Alex Morgan's tea celebration got people mad. Really?
LYON, France – As perhaps the most famous player on one of the most successful teams in American sports, there is quite a lot we know about Alex Morgan.
Most relevant of these, as Sunday’s Women’s World Cup final (11 a.m. ET on FOX) approaches, are the following. She likes scoring goals. She likes celebrating those goals. And, she likes drinking tea – or at least pretending to.
Within hours of Morgan toasting her opening goal in Tuesday’s semifinal victory over England, the top trending item on Twitter was the way she did it. Not the goal–a pinpoint header from a magnificent floated cross from Lindsey Horan–but the way she celebrated: by theatrically lifting an imaginary teacup to her lips with her pinky finger raised.
While most of the reactions saw the humor in what surely was a harmless jibe at an opponent that–guess what?–is a nation of tea-drinkers, equally predictably there was some recrimination.
Baroness Campbell, the English Football Association’s head of women’s football, chimed in. “I feel really disappointed that someone at this level behaves in that way,” she told ITV.
Former “America’s Got Talent” judge Piers Morgan said it was “bordering on a declaration of war,” though you never quite know if he’s joking or not.
“I am not that happy with that celebration,” former England international soccer player Lianne Sanderson told beIN Sports. “You can celebrate however you want but that for me is a bit distasteful and I don’t think she needs to do that. I could be wrong, but I think it is based on playing against England and we love our tea in England.”
Yes, Englishmen and women do love tea. Tea is good. With milk and an (optional) dash of sugar, it is even better. If you dunk a biscuit–aka a cookie–true mouthwatering magic happens. Frankly, Americans don’t know what they’re missing out on.
I know this because I am a proud Englishman who moved to the U.S. 12 years ago. If the worst that someone can say to make fun of England is that we like tea, bring it on. Hands up, you got us. I will enjoy my cup of tea at breakfast tomorrow morning just as much as I did yesterday, and I won’t be thinking of Alex Morgan when I take the first sip.
Yet remarkably, even in the U.S., there were some who claimed offense. It was pointed out that this is the week of July 4th, meaning the topic of independence from Britain and historical recollections of the Boston Tea Party (which actually took place in December) were more prevalent.
The same detractors who didn’t like the U.S. celebrating running up the score on Thailand in their tournament opener reappeared, citing Morgan’s act as a further sign of disrespect.
Take a deep breath, people. It is a game of soccer. And, for goodness sake, it is a cup of tea. Not even a real one. That is all. Unless Morgan was spending far too much time on Machiavellian thoughts instead of preparing for some of the biggest games of her career, it is distinctly unlikely that her jibe was a nod to the events of 240 years ago.
“This team has a lot of noise surrounding them and it is not affecting us,” Morgan said. “We have such a tight bond, these 23 players. We’ve been here before and we know how it goes and we know that people like to make stuff out of nothing, so … I was just sipping the tea.”
Goal celebrations are a part of soccer and for the most part, they are light-hearted entertainment.
“I think it was fun,” former England forward Kelly Smith said on FOX’s FIFA Women’s World Cup Now. “It is not every time you get to score in a World Cup. I got told off for celebrating and kissing my boot (in 2007). I was told I was arrogant, but these are the moments you live for.”
Sometimes celebrations truly are inappropriate. If you are having trouble figuring out which category Morgan’s falls into, let me tell you about some of naughtier ones.
Liverpool forward Robbie Fowler once simulated snorting a white line on the field as if it was cocaine after scoring a goal. Over the past couple of decades, other players in the men’s game have fired imaginary guns, made fascist salutes, removed their shirt, pretended to pee on corner flags, or pulled down their shorts.
Alex Morgan had a cup of tea.
“I didn’t even see the celebration,” Morgan’s teammate Carli Lloyd told me. “I didn’t even know about it until after the game. Obviously, it was all over social media. A little bit of a different view to not be able to see everything by the bench. I think everybody is just having some fun with the celebrations and just gracing the moment.”
If you are truly determined to be mad at the Americans, there is enough ammunition. Tell them they’re too good and that it affects parity in FIFA. Be angry that they don’t care about sharing their trophies, or about whether people like them.
Be mad that there is one great team dominating women’s soccer, if you don’t like that sort of thing. But, whatever you do, remember that a cup of tea is something that is supposed to help you calm down, not get you more fired up.