It’s probably pretty clear that I don’t know too much about soccer.  It’s a sport that’s taken me awhile to enjoy.  From 1994 through 2002, I didn’t have much time for the World Cup – as in, I derided the sport every chance I could.  In 2006, I started to come around: I had a roommate who was a huge fan and we ended up watching some of the U.S. games as well as a large part of the head buttingly-good finale.  This year, I’ve become more than just a casual observer: I actually follow the results of many of the games and make an effort to learn something about the players.  I thought Landon Donovan’s goal on Wednesday was pretty amazing.  Clint Dempsey seems like a pretty cool dude.  I still wouldn’t call myself a fan, but I figure if I keep dipping my foot in the World Cup water, maybe I’ll actually cheer when a game comes on.

Well, not if pieces of drek like this keep popping up.  Bandwagon jumpers kind of piss me off.  Sappy sports articles written by Danielle Steel LeBatard kind of piss me off.  Combine those two things and you get an angry Duke.  Let’s rip this joint:

Did you see that? Did you call your friends? Did you hug strangers? Did you share?

No, I didn’t.  Eleven o’clock in the morning on a Wednesday is during business hours, so I was at work.  However, judging by the number of people who incessantly posted Facebook and Twitter updates, apparently, no one else was.  And who hugged a stranger, really?  What was this, V-Day?

There is nothing better in sports than patriotism. 

I disagree, winning is pretty awesome.  I look at my favorite teams and don’t really care what nationality they represent, I’m just happy when they win.  Isn’t America a melting pot anyway?  And I’m pretty sure if the Boston Red Sox played the Algerian Baseball Team, there’d be plenty of people pulling for Algeria. 

But hope is pretty close.

Nope, still think winning is way better.  I’ve been “hoping” for Jessica Simpson to stop by my apartment and take me back to Los Angeles with her, but I don’t think hope is gonna make that happen. 

And winning, too.

Ahh, there it is.  Although it does feel like you kind of shoe-horned it in there…

Over here, bars and offices erupted with joyous noise, and grown men wept.

I was in an office, it didn’t erupt.  People erupt in bars all the time, usually when ”Don’t Stop Believin’” comes on.  Grown men usually don’t cry, unless something really awful or great happens.  I’m not sure a sporting event qualifies as either.  And if you’re the type of person who is apt to cry at a televised sporting event on a Wednesday morning thousands of miles away, you have issues.  For instance, why aren’t you at work?

Most of life is not lived in this arena, of course. Most of life is bills and responsibilities and bosses and oil spills, and we need vacations from all that. But games, in moments like this one, allow us to exist and emote on a different and higher plane, living vicariously through that team’s bond, which can grow so large that it allows us to wrap even something as big as our entire country in something as small as a single flag.

It is why America spends so much money and invests so much more emotion on sports — to escape, to vacation from life in this magical paradise. How often does anything outside of sports make you scream at a television or dance around your couch or jump up and down? Think about that for a second. You scream if you win the lottery or dance when your children are born. But you do it all the time in sports, from quarter to quarter, game to game, season to season, with something that isn’t even really yours. Donovan won the lottery Wednesday, not us. Donovan’s teammates are his joyous family, not us. But that’s the beauty of sports in moments like this: It can make all things feel so much larger, turning “us” into “U.S.

I forgot to mention at the top that it’s better to read this with “Born in the USA” playing in the background.  And while you’re at it, try to put on the opening scene from “Saving Private Ryan,” too.  Dammit, gettin’ a little dusty in here!

This tournament was about to be a disaster for American soccer (not just this team but this movement), and its endless quest to lure the ADHD sports fan who wants more florescent scoring.

A “disaster?”  Yeah, the U.S. team didn’t score a goal, but they didn’t lose a match (soccer lingo!), either.  Plus, they managed a draw (whoa, two in one paragraph!) with one of the best teams in the tournament.  I’m not a huge fan of the game, but this seems like a pretty good stepping stone to me…

After so much boredom and 0-0, against the odds and the refs and the other countries, keeper Tim Howard threw the ball from his own box, and the panicked and desperate American team blurred down the field, and the game was broken open like a heart loving for the first time.

When the epitaph for newspaper sports writing is written, this sentence will be a part of it.  I don’t know what’s worse: the diabetic coma-inducing description, the “eruption” of commas, or the crappy sentence structure. 

From one second to the other, we went from being eliminated from the world’s largest tournament to being one of only 16 countries promised more life just like this.
Who is “we?”  LeBatard, you didn’t do a damn thing.  I’m also confused: I thought “winning” was not as important as “patriotism” and hope?”  So, if “we” lost, as long as “we” loved America and hoped for England to lose, we’d be “promised more life” from the god of soccer, Maradelé?  You know, the guy with the white lines on his nostrils who was in that crappy 80′s movie
And it goes on like that for another couple of lines.  Honestly, it’s what you’d expect from a guy who hasn’t written a soccer article in probably four years, but whatever.

I’m learning to like soccer.  I have a lot of respect for its players, organizations and its fans.  But it’s people like LeBatard who make me not want to like it.  You have no idea what you’re talking about and neither do I.  So let’s do each other a favor, keep our mouths shut and let the real pros handle this thing.


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