Lechner’s article, “Orange Nation: Soccer and National Identity in the Netherlands,” was particularly interesting as I hadn’t really thought much before about the relationship between sports and national identity. Lechner argues that globalization creates a national identity in the Netherlands through the medium of Dutch soccer and the world cup. He goes on to assert that sports are often used as a tool to define and shape national identity. He states, “nations use sports to “refuel” their popular memory and provide a source of collective identification,” (Lechner 481). He believes soccer, above all molds national identity thanks to its global popularity and increased media coverage. Although the Netherlands lost to Germany in the 1974 World Cup, fans all over the country felt as though they had won and honored the national team as if they had. This behavior prompted what Lechner refers to as the “orange craze” or an overwhelmingly heightened support for the Dutch soccer team. After the 1974 World Cup, the more orange present was equal to a fan’s level of loyalty to the team and the country. Soccer, at the international level, is subject to globalization. According to Lechner, soccer is an international sport where the game and its styles circulate in a large-scale and multinational arena. A movement like the orange craze is a nation’s attempt to redefine its cultural identity while simultaneously compensating for its distinctive style of play lost in the international agenda of modern and commercialized sports. Furthermore, “even within soccer, globalization involves migration of players and coaches, more extensive broadcasting across national borders, the management of the game by a transnational organization, the exchange of strategies and training methods across the world, and the development of the World Cup as the quintessential global event,” (Lechner 484). Here, Lechner underlines the global nature of soccer via intense cultural diffusion. While nations do scamper to redefine their personality in a global scene, they also aspire to boast a successful cosmopolitan brand. A brand that exhibits national identity yet appeals to the masses.
In the United States we often identity with regional professional basketball, baseball, football, or hockey teams. This is why I never really considered sports to “refuel a collective identification” unless placed in the context of two major competitions: the World Cup or the Olympics. Lechner uses the World Cup example. I want to explore the Olympics example in more depth. American national sentiment is certainly amplified during the Olympic games. We seek to put forth a unique American identity at the games yet also wish for other countries to find us attractive (just like the Dutch approach at the World Cup). While the Olympics is a time for us Americans to relish our country’s athletes and athletic successes, it is also a time to strategically situate ourselves on an international scale. Lechner’s argument also works for the Olympic games.
Question: The Olympics roll around every 2 years. Yet, in the off-season and sometimes during the games, Americans seems to focus their attention on their regional professional and collegiate athletic teams. Even still, unlike the rest of the world we don’t seem to rally the masses behind our national soccer team during the World Cup. Why?