OK look I'm as excited about the whole Pygmalion, rags-to-riches, The Natural, etc., etc.,etc. kind of story line as anyone else. I'm really not the cold hearted bastard they think I am in Canada.
But Jesus, Joseph and Mary, can TV announcers please stop babbling about Jorge "Sueno" Flores for five damn minutes?
Yeah sure, it's a great story: an unknown kid from a working class background goes to a tryout and ends up scoring some goals and becoming a "star".
Of course, that used to be how ALL athletes were "discovered" more or less, and it's still basically true in other countries. There is currently an army of unscrupulous "scouts" combing all of sub-Saharan Africa prying anyone with a smidgen of talent out of their villages with the promise of great wealth and fame.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of them try out, fail miserably and end up on the streets in some European city with the scout having vanished and the team turning their back. It's a sgrowing candal - some people are calling it "The New Slavery" - and UEFA is going to have to start accepting some responsibility for these kids, at least as far as a boat ride home and a meal or two.
It's not like they can't afford it.
And in the US, as we all know, any kid with a modicum of athletic ability is selected out 10 minutes after birth and their parents are fed a hefty dose of crap for 18 or so years in return for an never-ending stream of checks to coaches, tournaments, trainers and hotel chains in return for the promise of the Holy Grail of American sport, the "College Scholarship"
Of course the fact is that the odds of the kid getting dime one from some Ivy-covered institution are so astronomical that the MegaMillions lottery looks like a sure thing by comparison.
And in the case of soccer, with Men's programs having a maximum of 9.9 grants-in-aid to spread around, even wildly talented kids are lucky to end up getting room and board and a couple dollars towards books.
In virtually every case the parents would have been better off using all that money they shelled out over the years on academic tutors or a decent mutual fund. The payoff is likely to be far greater.
Be that as it may, because "The Great American Parent-Milking Program" spreads such a wide net it's rare when a kid falls through the cracks although, in the case of Flores, it's clear that his family didn't fit the White Suburban "Premier Club Soccer" profile anyway.
What he did do, of course, was even better: he had the foresight to spend most of his childhood in Mexico where, in lieu of paying some third rate clown with a British accent $10,000 a year to drag little Johnny Whitebread around to tournaments 12 months a year, kids simply hang around playing the game all day.
Crazy, I know.
Still, he did play high school soccer in Anaheim where you'd think someone might have noticed him. And whatever his family's financial situation might have been, most top clubs are only too happy to take in a skilled and talented kid on the cuff; they'll make their profits off the six guys at the end of the bench whose parents have more money than sense.
Flores also plays into a persistent theory - some would call it a myth - in American soccer that there are hordes and hordes of brilliantly talented Hispanic kids in the US that the "youth development system" misses out on.
However, Flores notwithstanding, there's been paltry evidence to back that theory up. I'm not saying that it's untrue, only that it's more a belief than a proven fact.
What is true in too many cases is that there are a lot of players out there who don't want to be found because their immigration status is somewhat problematical. These kids play in semi-secret leagues that don't publish schedules and don't have a lot of contacts in NCAA Division I.
However that may be, we're all thrilled I'm sure that young Jorge Flores has emerged from the crowd, and while it's truly a great story in a league which could use a few, there are a couple problems:
The major one is that this shining example of the American dream as it pertains to soccer is only making $17,000 a year as a starter and prime goal scorer for a "major league" team, and if that doesn't embarrass the suits in New York it sure as hell ought to.
The other problem, and maybe it's just me, is that the TV announcers can't stop babbling about it all. Last weekend I thought Christian Miles was going to wet himself, screeching about "Sueno Flores" this and "El Sueno" that every time the kid touched the ball, passed the ball, looked at the ball or scratched his ass.
I love a good success tale as much as anyone, but repeating it endlessly isn't making it any better. I know the league is pushing the story for all it's worth since it plays into the themes they so badly want people to absorb, but maybe, instead of spending so much effort on PR they could just pay the kid a living wage.
Now THAT would be a story we'd all be happy to hear.