"U-S-A!" is a chant of the United States of America's initials popular in supporting American national sports teams. The chant was first documented at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Germany during the basketball tournament final between the United States and the Soviet Union, but was popularized after being yelled by fans during the 1980 Winter Olympics, held in Lake Placid, New York, where the U.S. men's ice hockey team defeated the Soviet Union in what became known as the "Miracle on Ice", later moving on to beat Finland for the gold medal. The origin of the phrase is unknown, although there are reports which pre-date the 1972 Olympics. It was heard during the final of the 1500 meter event at the 1936 Summer Olympics. It can be heard at the 1 hour, 1 minute and 57 seconds mark in Leni Riefenstahl's Festival of Nations documentary.
Use in sports
During the U.S.'s 7–3 win over Czechoslovakia in the 1980 Winter Olympic tournament's second game, the crowd began chanting "U-S-A! U-S-A!" in support of the American team as the Americans scored a decisive win over one of the best teams in the world. The chant became a fixture of the team's remaining games and gained national attention during the famous "Miracle on Ice" game against the Soviet Union. A group of three enthusiastic young fans from New York, David Claiborne, Guy Wheeler and Sandy MacDonald, claim to have been the first spectators during the Czechoslovakia game to begin yelling the chant, which quickly caught on throughout the crowd and carried the team through to the Gold Medal. Since that time, American sports fans have spontaneously chanted "U-S-A! U-S-A!" at many international events, and during times of patriotic fervor. Interestingly, it was Sandy MacDonald's inspiration to start the chant and Sandy was a Canadian.
In professional wrestling, "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan was popularly known for making the cheer during his wrestling matches and inciting the crowd to repeat it after him. The chant has also been used by fans to taunt characters who dislike America, such as Canadian star Bret Hart, who was beloved in the United States but turned his back on the country during an infamous 1997 storyline. It has also been used to support wrestlers with pro-American gimmicks, like Hulk Hogan, regardless of the nationality of their opponents. A six-man tag match in 2003 on WWE SmackDown! featuring Hogan (as "Mr. America"), Kurt Angle and Brock Lesnar vs Big Show, Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin in Madison Square Garden had the crowd performing the chant in support of Hogan's team despite the fact all six wrestlers were Americans and none had an anti-American gimmick.
The chant is currently being used to taunt Rusev, a Bulgarian WWE Superstar who previously had a Russophillic gimmick where he and his former manager Lana would continuously bash the U.S.A. during their promos. The chant, only heard at WWE events held in the United States, is nowadays constantly heard whenever Rusev appears, whether it be during a match or while he is cutting a promo alongside his current manager Summer Rae.
On July 10, 2015, Taylor Swift brought the Women's World Cup champion U.S. team out on stage during a concert at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, prompting the stadium to start a U-S-A chant.
Post 9/11 usage
The 9/11 attacks found a revival in the chant during patriotic ceremonies at sporting events; the chant was also heard when U.S. President George W. Bush visited the ruins at the World Trade Center site in the week following the 2001 attacks. The chant at the ruins was started by North Hudson Firefighter Thomas Irving, who was there for clean-up along with many other first-responders. Crowds gathered outside of the White House on May 1, 2011 could be heard chanting "U-S-A!" after President Barack Obama announced that al-Qaeda co-founder Osama bin Laden had been killed by American forces in Pakistan. The cheer was also chanted that Sunday evening at the only MLB baseball game being held while the news was breaking between the Philadelphia Phillies and the New York Mets. At the 2011 WWE Extreme Rules event in Tampa, Florida on the same date when the crowds gathered at the White House, the arena erupted in U-S-A chants as the death of Osama bin Laden was announced by then WWE Champion, John Cena.
Satirical and controversial usage
The "U-S-A" chant has been adopted by English football supporters during matches against Manchester United, who have American owners unpopular with the club's supporters due to the clubs being saddled by massive debt. Opposing supporters remind the United supporters of this with the "U-S-A" chant. This was also true of Liverpool, until the RBS takeover. However, the chant is also used non-sarcastically by British supporters to celebrate achievements of American players such as Tim Howard at Everton.
In 2007, punk rock band Harry and the Potters started the chant on many amusement rides during a trip to England's Thorpe Park while wearing giant foam fingers emblazoned with the band's logo. They were not asked to stop, but were asked by park staff to remove the foam fingers.
As early as 1991, the chant, led by Woody Boyd, was used in the Cheers episode "A Fine French Whine" upon hearing the news that a French citizen with eyes on Boyd's girlfriend has overstayed his visa and will soon be deported. It has even shown up on The Jerry Springer Show, where it may spontaneously and inexplicably follow the show's standard cheer of "Jer-ry, Jer-ry!" and is also often delivered by Homer Simpson on The Simpsons as a celebration of almost anything, often accompanied by honking of his car's horn and flashing of its headlights.
- 1972 München Olympic Games, Basketball, USSR - USA, Final, Men - YouTube
- Pitt, William Rivers (2005-03-01). "The Third Stage of American Empire". truthout.org.
- The Year in American Soccer - 1979 . The American Soccer History Archives. Retrieved on 2011-05-02.
- Olympia Part 1 Fest der Völker 1938 with English Subs. the chant is u-s-a u-s-a u-s-a repeated. - YouTube
- Vermillion, James. "Their Dark Days: How can you be so Hart-less?". World Wrestling Entertainment. Retrieved 2009-12-07.
- "President Bush Salutes Heroes in New York". 2001-09-14.
- Politico, May 3, 2011.