Saturday, June 26, 2010

Lex’s take on the World Cup

Congratulations, team USA, great World Cup. Great drama, exciting games, amazing comebacks. Generally the stars shone, Landon especially, and there were some newcomers who had breakthroughs, like Demeret and Michael Bradly.

To give myself some credit, I did think my favorite player against Algeria would have a bad game. Altidore was suspect from before the game when he was the only player who didn’t put his hand over his heart during the Star Spangled Banner. That smelled awfully French-like, so I kept my eye on him and, sure enough, he didn’t try hard enough on a perfect cross from Donovan that should have been a score with a better effort. Altidore should have been yanked earlier.

The reality is, in a low-scoring game like soccer, if you give up an early goal in three games, you'll be lucky to win one. We were amazing to win two. We don't give up that early goal against Ghana, we would have won. But we did and they won.

The coach, Bradley, going with Clark early ended up being a bad mistake in an otherwise great coaching job. And our goalie, Howard, who also had been great, picked a bad game to have a bad game. He normally saves that first goal from Ghana.

This was not a heartbreaking loss. If we had lost to Algeria, that would have been heartbreaking. But Ghana scored more than we did, period. Have to say Ghana’s poor sportsmanship of flopping at the end was disappointing, but the ref let them get away with it, which was also disappointing, but that is soccer, unfortunately.

If our team had played as gutless, cowardly and selfishly as did a team whose name rhymes with pants, that would have been heartbreaking. No, our side represented the US admirably. Good job.

If FIFA wants to win over us US sports fans, they have to put an end to the flopping. Flopping goes against everything in our cowboy and brave hero-loving genes to allow a player to act like he was stabbed in the heart and get carried off the field only to have him hop right back in. That is phony cowardice, but FIFA and the refs allow it to happen so it will.

We Americans can put up with weird one names, like Kaka, we can put up with long hair with hairbands, we can even put up with the kissing and a little dramatic acting. But when a player flops and is carried off but turns out to be fine? That is pathetically whimpy. And US sports fans will not get behind a sport that allows the pathetic and the whimpy.

But any sport that can put Bill Clinton in a seat next to Mick Jagger? Well, that sport gets my vote. What did you suppose they had in common to talk about? Something tells me there was a lot of "Her? You too?" going on there. If they invited Tiger and A-Rod the four of them would probably have covered a lot of star-humping woman kind. (Imagine how awkward Carla Bruni felt at that moment sitting next to Sarkozy on his little child booster seat)

That noise you heard when Mick and Slick sat together? That was Wilt Chamberland spinning in his grave like cement mixer.

This World Cup gave me a special moment I will keep. After the Algeria game the camera caught Landon Donovan soaking up the moment. Those of us who have been lucky enough to shine in a big game will never forget the feeling of being so spent, so beat up and yet so happy and proud all at the same time.

When you get that golden feeling you don't want it to ever go away. So you try and hang on to it for as long as you can. The truth is that moment was gone the split second it was over. But the deeper truth is that time lives on in your soul forever.

You get that split second of perfection to keep. Congratulations and thanks, Donovan and the boys, for letting us share that moment.

Oh, and France's team? You still suck.

P.S. I learned some things during this World Cup. I learned you can measure the a-holeness of a person by how much information they give you after you tell them:

"Don't tell me anything about the game, I am recording it."

Predictably once after recording a Cubs/Sox game, a White Sox fan proceeded to give me all the details and so did a USC fan during the Rose Bowl. And White Sox and Trojan fans honestly don't know why they are so despised.

Speaking of measuring people's a-holeness. Many years ago, when Ann Caroline was a toddler, she used to ask me to slow down on an uncrowded street near our house so she could look for the bunnies in the hedgerow.

Once when I did that, a white BMW screeched its wheels to pass me flipping the bird and screaming obscenities at me and my four-year-old bunny-watching little girl. When they passed me they revealed a Jesus fish on the back of the car.

Today a car on my left at a four-way stop sign, a, ran the stop to, b, cut me off and then, c, slowed to a crawl to turn in front of me, no signals. Did he have a Jesus fish on his car?

No, he had three Jesus fish on his car.