Cumberland Times-News

Columns

July 11, 2014

What have we learned this past month?

— Some serious soccer withdrawal is on the horizon for disciples of the Beautiful Game as the month of mania concludes Sunday with the World Cup final. Germany and Argentina, I believe?

How’s that for timing? Just as the World Cup frenzy comes to a close, so, too, does the traditional first half of the baseball season, with the All-Star break beginning Monday to set up the All-Star Game on Tuesday and then Wednesday, the deadest, most boring day of the sports year when absolutely nothing takes place. (Or is it when absolutely nil takes place?)

Coincidence? I think not. I believe it’s all part of a carefully designed plot by the soccer zealots to trick non-soccer dopes such as myself into believing we will miss all that we witnessed, or at least mindlessly sat through, over the past month.

(Speaking of sitting mindlessly through something, here is your annual Home Run Derby warning: If Chris Berman is making the call on ESPN’s Monday night coverage of the so-called event, either turn down the sound or turn away. Personally, I would rather have a tarantula lay eggs in my ears than subject them to so much as one “BACK, BACK, BACK, BACK!!!!” But you have been warned.)

Did I watch the World Cup? I’m as patriotic as the next guy. I know all the words to “Over There”. So, yes, I watched the United States’ games (or is it matches?) and I rooted for our country, which, in part, was represented by one Norwegian and three German players, and a German head coach who agreed to an armistice before the first ball was kicked in beauty.

Is that what the NSA is doing over there, recruiting soccer players? Hey, every little bit helps. J. Robert Oppenheimer’s pops, after all, was from Germany, and that ended up coming in handy. But no, other than the U.S. games, I didn’t watch too much of it despite the subliminal tactics attempted by my friend Dave.

Did I learn anything? Not that I really tried to, but no, I learned nothing. But then I have a pretty good track record of that anyway. What I did take out of it was our team went 1-2-1 and concluded Cup play with three straight non-winning decisions and now we’re supposed to put these guys up there with the Miracle on Ice guys, who, oh, by the way, won their tournament?

I understand it’s all part of The Movement. I understand that in soccer, as in life, it is of the utmost importance to distance oneself as far as possible from the Group of Death. And I understand what a great accomplishment it was for U.S. soccer to reach the round of 16. But we lost two out of the last three and didn’t win any of them. It’s just not in the DNA of old guys like me (double-nickels, baby!) to feel giddy about that.

Nonetheless, when in Rome ... So if everybody who actually knows anything about soccer is happy with the U.S. team’s World Cup showing, then who am I to be unhappy? About that, anyway.

Meanwhile, America Held Hostage by LeBron, Part II seems to be drawing to a close, so there’s really no point in discussing that since The Decision II could come at any moment. (It hadn’t come at the time of this writing.) Personally, I’d like to see him go back to Cleveland, and I’d like to see Chris Bosh go to Houston. Why? Because Cleveland deserves a break. Plus, I’m still a little touchy about Pat Riley’s days of coaching the Lakers. By the way, has anybody seen the Lakers lately? Wait a minute, nobody’s seen the Celtics either, so I’ll just shut up.

I will say all of this LeBron, Bosh and Carmelo stuff has made for a fascinating NBA offseason. Even folks who have no use for the NBA have lent a curious eye. But until LeBron announces, all we know is he will be in Brazil for the World Cup final. That’s it. That’s what we know.

It was believed he would make The Decision II before he leaves for Brazil, but who ever knows with this jasper? Maybe ABC will ask him to make the announcement Sunday on center spot of the pitch during the interval.

That’s in the middle of the field during halftime for those of you who know nothing about soccer.

Mike Burke is sports editor of the Cumberland Times-News. Write to him at mburke@times-news.com

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