THE SPORTS DOCTOR- Exercise in futility: US World Cup chances hopeless
The sports section of last Sunday's New York Times carried the following headline: "United States Leaves for World Cup with Win, but also with Worry."
To which I say, sing it again, sister. On second thought, I say the only way the words "United States" and "World Cup" should be in the same sentence is if the phrase "will lose in the first round of the" is sandwiched between. With South Africa about to become the center of the universe, the U.S. of A. is all set to undergo yet another exercise in humiliation.
Before we go any further, let me assure you– no matter for what team your six-year-old plays, and what kind of sticker you slap on the back of your minivan– you're American, and you live in the sole country in which football requires a gridiron and pigskin. America may have a national soccer team, but that team is about as un-American as it gets.
It may be unsportsmanlike to adopt the "Don't play if you can't win" philosophy, but whenever the World Cup rolls around, even American soccer enthusiasts must wonder whether there should be a "Don't play if you can't bring it, even a just little bit" school of thought.
If the sporting gods were just, there would be no World Cup, or at least not one we had to know about. The greatest sporting event in the world, and it's like America is wearing L.L. Bean in a roomful of Armani—we're totally and completely out of our league.
Be honest, if you had to wear duck boots and flannel amid a sea of haute couture, wouldn't you just as soon not show up?
Somehow, some way, 2010 will mark the sixth consecutive World Cup appearance for the United States (like the Olympics, the World Cup takes place every four years), which may seems like a feat in itself until we realize what the U.S. did to qualify.
Mexico kicked our butts, Costa Rica humiliated us, and we won against El Salvador, Trinidad, and Tobago, and Honduras– are you kidding? Are we supposed to play on the same pitch as Brazil, Portugal, France, and Spain? And what about England? Yes, England, our first round opponent.
If you go to the English team's official blog, you'll either want to fight or hang your head in shame. The user comments there are brutal.
"Am I the only one who sees that a bunch of Americans seem to be under the delusion that the USA national team is good? ...a lot of Americans have really turned into supporters of ... the USA national team– without having watched the rest of the world's leagues and national teams." – Finnegan
"I watched an MLS game yesterday... what a horror show! If that's the type of quality the USA national team is built on, then I'm not worried in the slightest." – Johnny b Bad
"I think it will be easier against the USA than it was against either Mexico or Japan." – SoccerLimey
While it's difficult to take seriously someone called "Johnny b Bad," he does make a good point: Major League Soccer is not Premier League Soccer, and anyone who has seen Manchester United play Arsenal knows it.
As far as the big picture goes, there's nothing wrong with that. After all, neither England nor any of the other World Cup teams have the MLB, the NFL or the NBA, but therein lies the problem. While American athletes are busy spreading the wealth, the rest of world is focused on soccer, a fact that will no doubt be painfully obvious in South Africa.
The U.S. team did reach the quarterfinals in 2002, but considering it was our best performance since 1930, it might not be reasonable to expect success so soon again.
So what should we expect? It's no fun crushing someone's dream, but when the best we can hope for is not to finish 32nd in a field of 32 (it's happened before), should we just throw in the towel? Realistically there's every reason in the world (Brazil, Spain, Portugal, France) for the U.S. team not to show up in South Africa.
But since we have, we'd better bring it– even if it's just a little bit.
Juanita Giles lives in Keysville where she makes videos and updates her Sports Doctor site.