I am a US national team fan. That means I don't, and won't, take pleasure in US losses. I've been following this team for over twenty-five years. In a very real way, this is my club. I want what is best for us, I want us to win, and I want as many Americans as possible to share the joy and love. I'm not going to throw that all away just to trash Juergen Klinsmann.
What kind of fan would put "I told you so" over "Can we play you every week?" Can you imagine being so shallow, so insecure, that you would literally take joy in your own team's misfortune? Just so you could feel smart? Aren't there ways of being smart and still being a loyal fan?
Yeah, sure, once or twice I might have questioned some of Klinsmann's choices. My only thought was, and is, for the national team. That's what a fan should feel good about. Gloating about wins might be bad sportsmanship, but gloating about your own losses? Who would want to cheer alongside such a person? Who would want to be such a person?
I mean, it's like they were sitting at the keyboard while the games were actually going on, and cueing up Sinead O'Connor's "Emperor's New Clothes," just to get the lyrics right when they quote them in their primal scream therapy masquerading as game reports. Talk about inappropriate. That song is about a woman dealing with an unintended pregnancy. It has nothing to do, nothing whatsoever to do, with soccer. The idea of using those lyrics to promote some kind of glib, smug sports take is reprehensible.
Especially these lyrics:
EVERYONE CAN SEE WHAT'S GOING ON
THEY LAUGHED 'CAUSE THEY KNOW THEY'RE UNTOUCHABLE
NOT BECAUSE WHAT I SAID WAS WRONG
WHATEVER IT MAY BRING, I WILL LIVE BY MY OWN POLICIES
I WILL SLEEP WITH A CLEAR CONSCIENCE
I WILL SLEEP IN PEACE
MAYBE IT SOUNDS MEAN, BUT I REALLY DON'T THINK SO
YOU ASKED FOR THE TRUTH
AND I TOLD YOU
THROUGH THEIR OWN WORDS, THEY WILL BE EXPOSED
THEY'VE GOT A SOLID CASE OF
THE EMPEROR'S NEW CLOTHES
Thank God I would never stoop to such crass, pretentious, smarmy self-justification.
Because it turns out Sinead O'Connor didn't write it - it was by Glen Burtnik and Patty Smyth (the Scandal one, not Patti Smith). I didn't know that until I looked up the lyrics to copy them into this post. The more you know.
Contrary to rumor, Santa Claus will not be the grand marshal of the Omar Gonzalez Fan Club parade this year. The Tooth Fairy has graciously offered to substitute.
I feel like I should address the quite reasonable response to the quite reasonable suggestion to fire Klinsmann now right this second now now change the locks cancel the cards hire a lawyer empty the joint bank account do it now do it now NOW NOW NOW! Unless Sunil plans to establish direct democracy in the US national team pool, someone is going to have to coach these guys. And "pick someone at random" is not an answer.
I have two suggestions. If we need a new coach right this second - and we kind of don't, even though Camp Cupcake will need a counselor this January - Oscar Pareja is the current flavor of the month, and I'm certainly not going to show the independence of mind necessary to disagree. Pareja has done a hell of a lot with what has not traditionally been the most - what's the word - proactive team in Major League Soccer. One of the only reasons not to give Oscar a shot is that I think American soccer might genuinely be better served by building a strong and powerful franchise in Dallas. My thinking is, it will be easier for the US to find a coach than FC Dallas. Once Pareja wins an MLS Cup or two, though, his price will go way up, so there's that.
But - and I've said this before, and if I'm going to dislocate my arm patting myself on the back, I'm getting my money's worth - a better idea might be an actual interview process. Bob Bradley was picked when Klinsmann wouldn't check the "Yes" box in Sunil's "Do you like me?" note back in 2010. Bruce Arena was picked pretty much by acclamation back in 1998. Steve Sampson was another interim who got good enough results to make it difficult for him to fire, as he was popular with the team. No, really, he was! It wasn't a long honeymoon, but it was enough to wake the neighbors.
So we've gone over two decade without a serious interview process for the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces. Now that Klinsmann has made Technical Director a thing, we'll have to have at least one detailed, long-term interview process anyway, even if we stick Andi Herzog or Tab Ramos in as interim and watch one of them win the job with a couple of 1-0 wins over Panama. We honestly might as well take the time and do it right.
There is also the suggestion that Sunil Gulati needs to leave alongside Klinsmann. Which, sure, why not. My only thought is to make sure that Gulati isn't 3/4 or 7/8 of the way through to getting the World Cup hosting gig for us. Since he's the same guy who was in charge when Russia and Qatar kidney-punched us before, though, I'd demand receipts.
Also, I don't think there's really a mechanism to "fire" Sunil Gulati. Even if there is an impeachment process in the USSF, it will probably take less time to simply find a decent opposition candidate or two and win the election in 2018.
One last thing - for the past couple of cycles, other communities of American soccer fans have cast covetous eyes upon the Mexico qualifier that was awarded to Columbus by mandate of heaven. Now that divine favor has seemingly turned away from Ohio, well, the vultures are readying their pianos. (Ancient "Far Side" comic reference.)
It's worth remembering that Columbus Crew Stadium was chosen in the first place because it was one of the few proper soccer fields that USSF could rely on for a home field advantage. That may or may not be true anymore, but the incentives for the USSF to keep complete control of an entire stadium's ticket distribution, and not coincidentally to set prices higher than Tommy Chong, remain.
And, speaking as a decrepit old man, I remember the days when the US didn't have home field advantage in their home fields. In the words of Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y Gasset, it sucked. There's an institutional memory of hosting parties and being the guest of honor as a piñata, and that's going to take a minute or two to get over.
One thing I'm glad not to see, though, is blame being handed to Columbus-based fans themselves. There was a bacchanal of articles predicting political, racial, ethnic and even mere soccerly strife between the two fanbases, none of which seem to have come true. Anyone who would care to take credit for that is welcome to do so, you deserve it.
But I expected some to blame the lack of "atmosphere" and "spirit" from our fans that made the actual team vulnerable. We've all seen enough games by now to have some understanding of what fans do for team performance - and it's almost entirely ethereal. A good performance from the actual team lifts the fans' spirits, and that makes for the magical moments we have, perhaps unreasonably, come to expect in Columbus. But if the team lays a big fat donkey egg, there's only so much fans can do. Cheering against reality strikes me as false. Columbus fans were certainly more loyal than Azteca fans tend to be in the rare occasions when things go wrong for the home team. Short of improvising a "Get out of the 3-5-2!" chant in the first ten minutes, I don't see how the fans could be blamed.
And we might have to play Mexico once or twice in the Rose Bowl or Jerry Jones Stadium in order to buy out Klinsi's contract, so, be prepared for that.