Cumberland Times-News

Mike Burke - Sports

June 12, 2014

This German is one ugly American

— Our soccer friends are beside themselves because the World Cup began yesterday. Look to a watering hole near you for a large collection of soccer enthusiasts when the United States plays its first game (match?) Monday against Ghana.

There are a lot of soccer fans here and what is called by soccer fans, who do outnumber non-soccer fans in the world (just not here), the grandest sporting event of them all is clamored for then fully digested every four years by all of them. The World Cup brings it all together — national partisanship and pride and the best soccer competition in the world.

For dopes like me, who have no soccer background or no soccer IQ, this is all understandable and, in fact, I have actually attended two World Cup gatherings (they wouldn’t put the Orioles game on at either one of them). I don’t pretend to understand it, but I, too, get caught up in the patriotism and in rooting for my country. I didn’t understand hockey either in 1980 (and likely understand even less about it now), but who will ever forget the Miracle on Ice? It still provides chills whenever we are reminded of it because it is one of the proudest moments in our country’s history.

I guarantee I will watch 100 times more baseball than I will soccer in the next month, but I hope to live to see the United States win the World Cup one day. And, according to United States national soccer coach Jurgen Klinsmann, I had better live at least four more years because he says the United States ain’t winnin’ it this year.

What? What is Mike “Go for the Gold!” Eruzione to think?

“We cannot win this World Cup, because we are not at that level yet,” Klinsmann told the New York Times in December. “For us, we have to play the game of our lives seven times to win the tournament.”

Naturally, this being the United States, which we know is No. 1 in everything, Klinsmann’s comment has not been taken too kindly. And, yes, it is rather odd to hear coming from the head coach. So if we can’t win, why even go?

On the other hand, how many of us out there really believe we’re going to win the World Cup? I don’t know if it’s possible; I’m guessing it’s not. So as Rhett Butler once said, “I have a strange way of not killing people who tell the truth.”

ESPN’s Michael Wilbon, who we know first-hand never makes irrational statements or offers commentary on anything he knows absolutely nothing about, doesn’t want to kill Klinsmann either. He wants to deport him, telling the German-born coach, “to get out of America.”

That’s right. We can’t have people expressing their opinions in this country. And who does Klinsmann think he is anyway, leaving longtime national team star Landon Donovan off the team this year? Then, to make matters worse, on Wednesday he reiterated his original statement during his first World Cup press conference in Brazil.

“I think for us now, talking about winning a World Cup is just not realistic,’’ he told reporters. “I think we are getting, every year, another step forward. We are getting stronger … (But) today, even before the World Cup starts, to say we should win? It’s just not realistic.

“If it’s now American or not American, I don’t know. You can correct me however you want.”

Why, that is just downright un-American, that’s what it is. As General George S. Patton told the Third Army prior to the Normandy Invasion, “Americans love a winner and will not tolerate a loser. Americans play to win all the time. That's why Americans have never lost and will never lose a war. The very thought of losing is hateful to Americans.”

The thought of losing is hateful to Americans, and throwing in the towel is even more hateful to us. However, Klinsmann didn’t say anything about throwing in the towel. He simply implied that our national soccer culture, which, believe it or not, is still in its infancy compared to most of the world’s, is not as advanced or second nature as it needs to be to win a World Cup. But I don’t believe you’ll see our players merely stopping by to pick up their World Cup participation trophies. They don’t do that over there anyway; just here, which could possibly tell us something.

I hope Klinsmann is wrong and, I guarantee you, he hopes he’s wrong. We’ll see the Americans give it their best fight and we’ll see Klinsmann do everything in his power to win every game. But you walk before you run, and while we’ve picked up our pace considerably through the years, we’re not yet in full sprint. Maybe we never will be.

Then again, there were Washington Post editors who didn’t believe Watergate when the story was broken by their own newspaper. And how’d that work out?

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

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Mike Burke - Sports
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