As the U.S. Women’s World Cup team readies for the championship match, controversy continues to swirl around them. First, there was the ‘excessive celebration’ as the team racked up a 13-0 rout of Thailand. More recently, Alex Morgan mimed sipping a cup of tea after her goal against England. It would seem the U.S. team brings on media criticism that overshadows their march to a third consecutive title match.

Alex Morgan tips a teacup against English team (image: flipboard.com)

Nearly everyone admits the celebration on goals 10, 11, 12 and 13 against the Thai team might have been excessive. A bit of perspective of what was happening on the pitch might have suggested toning down the jubilation. No one suggests slowing down or holding down the score, as goals differential is a factor in deciding ties when advancing to the next round. But really, by goal thirteen the Americans got it wrong.

But is this a result of actual arrogance or merely the celebration that is expected in the game?

American Superiority Complex

One has to take into account the long hours and dedication that players at this level give to the game. Add to that, this is the World Cup. This is the biggest event these players will ever participate in. Some of them will play in the World Cup only once. It really is a World Wide event. Unlike the MLB World Series, which really is arrogantly named as it includes only the United States and one Canadian team. So perhaps a bit of pride is not beyond the scope of the players but should it not be tempered by some realization of this big stage.

One has to wonder if the American FIFA organization doesn’t sit the players down and explain the microscope they will be under during the tournament. The National Football League has mandatory player sessions to deal with media and personal conduct issues. It would seem apparent that no such suggestions got through to the U.S. team.

“The superiority complex which is necessary for arrogance to have a platform to beat it’s chest, gets it’s marching orders from ignorance, which could be argued goes hand in hand with immaturity.” Kenn Anderson, Behavioral Psychologist

Immaturity or Youthful Exuberance?

Youthful zeal. Excitement. The thrill of victory.

The average age of the U.S. team this year is 28. The oldest member is 36, one player has just turned 21. But they all have international playing experience. The question is: Should they have known better? If the answer is yes, then how about a follow-up. Would a more thoughtful, in control, calm approach lead to a less competitive team?

“Humanity has advanced, when it has advanced, not because it has been sober, responsible and cautious, but because it has been playful, rebellious and immature.” Tom Robbins 

Could the missteps be linked to the dedication, the fervor of winning. Are we expecting two contradictory behaviors on the football field.

World Cup Media Hype Factor

The World Cup is covered by hundreds of news and sports reporters. They are all looking for an angle, a fresh perspective. Why not play up the goal celebrations? Did anyone in England actually take offense at Alex Morgan’s teacup sip? Are there just too many sports talk shows looking for something to yell about?

Don’t forget, the U.S. team beat their French hosts in Paris. The U.S. team has made it to three straight World Cup final matches. And they are the defending champions. People like to root for the underdog. Dynasties are only embraced by the home crowd. And, let’s remember, the U.S. as a country is disliked in many places because, well because they are the United States. You know that super-power thing.

So let’s not be too quick to jump on the U.S. players. There’s a lot more going on here then a over-the-top celebration or a recreation of the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. How about we just all settle in for the Championship match and root, root, root for whichever team you like.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________Dr. Tim Lavalli holds a Ph.D. in psychology and has focused his work on the mental aspects of competition and gambling. He co-authored Check-Raising the Devil, the autobiography of poker pro Mike Matusow. You can follow him on Twitter @timlavalli.

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