it was turgid. Functionally, it was useless.
The atmosphere was promising. The passion many WoSo fans have yearned to see at their stadiums was finally there. I thought it was clever to hear fans counting to six, a reference to the puzzling free kick that helped the USA in that Olympic semifinal, every time U.S. goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart had the ball.
So if you want me to respond to a comment, do it here. Out of deference to those who are done talking about this, I’m not going to bring it up again on Twitter.
I think the last word on Twitter should go to Heather Mitts:
Yes, they do.
Postscript: As I was writing this post, Sydney Leroux started a tweet with “When you chant racial slurs.” Plenty of Canadians, including some I know to have been at the game, vehemently deny they heard anything of that nature. If she heard it from one person one time, of course, that’s too much. But in light of Boston Breakers fans (ironically, Leroux’s NWSL team) being unfairly smeared as racist in a fairly prominent book, I’m not about to do the same thing to Canadian fans. I think we can agree that the overwhelming majority, somewhere between 95 and 99.99 percent of people in BMO, would abhor such things.
Sure, I’ve seen the video in which one guy is recorded yelling a couple of nasty (sexist, not racist, not that one is “better” than the other) words. That’s bad. But that’s not a “chant.” A chant involves many people saying and repeating the same thing.
I can’t say Leroux heard absolutely nothing, and I’m sure she’s received all sorts of abuse from random racist morons on Twitter. I don’t mean to diminish that or excuse it. But I’m not going to give any credence to the thought that racism was widespread at BMO yesterday until someone produces evidence to the contrary.
Now back to the NWSL, where we’re still taking up a collection to pay the fines of Seattle staffers complaining about a call that was, indeed, quite wrong.
*Correction: Leroux played youth soccer for Canada before FIFA adjusted its age ranges. She was on Canada’s U19 World Championship team in 2004. Some trivia: Her teammates included Robyn Gayle, Sophie Schmidt, Emily Zurrer, Jodi-Ann Robinson and Golden Boot winner Brittany Timko. Among the U.S. players: Ashlyn Harris, Rachel Buehler, Stephanie (Lopez) Cox, Becky Sauerbrunn, Amy Rodriguez, Yael Averbuch, Nikki Krzyzik, Angie Woznuk and Megan Rapinoe. Other teams: Veronica Boquete (Spain), Simone Laudehr (Germany), Celia Okoyino da Mbabi (Germany) and Marta (Brazil).
Germany needed a late equalizer and penalties to get past Nigeria in the quarterfinals, but the high-scoring team beat the USA 3-1 in the semifinals and took the title against China 2-0. Third-place game: USA 3, Brazil 0. The highlight for Canada: Coming back from 3-0 down to draw Germany 3-3 in group play.