Brooks, The Story of O and What's in Alexi's Glass?

One of the great things about the US Men's thrilling last minute grasp of victory from the jaws of tying is that some guy named Brooks won the game on an out-of-nowhere header that resulted - albeit briefly - in his Wikipedia entry reading:

"He is the greatest American since Abraham Lincoln."

Which is of course ridiculous. Roosevelt maybe. Or possibly Kennedy, sure.

Anyway, this is heady stuff for a kid from Berlin whose American born father now lives in Switzerland because, whether he evolves someday into the greatest US defender since the equally American Thomas Dooley or morphs into a piece of soccer esoterica - as in "Say, do you remember that goal against Ghana in Brazil? What was that kid's name?" - for a few days at least a good sized chunk of his fellow American citizens knew his name and were proud to call him one of our own.

God I love soccer.


Not coincidentally, so does ESPN, which may be rethinking their bid for the 2018 and 2022 Cups, which they lost to Fox, as the TV ratings continue to set records.

For the first 11 matches The Disney Family of outlets averaged a paltry sounding two percent viewer increase over the same span in 2010 BUT that particular period included the US/England match.

If you subtract that one match, the ratings on ESPN et al are up a whopping 37 percent.

As for that US/Ghana thriller, it was the highest-rated ESPN broadcast since the 2014 BCS National Championship, with over 11,000,000 viewers, while WatchESPN and the network's various websites are setting records by triple figure percentages.

So it's not just your imagination - or ego - that's telling you everybody suddenly cares about soccer.

And the thing about a bandwagon is that when the parade is over not everybody hops right off. There are always some folks who stick around.

Ratings aside however, ESPN's broadcasts have been nothing short of terrific.

In the booth Ian Darke and Steve McManaman have been terrific, while Jon Champion and Stewart Robson have been a very solid "B" team. And of course old reliables Adrian Healey and Derek Rae, who won't make anyone forget that Martin Tyler was assigned to do Australian broadcasts, are eminently listenable nonetheless.

Mike Tirico and Bob Ley have been great, and the addition of the marvelous Lynsey Hipgrave (if you're much hipper than I the fact that she's married to guitarist Dan Hipgrave from the British alt-rock groupTopsider will mean something to you.) has been note perfect.

World Cup Tonight and the even more informal "Last Call" discussion shows where an ever-changing cast of, apparently, whoever happens to be available, sits in comfortable looking chairs around a beat up table - which occasionally holds glasses which look an awful lot like cocktails but surely aren't - and seem to more or less be shooting the shit is just wonderful.

Tirico commented in passing the other day that LC was "the most fun he's ever had in broadcasting". Even a stiff like Michael Ballack seems to be relaxing and getting into the spirit of things - last night he made a  joke about Alexi Lalas' nose - and of course the whole setup is perfect for Lalas (who probably does have a cocktail in that glass).

Even Julie Foudy is more than tolerable - almost engaging in fact.

There are only two sour notes in ESPN's coverage: first, that awful "Men in Blazers" segment where two British guys are given five minutes to do something funny and have so far failed miserably. Nice try, but when an idea just isn't working you need to can it; send them home with our thanks.

The other unfortunate clunker is the continued appearance of Landon Donovan, looking stiff and uncomfortable in what appears to be a borrowed suit as he sits in front of a camera in LA answering questions like "What's it like in the locker room right now?", to which he'd more than likely love to respond "How the hell should I know?".

Instead he manfully marches through a boilerplate "Well, everybody is nervous and blah blah blah" response.

Maybe Landon would do better sitting around that table on Copacabana beach chewing the fat with the guys, but his normal speaking voice is a nasal monotone and his regular appearance is a constant reminder of the painful circumstances under which he was dismissed from the team.

Cut the guy a break, and a check, and leave him alone.

The Story of O is grabbing the headlines today, and rightly so.

Mexico/Brazil was a wonderful show and the 0-0 result was the perfect antidote to the dreadful Iran/Nigeria 0-0 match two days earlier.

Brazil seemed shocked to discover that Mexico showed up planning to play them straight up, apparently not remembering the recent Olympic final where they played exactly the same way. And won.

A lot of teams come into a match against Brazil the way teams approached playing the original US Basketball Dream Team: we'll stand aside as you dazzle us with your brilliance and afterwards ask you for autographs.

Mexico doesn't do that for anybody, ever. They refuse to fear you even when it would seem to make rational sense.

Still, with all due respect to El Tri and the amazing performance Memo Ochoa turned in - best in the tournament by far (and so far) - it should be noted that when you need the game of a lifetime from your goalkeeper to salvage a 0-0 draw it usually means that you were at least a little lucky to get out without a loss.

Maybe they'll go far, and if they do, I'll be cheering right along with them until they make it to a match against the US where Ochoa will surely give up a pair en route to losing dos a cero.

And then there are the shoes. Or, if you'd prefer, boots.

I guess the idea was for everyone - in the stands, watching on TV and monitoring the games via telescope from Saturn - to know at a glance what brand of footwear you have been paid to wear.

Nike went with garish flourescent yellow and pink Mercurials, some of which are the new anklesock versions which only increase the square inches of glow in the dark color.

adidas went with the so-called Battle Pack designs which look like they're made from the skins of alligators who died of LSD poisoning.

However those style choices strike the purists amongst us - some people undoubtedly find them snazzy and more power to them - Puma's "Tricks" line, where the play wears shoes of vastly different colors, is just odd looking.

It's the sort of thing U11 girls do, swapping one shoe or one sock with a teammate, along with matching ribbons on their pony tails and rolling the waistband on their shorts to make the legs shorter.

Real men don't wear mismatched shoes. It's just...tacky.