Members of the U.S. women’s soccer team continue to insist that there was nothing out of line with the exuberant celebration of goals that ran up the score in their 13-0 victory over Thailand. It was all in good fun, an expression of sheer joy, they contend.
But this hasn’t been the women’s team’s view in the past. Years ago, after Norway defeated the U.S. women in a World Cup semifinal, some members of the American team complained about Norway’s post-game celebration. The offense? Joined hand to ankle, the Norwegians crawled around on the field in a maneuver known as the Train. (I’ve also heard that the U.S. women complained about how Brazil celebrated a victory over them, but I can’t find documentation of this).
Over the years, then, the U.S. women have managed to get soccer celebrations exactly backwards. It’s 100 percent appropriate to engage in an over-the-top celebration when you win an important match like a World Cup semifinal. It’s 100 percent inappropriate to indulge in one when you score the ninth goal against a helpless opponent.
Why have the U.S. women been so clueless — so out of step with well-established norms rooted in common sense notions of decency and sportsmanship? I don’t know. It might require a sociologist to answer the question.
UPDATE: Here, you can see how twenty of the top goals in World Cup history were celebrated. Many of these goals were game-deciders or had the potential to be. Some were scored in the knock-out stages of the tournament.
None was the ninth goal in a 13-0 rout. None produced a “look at me” celebration of the kind Megan Rapinoe indulged in after her virtually meaningless goal against Thailand.