Everyone's talking about what Zimmerman in Germany has to say - and no wonder!
We intend to begin on the first of February unrestricted submarine warfare. We shall endeavor in spite of this to keep the United States of America neutral. In the event of this not succeeding, we make Mexico a proposal of alliance on the following basis: make war together, make peace together, generous financial support and an understanding on our part that Mexico is to reconquer the lost territory in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. The settlement in detail is left to you. You will inform the President of the above most secretly as soon as the outbreak of war with the United States of America is certain and add the suggestion that he should, on his own initiative, invite Japan to immediate adherence and at the same time mediate between Japan and ourselves. Please call the President's attention to the fact that the ruthless employment of our submarines now offers the prospect of compelling England in a few months to make peace.
Why, the dastardly, dashed cheek of the Hun! This Zimmerman fellow should know that while we Americans are a peace-loving people, we will brook no aggression against our flag! And we shall answer this or any other outrages from the German so-called Empire in the strongest possible oh, this was riffed on already?
Fine, I'll do the big finish joke and call it a day.
Did somebody say REAL AMERICAN?
And thank you, whoever you are, for the easy comedy. I suppose later we'll talk about the January callups, the MLS schedule, what club will end up with David....
...huh? I...gotta care about this? I...what? I...no. Really? I've never heard of his club before, let alone the player! You're telling me that people were saying to themselves "I wonder what Preston Zimmerman thinks of the national team" all this time?
It's an interesting argument, sure. So was the Trojan War, and that's been settled for a while, too. Preston didn't name names, irritatingly, so let's see if we can fill in the blanks. When you think "fake American," who comes to mind?
1. Jermaine Jones 2. David Regis 3. Roy Wegerle 4. Joe Gaetjens 5. George Moorhouse 6. Someone Roger Allaway knows off the top of his head from before there even was a freaking USSF to sponsor a national team
If Preston was a fan of the German national team, he'd have a point - it's their player pool we're raiding, after all. Although Zimmerman himself is taking a job away from a hard-working German player...which brings us to another well-worn lesson that has been insufficiently taken to heart.
Zimmerman has his spot, such as it is, because he's so much better than the typical German soccer player that he can make a living at it in Germany. There are dozens of Germans (and Americans) who are better at it, but he's good enough. From the German point of view, he's better at his chosen field than Budweiser or General Motors are at theirs.
"But that's club soccer. All that's at stake there is a livelihood and a career and in a lot of cases supporting a family. And you play for your club every week and practice for them every day, as opposed to the tiny handful of games a national team has in comparison. Whether you're able to continue to play soccer at all depends on club form, not country. So, logically, your national team requires that much more motivation than your club."
I've written before about the dangers of misunderstanding your country's soccer federation for your country. Derek settled this argument in one direction:
That's funny, Brett, because all of the kids that we've been talking about, or most of them that we're going to be talking about tonight, all had American fathers who served in the United States freaking military. If that's not representing your country, and living and dying for your country, I don't know what is.
This was an excellent quote, but the whole premise is off. We're not looking for people to die for their country. We're looking for people who will play soccer for a non-profit organization with a monopoly on American association football as well as or better than players representing similar but foreign-based monopolies. Spain may indeed be a finer, better country than the Netherlands, but twenty-two men kicking a ball (well, twenty-one men kicking a ball and one man kicking Xabi Alonso) doesn't add or subtract to that assertion.
Besides, it's simply not possible for any player, for any country, to half-ass it in today's international game. It's possible for a player to be so good or famous that he could get away with not performing to the peak of his ability every game - although as a Galaxy fan, I'm certainly at a loss to think of an example. That's not an option for a national team. Even if a player is ridiculously better than his incompetent teammates (e.g., Best, Weah, Giggs, Donovan), the opposition will be of much higher quality. And there's always someone trying to take your spot.
This is what Shankly (and, for that matter, Patton) was talking about. Great, you'll die for your side. What we need you to do, though, is beat the other guy. People are willing to die for lots of things. How's the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere doing these days?
And that's even including the assumption that Zimmerman was talking about actual players, as opposed to people in his head. As we've seen, he couldn't have been talking about Danny Williams. If he is talking about Jermaine Jones, well, national loyalty is the least of his issues.
Defensive midfielder is not a more important job for the country than National Security Advisor. It's just more difficult. After all, the last American team to win in Mexico City was led by Winfield Scott. And if Michael Bradley had been given the nuclear codes, well, the last Gold Cup would have turned out rather differently, wouldn't it?
Twitter is not the ideal medium for communicating subtle complexities, and Zimmerman rather drastically failed in clarifying his thoughts. If he had said "Klinsmann gives players in the Bundesliga unreasonable preference to those who play elsewhere," that would be an entirely different conversation. And I'd have had fewer easy jokes.
Fortunately, he seemed to realize this, and has shown he is sincerely trying to start a dialogue on what the purpose of national team player, and fan, is all about - no, just kidding:
No need to elaborate on comments or anything, people who understand me do already, the others will never want to even try to understand
Okay, so he imagines himself as one of the guys in the Iwo Jima statue. But a high percentage of the controversy about this is because the nature of international soccer is to confuse flag with jersey. It's interesting that a professional player is roped into this as much as a typical irrational fan.
But maybe the real issue here is Preston Zimmerman's opinion. Let's all follow his Twitter every day for more insights and life lessons.
Oh, we also get to update this joke from early 90's Ireland, although it's probably older: the new callup, standing with his team during the anthems, nudges the player next to him and says "Wow, where'd they get this song? It's terrible."
And the other player says, "Shut up, it's ours."
(Made some ticky-tack edits. Because I can.)