NBA warm body Chris Kaman accepted an offer to play for the German Olympic basketball team the other week. For those of you who don't follow NBA basketball: Kaman, whose name I'm not entirely sure I'm spelling right, and can't be bothered to look up, is ahead of me on the USA Olympic basketball depth chart as much for alphabetic reasons as anything else. Bizarrely, instead of saying "Who cares? The Clippers suck," the local sports talk community were affronted that Kaman would turn his back on the country of his birth (hint: not Germany).
To be fair, some complaints were that Kaman was risking his day job and should remain loyal to his club...a club owned by a racist slumlord and whose loyalty and tradition would need to increase annually by an order of magnitude for a century before they occupied the same position in loyalty and devotion in Los Angeles that Leyton Orient does in London, but I digress.
The correct answer is that an international tournament like the Olympics is foolish to turn down, and if your home country doesn't need your services, you are free to look elsewhere. It's sports, not treason.
If American basketball demands its citizens to keep their national loyalty in case the disease from "12 Monkeys" or Stephen King's "The Stand" strikes, and we need to form an Olympic team from the survivors, then I'm no longer surprised that American soccer fans continue to cast pathetic, longing glances at Giuseppe Rossi or Jesus Padilla or Neven Subotic. (I'm leeching onto this based off of The Offside Rules.)
That would be this website, which doesn't exactly have the feel of a guy who sings George M. Cohan songs in the shower, what with being entirely in German and all. (To be fair, it hasn't come to grips with him going to Borussia Dortmund, so maybe his official site is a Mainz local effort.)
Subotic might simply be cheesed off about being dropped by Thomas Rongen, though:
Subotic has apparently never read a sports section. Maybe he's eligible for the Amish National Team.
I don't know who's right and who's wrong in this situation, but that's life as a middling soccer power. Occasionally, we're going to get Hargreavesed. I long for the day when our federation is self-confident enough to say "Fine, go play for Germany or Serbia or Italy or whoever, we'll get someone who wants to play for us."
I'm not going to say something stupidly blinkered like "I'd rather lose with guys proud to represent us than win with guys who are ambivalent." The USSF is not the USA, our national teams shouldn't define our national self-worth only as much as club teams define civic pride. Whether that's too much or too little I will leave as an exercise for the reader. Point is, just as with club teams, it's a business. Don't let the USSF's non-profit status fool you too terribly much, because it's definitely not non-profit for the player. And a miserable relationship with the coach and administration doesn't feel any better for country than club.
I will say that I don't think we're as likely to win with guys who are ambivalent about the US. Yes, Thomas Dooley and Earnie Stewart may have settled for us, but by the end of the nineties, Dooley and Stewart turned into David Wagner, Michael Mason, and David Regis. Forgive the idiot war metaphor, but loyal soldiers usually beat mercenaries.
And well-paid mercenaries beat cheap ones. If we're going to go this route, let's just go to Kinko's and run off some passports for Brazilians like everyone else.