PHILADELPHIA, PA – In general, it seems like prescriptive codes for how to act are silly and borne out of insecurity. If you know you are a man, after all, you don’t need a Guy Code to affirm that. But at Soldier Field on November 1, 2014 there must be One Rule for USA vs NZ.
Unless you are a citizen of New Zealand, wear USA Rugby Eagles gear or no gear at all.
An American at Soldier Field with an All Blacks jersey on – or a hat with the fern or some ugly t-shirt with the Ka Mate haka on it – is worse than all of the retro NBA jersey wearing bros – ever – combined into one body of awfulness.
If you are an American, be secure in knowing that you belong at the game. Everyone will be happy that you are there because you will be part of the biggest crowd to watch a rugby game in America ever. That’s exciting.
Understand that our job as part of the rugby community in America is to 1) Show up and 2) Cheer for America.
If you define yourself at least a little bit as a rugger or part of the American rugby community, chances are good you have some piece of clothing with the All Blacks logo on it. They are a good team. They are fun to watch. They are fun to root for. Plus, even if you didn’t seek out that t-shirt or hat or jersey, you might have been gifted something from the All Black brand. If someone knows one rugby team, it will be the All Blacks. If someone knows nothing about rugby and goes clicking online, the All Blacks logo will be the easiest and safest thing to put in the old shopping cart. (I remember buying my sister a “A Woman’s Place is in the Maul” bumper sticker when she started playing, but to the uninitiated, that is either a big risk or simply misspelled misogyny.) I have a zip-up sweatshirt with the fern on it, and not once have I avowed any allegiance to or particular interest in the All Blacks. People know I like rugby; All Blacks play rugby; people buy safe gifts.
But when the All Blacks come to Chicago on November 1, leave that All Blacks crap at home. I remember being flabbergasted and embarrassed when I saw Americans wearing Welsh gear in East Hartford for an Eagles/Wales match. Why would anyone do that? Because they are “your team” in the 6 Nations? Because you like their jersey? Because you really like sheep? Red brings out the devil in your eyes? Get out of here. This isn’t the 6 Nations. This is America.
Cheering for another country’s team isn’t, “Well, I’m from New York, but my dad is from Dallas, so I grew up a Cowboys fan,” justification for wearing a Romo jersey in New York. Rooting for the Cowboys in Giants’ territory will mean that twice a year, at least, you are rooting against the interests of many of your neighbors and declining to affiliate yourself with your home turf. That’s bad, I think, but nowhere near as bad as turning your back on your nation and the players representing it just because they aren’t as good, as a team, as the best teams.
It is cool, in the way fringe things can be cool, to like rugby. I get it. And it can be important when going to a fringe event to announce you belong to the group, like carrying that latest New Yorker while waiting for the lecture to start at the 92nd Street Y. I get that, too.
I also understand that it is emotionally much safer to cheer for the All Blacks. They are guaranteed, after all, to play in a manner deserving cheer, and rooting for the team sure to be squashed can seem futile. Get over yourself. Live and experience the pain. Invest yourself in your team. That is way more valuable than trying to leech from the glory of better teams.
To go in, as an American, with even a toe in the All Blacks’ camp is to deny yourself the full experience. In other contexts, we find something noble in the fan who sticks with the losing team. The problem for the Eagles is that they have, on more than one occasion, been so far from good that it is tough to find that nobility. Sticking with them, though, just means that when they do have some good moments, even a good game, it is sweet. Emily Dickinson wrote that success is counted sweetest by those who ne’er succeed. Watching the match and cheering for the All Blacks is like choosing not to live. Throw yourself into the moment. Hope for Samu Manoa to crush Kieran Read. Hope for Blaine Scully to take a pass from his shoe tops and race down the touchline. Hope for Chris Wyles to turn the defense with a clever chip or grubber. Hope for Scott LaValla to smash a ruck so hard, Aaron Smith takes a tumble as he tries to dig the ball out. Hope for Cam Dolan to steal a lineout and be rewarded with a swell of voices from the crowd. These things might just happen.
And it also might be that with 20 minutes left in the match, our heads are hanging low and our faces creased with grimaces. But we will be alive. And we will have been part of history. And we will have put our voices on the right side of history.
If you don’t have any USA gear then quit stalling and go support the team by buying your gear at https://www.shopusarugby.com/
That’s it for now. Feel free to comment below, please look for and “Like” our Facebook Rugby Wrap Up Page and follow us on Twitter@:RugbyWrapUp, Junoir Blaber, Nick Hall, James Harrington, Jamie Wall, Jaime Loyd, DJ Eberle, Cody Kuxmann, Karen Ritter, Jake Frechette and Declan Yeats, respectively.