After the Laughter

Let me start off with a pet peeve.

Because the best and biggest tournament of our lives is about to crest, so this is the absolute perfect time for that, I know.

I admit I'm an extremely easily manipulated person, and I'm particularly vulnerable to what nowadays are being called Hot Takes! - sports opinions that are put in, and belong in, nutshells.  Our community is currently embroiled in a controversy that will last throughout the 2018 World Cup cycle (which, for our purposes, began Tuesday evening), and it is very susceptible to such Hot Takes!  Viz., what to do and how to feel about Juergen Klinsmann.

We can't even form opinions based on results, because our expectations of what the results should be are completely inconsistent.  Should we have made the Round of 16?  Should we have made it even farther?  Reasonable and unreasonable minds differ - but those same minds differed between May and today, too. 

Now, I was so pessimistic I asked for, and received, a picture of Klinsmann piloting the Hindenburg with Ian Darke making the "Oh, the humanity!" call.  The picture was awesome, too.  But then we beat Ghana, and I still have the shin bruises from hopping on the bandwagon.  So I believe Klinsmann did a Good Job.  Guess I should have paid attention to Nate Silver and not the sports books after all.

But there were things I didn't like, at all, about how Klinsmann managed the team. 

Thursday, June 26:  US To Launch All-Out Offensive In Last 16, Says Klinsmann

"But whoever we face now, we are going to take it to the them. Now we can put this behind us and, as we know, when the group is done, another tournament starts and that is a whole other ball game."

Wednesday, July 2:  Klinsmann: We Show Too Much Respect

"I think there is a little bit too much respect when it comes to the big stage - why not play them eye-to-eye? I don't know how many years that takes to change but it's something we have to go through. The players have got to realize they have to take it to the opponent."

The nice thing about parking the bus is that it's right there handy when you want to throw your players under it.

There are at least fifty-seven things wrong with this.  Let's go over them in painful detail - well, on second thought, let's try to nutshell them into Hot Takes!

We started one forward against Belgium, if that many.  He had broken his nose two weeks before.  He wasn't listed as a forward on the roster, probably because he isn't one.

Klinsmann, more than any other man, woman or child on the planet, was in a position to tell the US players that he wanted them to go forward.  If this was a team full of independent-minded malcontents, the example of a certain World Cup ESPN commentator would have served as a handy example.  It's possible the US practiced a 2-3-5 for Belgium and then just forgot about it when the whistle blew, but I wouldn't bet what's left of my farm on it.

It's also just BARELY POSSIBLE that Germany and Belgium have better teams than us.  Teams capable of preventing snot-nosed upstarts from "taking it to them."  I think it would have been acceptable under such circumstances to tell the world press that the other team had the talent to disrupt the game plan.  The US wasn't able to "take it" to either team until extra time in the Belgium game, and only then after Klinsmann put in Julian Green AND Belgium parked the Le Car. 

I know the Le Car wasn't Belgian.

I also know saying "the Le Car" is like saying "ATM machine."

So if I were a US international, and I read such nonsense the morning after the most intense, emotional and disappointing game of my career, well, I'd probably be a little bit frosted about it.

HOWEVER.  I am not a US international - otherwise, well, the results wouldn't have been even as good as they were.  Mind games such as this are acceptable if the players are motivated by it.  Or if Klinsmann can convince those same players that these remarks were intended for the grist mill of idiot bloggers only. 

Well, fine.  We'll all take a deep breath, wait to see which scrappy underdog of Brazil, Argentina, Germany or Holland ends up winning the tournament, then cheer on Sporting KC as they try to defend their title or make an equally considered and informed decision not to.

Then next year, at the Gold Cup, we will see the US as Klinsmann intended.  Or we'll know the reason why.

That wasn't the peeve I wanted to talk about. 

Sports talk radio morons, a species analogous yet distinct from idiot bloggers, could not stop themselves from comparing the US World Cup run to the 1980 US hockey team.  The Hot Take was that nothing would have been or will be bigger than the 1980 gold medal at Lake Placid. 

Well, now that we're out of the tournament, so we can take a considered look at whether the 1980 Olympic hockey medal would be more impressive, and have more of an impact, than a prospective US World Cup win.

Now it can be told - I say that's a load of pucks.  (I figure that's more polite than saying "balls.")

The sporting side can be dismissed almost in a breath.  That Soviet hockey team sure was terrific.  It was the best in the world.  And once the Soviets were out of the way, everyone else was beatable.  Yes, it was amateurs against professionals, but it was one game, and it was one game at home.  (The gold medal itself - eh.  I mean, no one was having a Cold War against Finland.)  For the US to win the World Cup, they would have to run a freaking gauntlet of teams at that level.  Ask Holland, Mexico and Portugal how easy that is. 

Culturally, 1980 was a big deal, since that warmonger Jimmy Carter was going to lead us into all-out thermonuclear war against Sweden.  There was nothing Americans liked more in the 70's and 80's than beating up on cartoon Russians, and here was the definitive real-life example.  The Berlin Wall fell a scant nine years later, and now Russia is a happy and functioning democracy just like ours.  WAKKA WAKKA WAKKA

Okay, enough of the incisive political commentary.  No, we're probably not going to be at war with any of the countries we beat on the way to our World Cup triumph.  (The fact that our international friends and acquaintances are perhaps even now composing comments mocking the very idea of the US winning a World Cup is, itself, proof of how important that would be.)

But no one was gathered in parks to watch the hockey game live.

Yes, because it was winter.  But also because it wasn't live.  1980 was basically the late Bronze Age of sports broadcasting, so it was possible to tape delay an Olympic event AND not have the entire world know the result in advance.  A World Cup win would happen live in front of billions.

There would simply be no comparison on the impact with the 1980 Olympic gold medal, and anyone telling you otherwise is old and irrelevant.  Okay - ALSO old and irrelevant.

Well, now it's almost time to cheer on Germany against the bad guys, Brazil.

This is a weird tournament, has anyone pointed that out?