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Originally published Monday, July 18, 2011 at 2:23 PM

Take Two: Why Japan's victory over the U.S. didn't sting that bad

Reporter Danny O'Neil says he lacked the "fan equity" to have the right to be too bummed out about the U.S. loss in the Women's World Cup final. Besides, he could appreciate the happiness it brought to Japan.

Seattle Times NFL reporter

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I was disappointed when the United States lost the women's World Cup. I wasn't sad, though.

This realization took hold only as I watched Japan celebrate its shootout victory in the Women's World Cup final on Sunday. Not only didn't I begrudge their victory, I could appreciate the happiness that moment brought to an entire country.

My first reaction was to assume this was evidence of chauvinism and wonder if my lack of heart-rending disappointment was due to the fact that this was the women's national team. If this was the men's team, the volume of my tears could be measured like rainfall and I would vow not to speak until the United States claimed a World Cup of its own.

Oh wait. No, I wouldn't. In fact, I felt equally ambiguous when the United States men lost to Ghana in last year's World Cup. I wanted the U.S. to win. I cheered for the team and everything, but when the U.S. lost, any disappointment I felt was counterbalanced by the joy witnessed in Ghana, which advanced on its own continent.

This isn't to say that Americans didn't care enough. It's saying that I didn't care enough. I didn't feel I had earned the right to be more bummed out, and that explains my emotions while watching Japan celebrate Sunday's victory.

I thought about everything that nation had been through with the earthquake, the tsunami and the radioactive aftermath, and I counterbalanced that against my relatively shallow investment in the U.S. women's team. I watched the games. I'm familiar with the roster, but the depth of my devotion doesn't go back more than a month.

I lacked what could be called "fan equity," something we don't discuss, but understand intuitively. It's how we distinguish the bandwagons from the die-hards and why we kind of dismiss the satisfaction Florida felt after the Marlins' World Series victories. How long had fans of an expansion team suffered?

You earn the right to truly celebrate. It's why the general fan didn't mind when the Chicago White Sox won the World Series in 2005 and the Saints trumped the Colts in the Super Bowl. It's why no one really begrudged Boston's World Series title — the one in 2004, none thereafter — and generally root against whatever collection of vertebrates are wearing Yankees uniforms in the World Series. Those Yankees fans have been paid off with so many titles, it's hard to believe they really need another one.

Plenty of people would've felt unending satisfaction had the United States defeated Japan on Sunday. For the players, their families and those truly committed fans in that group, I am truly sorry. It was a crushing defeat made even more heartbreaking because it was a come-from-ahead loss with two blown leads and multiple missed opportunities.

But for myself — someone whose affiliation was based largely on nationalism and that Hope Solo attended the University of Washington — well, I hadn't truly earned the right to pretend it cratered my entire weekend.

Cheering for a sports team is an investment, and I hadn't invested enough to feel entitled to a world championship as the payoff. The game was extraordinarily well played, very exciting, and once it ended, my life went on as scheduled Sunday afternoon. I affixed pull handles to the vanity in our master bathroom.

I have a basic fluency in soccer, and I would rather the U.S. won than not. But the national team's success does not truly influence my happiness. Maybe it's because we're not more soccer crazed as a country. Perhaps it's simply a reflection that I lack knee-jerk, gut-level nationalism.

Or maybe it was because when I watched Japan celebrate, and thought about the satisfaction that brought to the country, I realized their collective happiness and joy trumped any sense of satisfaction I would have had if the U.S. had won.

Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or doneil@seattletimes.com

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