7/01/2010

Thoughts on U.S. Soccer in the World Cup

Landon Donovan and Bob Bradley are being interviewed on the Daily Show, and this is the first time I've seen them talk about their World Cup. It was only three days ago I watched as they failed to beat Ghana.

Rather, I didn't watch closely because I had hoped up Court Square Tavern early and I had seven people to serve. It was good, and I was glad to be there getting paid. This is what I do.

But, tonight, after a long day reporting my little corner of the world, I'm watching Jon Stewart talking to these guys as if it's okay, as if it's both a big deal and not a big deal that these two men are on national television. For me, I've followed the U.S. Men's team since 1994. And now Stewart is asking a good question that actually is interesting.

Can the U.S. avoid divas? England has been faulted for having a side that simply did not gel together. We don't seem to have that, and maybe it's a good thing as we go forward.

And we will go forward. And eventually, we will win the World Cup. I know this to be true.

But it's going to take people like me to pay attention, and to keep paying attention to soccer. I follow sports primarily because I'm interested in story lines associated with athletic achievement.

I've grown so disinterested in baseball because the sport has totally lost its way for me. 32 teams operating in a static universe that seldom rises to the level of interest. I used to love this sport, and think I will again, but not until the structure of the sport changes a little. I could care less who wins. Same teams year in year out.

I enjoy the National Football League and college football very much because there's an element of chance in terms of how the championships developer. At the professional level that is due to the parity built into the league through revenue sharing. At the college level it's due to the patchwork bowl system, which I'm confident will one day resolve itself into a true national champion.

But, really, the World Cup is it for me, even if I've not been able to watch this one as much as I had hoped I would. I'm still invested in this, but not willing to take days off to watch. This will be painful on Friday as I have to skip two matches because of work.

I am already looking forward to the future. I anticipate watching a lot of the English Premier League in the coming year, especially if Landon Donovan ends up playing for Manchester City.

For me, a first-generation American born at a time when the world globalized, this is the best possible thing in the world to contemplate. Regardless of what mainstream sportscasters want us to think, we've entered this sport fully now. Tim Howard is one of the world's best goalkeepers, and plays for Everton.

Everton is the club my dad has supported since childhood.

So, you can see why I feel somewhat of a connection.

A friend of mine and I are going to be saving up money to go to Brazil in 2014, regardless of if the U.S qualifies. I'm sure we will given our easy road, but part of me supports this argument expressed in the blog The Yanks are Coming that we may need to find a more difficult road to qualifying if we expect to improve as a team.

For now, though, I must remember that we still have a week or so left of the World Cup, even if we've passed the group stage, which for me is the best. I love that feeling when there are 32 teams and none of them are eliminated. That's when all of the possibilities are open. In hindsight it seems like France was always destined to crash out, but they had the chance to perhaps qualify with a win against South Africa. South Africa ended up beating them, but sadly did not win enough points to get out of the group stage.

Less than four years until it starts again for real, but until then, I am going to try to stay in touch with the U.S. men's team. I want them to succeed. I thought briefly about going to the Meadowlands on August 10 to see them take on Brazil (whom I really hope do NOT win the World Cup).

So, what's a U.S. fan to think post defeat-by-Ghana-due-to-ridiculous-defensive-mistake?

For me, I'm pulling for a team that either has never won or hasn't won for many years to take it all. My first favorite at this point is Uruguay, a place I would love to visit. After that, why not Paraguay?

1 comment:

Eric Friesen said...

Hi Sean,

Still enjoying your writings here and elsewhere. I've not ever followed soccer but have CBC's World Cup site as my home page right now. Something about the world stage and the fact that this is so all-consuming for so many folks in the world makes it special. Caught a few matches early on, then got caught up w/ work and other stuff - hoping to get a few more matches in these next 10 days or so.

Happy Canada Day, by the way.

Lots of conversation on talk radio about the quintessential Canadian band and while the Guess Who and BTO originated in Winnipeg, where I live, I have to go with the Tragically Hip. I think I remember you mentioning an affinity for them yourself . . .

If you've got control of the CD player at Court Square Tavern sometime soon, spin the Hip's "50 Mission Cap". As bizarre as this may sound, one of Bill Barilko's teammates lived on my street until he passed away about two years ago. I ran into him while out walking the neighbourhood with my oldest daughter once or twice. Bill Juzda was his name, and he told me he'd played with the Leafs for a few years, including the year that they won the Stanley Cup and Bill Barilko disappeared. Bill told me he was a bruiser and his stats back that up.

Long and off-topic comment - I should get my own blog. . .

Thanks, Sean.

Eric