Stranger in a Strange Land

I'm taking the day off from my assigned "FIFA is a Bloodsucking, Soul Destroying Black Hole" reportage (the only real news would be if someone in the upper echelons of FIFA did something fair minded and intelligent which benefited world football, but we all know that hasn't happened) so that I can return however briefly to my favorite purpose, the reason why I started doing this in the first place: Taking fat public dumps on people who royally piss me off.

Ladies and Gentlemen (I use the term loosely so as not to exclude RedBulls fans), I come to you today seething with moral outrage and wielding the flaming sword of justice in an effort to right a terrible wrong that's currently being perpetrated all across the soccersphere, that being the denigration of Jeff Cunninghams' attainment of the league career scoring record.

I first noticed this trend as it emanated from the dulcet keyboard of Ives Galarcep who labored mightily and came up with this brain fart:

"Why would you take a PK in a blowout loss ON the road to break the MLS career goals record? That's Jeff Cunningham folks."

Well Ives, please allow me to retort:

Bite me.

Or, to put it another way:

1) The fact that the Crew was having its ass handed to it by a Sounders side previously known primarily for it's inability to find the goal with a guide dog and a map is irrelevant. In soccer, records come when they come. This isn't baseball.

In any case Head Coach Robert Warzycha made the call. Jeff simply did as he was told.

2) Including last weekend, Cunningham has only played 527 minutes all season, and the only reason it's even that many is because the teams' two first choice forwards have spent a lot of time injured and the other two options are both rookies. Indeed, until last week, the projected starters had only been on the pitch together a grand total of something like 53 minutes all season long.

Now that they are both finally healthy, opportunities for the teams' fourth or fifth choice forward are certain to diminish even more and with only five games left (and only three of them at home) it's entirely possible that he might not see the pitch again, ever. That may have been Cunninghams' last MLS game.

The aging vet who they put in at 56 minutes of a blowout loss on the road so they can save the playoff legs of some guy they value more highly isn't someone who can pick and choose his spots.

Fortunately, Galarceps' ill-considered remark - hey, everybody whiffs once in a while - pales in comparison to the painful imbecility of the ever-ridiculous Simon Borg, the man whose presence on the scene keeps Leander SlakenLeakenleagershlagenheimers from retiring that lovely "Dumbest Soccer Writer in North America" trophy.

"Cunningham may have all-time goal-scoring record but he won't be remembered as a top goal-scorer. Exciting talent. But not a "scorer."

Leaving aside the fact that, as is his wont, Borgs' remark is the sort of brainless, utterly meaning-free garbage that BigSoccer noobs write when they're trying to impress you with their depth and sophistication, herewith a brief cull of career moments from a guy who, per Mr. Dumbass, is most assuredly NOT a "scorer":

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OJrPNpbLMG4

Simon Borg: he may pound out a lot of words, but he's not a "writer".

Of course whenever a player with what would seem to be sterling credentials gets traded around a lot, as Jeff certainly has, a couple of things happen.

The first is that he gets the dreaded "journeyman" label hung on him, which automatically diminishes his status. Everybody knows you don't trade great players, particularly forwards, so if teams keep shipping a guy out then clearly there's something wrong with him.

And however that may be with Jeff, he has never been an easy guy to understand.

The second is that everyone starts looking for the flaw which, they assume, he must certainly have. The question becomes "what's wrong with the guy?"

Remarkably, the one person in American soccer who may understand him best is the incomparable Steve Sirk, who has known Jeff since his first days in the league when he was a late-game speed insertion playing behind Stern John, Brian McBride and Dante Washington.

Maybe some kind soul will be able to locate a link to the quintessential Cunningham interview which Sirk did a few years back and which explains far better than I ever could just what the guy is about.

At it's most basic, he's a free spirit who, true to his Jamaican heritage, has gone through life working hard at being deliriously happy. It's just that the situation hasn't always cooperated.

And if he's often found himself in disagreement with a head coach on exactly what his role ought to be, the only difference between him and a thousand other guys has been that he has never had the ability to hide his feelings.

Unfortunately, in the Jerk of the Week Sweepstakes, even Borg comes in second due to the sterling work of the self-proclaimed Greatest Soccer Fans in The World who populate PlasticGrass Field in Seattle.

With the Sounders up 4-0 in a complete rout of the Columbus Crew, John Kennedy Hurtado committed a foul in the box which even Seattles' home gamecast team were shocked didn't result in an immediate red card for a clumsy and violent assault.

The score and the obviousness of the foul added to the fact that Seattle had earlier been gifted a PK on a phantom handball that, again, Seattles' announcers were shocked by (fair minded home broadcasters - what a concept) did nothing to assuage the absurdly childish explosion of outrage from the assembled citizens of Americas' Soccer Capital.

They then proceeded to top themselves with particularly rude and churlish behavior as Jeff Cunningham - a guy who had scored 100 MLS goals before anyone in the Pacific Northwest grew the man parts to come out from under the bed and invest in a team - stepped to the mark and made league history.

So much for respect for the league, it's history and the guys who helped make it what it is while they were sitting on their hands waiting for someone else to make it safe to get in the water.

Yes, Ives, it's unfortunate that Jeff had to take that shot on the road, but it's particularly unfortunate that it ended up being in Seattle. Hell, there are places around the league where he would have gotten a standing ovation.

"Seattle Sounders: Making thousands of Galaxy fans every time they take the pitch"

Finally, there's the whole "Well, breaking the record on a PK is sort of cheap and pales beside the record set by the Sainted Jaime Moreno whose every goal was a world class work of soccer art" meme, and I'm indebted to BS stalwart KHT Crew for the numbers:

Jeff Cunningham 360 games 22,687 minutes 134 goals 20 pk goals (from 23 attempts)

Jaime Moreno (the "other" Moreno) 340 games 25,792 minutes 133 goals 44 pk goals (from 52 attempts)

Equally telling:

Jeff has 40 Game Winning Goals (including one in Vancouver earlier this year)

Moreno had 26.

But remember: Jeff wasn't really "a scorer".

And in case you were still on the fence here: Morenos' final MLS goal, #133, the one that Cunningham surpassed on Saturday - was a PK.

Maybe Jeff will get a few more chances before the clock runs out in November. Maybe we've seen him for the last time.

Either way, he has the record now and, he earned it fair and square.

And somehow it just seems oddly appropriate that he set it while 30,000 people booed for no good reason.