Saturday, June 26, 2010

Well, that's that

The "oh my, we're going to win the World Cup" talk has been silenced. The "this will finally be the World Cup in which Americans fall in love with soccer" theme is also relegated to the what-might-have-been file.

Ghana 2, United States 1. The Americans are done at the 2010 World Cup.

As I have watched the World Cup unfold this year (and for the record I've been watching the tournament since 1982, including really enjoying the coverage on Spanish-language KMEX-34 when I lived in Los Angeles), I have reflected on the number of times the Americans have come up short at this tournament.

The bottom line is that since the mid-1980s (in other words, my historical reference) the American teams have fared no better than average. And in some cases, they've been worse. Owing to my profession, the teams would receive grades ranging between C+ and F. No, no dean's list coming.

Those failures (a term that is used carefully) must certainly gore the ox of Americans who think this country has some kind of God-given right to be the best at everything. Moreover, they must thrill the people in those parts of the world where America is seen as an imperialistic force determined to control other nations and people.

It's impossible, in other words, to look at this event for what it is -- the world's best national soccer teams playing for the sport's most prestigious championship. And it is an event that the U.S. is not yet prepared to win.

Of course, because the U.S. has little World Cup history of (positive) note, the disappointment and anger that might come from, say, a U.S. men's Olympic basketball team losing the gold medal is significantly tempered. And, yes, it's really hard for Americans to get riled up when the Canadians beat them in Olympic hockey tournaments. (You can read a lot into that last statement, by the way.)

The U.S. bows out of the World Cup and while the sports' hard-core fan base rues what might have been, a majority of the country sees the loss as just another example of "that sport that my kid plays but I don't really like it."

But I wonder how Americans will react when they see Mexican-Americans or other so-called hyphenated-Americans (all of them terms I don't like, for what that's worth) wave the flags of their nation of birth or preference as those teams continue to march on at the tournament.

Who says sports and politics don't mix?

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