I turned to Twitter on Friday evening, expecting a storm of protests against ESPN incompetence. However, it looks like Maysville Cablevision, and not the Worldwide Leader, was my arch-enemy in this case. Following matches via Twitter is sort of the mirror universe version of following games by Matchtracker. For our younger readers - Matchtracker was a device where a game was narrated by texts on a dedicated web page. For example:
51' - GOAL! Maradona 52' - Protests from England bench 54' - Maradona with the ball 55' - GOAL! Maradona
And so forth.
Twitter, for example, tends to veer towards the knee-jerk reflex, and can miss the flavor of the game just as widely. For example:
@UberAlles Never crossed the line, not a million years
@PennsylvaniaDeutsch @UberAlles totally agree ref was bribed
@ProtoHooligan Who is this idiot commenter? We can see they're on the pitch, just describe the action
@KinksFan66 Get off the pitch, you fools! We'll have to forfeit!
@UberAlles Oh, f this
@PennsylvaniaDeutsch They HAVE to replay this
@ProtoHooligan Two world wars and one World Cup!
@KinksFan66 @ProtoHooligan the first of many!
And so forth.
One of the two games on Friday featured a fan base that was worried, desperate, and fearful. Also, Mexico played Panama.
The US was being roasted alive by its own dissatisfied fans, to the confounded amazement of, well, me. If I had been watching the visual to accompany the commentary, maybe I'd feel differently, but you would never have known we were talking about a team that had won its group and qualified for the World Cup two games ahead of schedule.
I mean, take for example this comment:
We thought Landon had problems getting into the game. It was a simple performance-based decision.
Oh, wait...that wasn't a Twitter comment. That was Juergen Klinsmann.
Well, he's the coach who managed the whole qualifying two games early thing. If he wants to overreact to the best player in American history having a bad half, that's his prerogative. A day later Klinsmann remembered to come up with a cover story, sending Donovan back to his comfort zone because of injury worries. For some reason betting on the Galaxy-Impact game has not been suspended because of doubts over Landon playing, shattering my faith in Asian betting syndicates.
It is also Klinsmann's prerogative to demand the very best from his very best, no matter what the circumstances are. A lot of people were shocked by his decision to not only strip the captaincy from Clint Dempsey, but to drop him from the national team entirely, a move reminiscent of John Harkes being dropped by oh that's not what's happening?
Well, the Galaxy did have the weekend off, so calling in and sending home Donovan didn't affect the MLS race appreciably. I'm sure there's a motivational factor going on here. Think how much harder Blofeld's minions worked after seeing their co-worker killed for letting James Bond escape yet again. It's even possible that Klinsmann now feels he can live without Landon Donovan. Donovan's US career has to end sometime, and the end of an international career is rarely painless. I wouldn't drop Landon, on the grounds that post-sabbatical he's been kind of amazing for the Galaxy, but I've never won a Hexagonal.
One thing that has struck me is exactly how detested Landon Donovan really is among our fan base. When Donovan does retire, I predict the reaction from our fan base will be a combination of mockery and relief...and that future historians will be amazed at that reaction. It's as if people had said "About time, old man," when Gonsalves hung 'em up.
Some of this may be Landon being genuinely different from pretty much every professional athlete in the world - those same future historians will also be going "Cambodia?" and "Water fountain?" at what I'm sure will be the multi-campus American Institute for Landon Donovan Studies. But I think this is also Donovan being the first MLS national team star. Donovan is the first American international to have played (almost) his full career in a domestic league since Ricky Davis, and the American international who has received the most American boos since Fall River and Bethlehem had a rivalry.
You could sort of see this turn early in MLS - Alexi Lalas, Cobi Jones and Eric Wynalda heard boos on American soil, even outside of Mexico games. But for big chunks of their careers, every American fan cheered them every game. Landon has always been someone's enemy, usually someone's supervillain.
But other countries handle the club vs. country divide without blind hatred. Well, not so much Spain. Or Scotland. And alleged national hero David Beckham sure spends a lot of time abroad. Club loyalties being a thing at all is a positive development for American soccer, but it's weird how it manifests. I suppose one man's Gryffindor is another man's Slytherin.
That said, I don't know which club in the world Raul Jimenez could play for to be anyone's villain in Mexico. Mexico isn't quite safe yet, so we can't call it the Six Hundred Million Dollar Goal for now, but as dedicated Galeanists we can put rivalries aside and appreciate, not hate. As someone who stayed up late at night to sneer at the idea that the World Cup "needs" Mexico, if that's the kind of quality Jimenez can produce, then by all means they can go with my compliments.
Oh, they weren't waiting for my permission? Well, nuts.