It's been quite a while since I used this space to lament my frustrations with the world of sports.
But, in the wake of a disappointing loss 2-1 to Ghana at the 2010 FIFA World Cup (which for some inexplicable reason, I predicted ), I feel it's time.
It's hard to decide where to begin.
Do I feel anger or disappointment? Which emotion is more prevalent?
In my younger years, I would've been angry, screaming at my television set and possibly throwing my remote. But, as I sit here now, all I feel is disappointment.
Let's be honest, no one in the U.S. expected us to win the whole thing (our showing in the Confederations Cup final against Brazil is the most significant argument for our not winning.). Anyone who says they did is currently being locked up with Leo DiCaprio on Shutter Island.
We, as Americans, have to face a harsh reality.
And that reality is that we're just not ready.
Not ready to win the World Cup. Not ready to be on the international stage. Not ready to be in the conversation.
Wait, we're actually ready to be on that world stage. We proved that throughout this Copa Mundial.
But, as I think of myself eight years ago, I can't help but think about how I've changed. Can't help but think about how maybe we as Americans have changed.
When Michael Ballack scored for Germany in the quarterfinals against the U.S. in 2002, the emotion that prevailed was anger. I was a believer, and a 1-0 result in Germany's favor was too much.
But deep down, we all knew it was going to happen. The Red Sox hadn't defied the will of God yet. What was supposed to happen, did.
2006 was forgettable.
We looked back four years to just how close we were. Or, more accurately, to how close we weren't.
Now in 2010, with our rear-view mirrors tuned and polished, we can only start the healing process. America believed. Maybe for the first time, with all our heart.
And, we were let down. Not by a squad who had been outmatched throughout the World Cup, but by a team who had defied the odds for three weeks. We witnessed, via out TV sets, or (for those lucky, or unlucky enough to be there) in person, a team that ran out of miracles.
It's the American way to believe that we're entitled. For those with doubts, read the last sentence again with conviction, and be honest with yourselves.
Now as Americans, we want (read: deserve) the very best. And as hard as it may be to believe, we got that.
The 2010 U.S. squad gave us their very best. They played their absolute hearts out. They gave us more than we deserved.
They gave us something to believe in, and we bought in 100 percent.
It had to end sometime, and maybe it's better this way. With less on the line.
We aren't, and never have been, the best at soccer. Why? Because we still call it soccer.
In true American fashion, we pushed our luck. This (our losing) was supposed to happen at some point anyway.
If you're looking for someone to blame, blame Landon Donovan. He was called (by someone possibly insane) the replacement for G.I. Joe. He became the Real American hero with his 62' penalty kick goal, which tied the score at 1-1. He gave that false sense of hope.
And, because we have to love him, we can't hate him. He's done more for American futbol (how's that for a distinction?) than all the other American players who've preceded him (so by law, we aren't allowed to hate him, right?) in the previous 80 years of World Cups.
So, when we start to think about whether or not we're angry or disappointed, we need to think about our collective expectations.
Did we, as a nation, expect to win the whole thing? Did we, as a nation, expect to at least win this game?
Probably no to the first question, and yes to the second.
That's why the overwhelming emotion is disappointment, not anger.
The U.S. team (I don't like using the term us until we've won it all) probably should've beaten this Ghana team. But, we lost to a team that was, at worst, our equal, and at best, a better team, in extra time. We took them to the limit.
We were this close.
And that's the difference. Here, and in Rustenburg.
We may not have been the better team (that's debatable), but we can be the better nation. We can take this loss and build on it.
Ghana isn't going to win the World Cup. Ever. Mark those words.
We can be good enough to win it all. We've proven it already in the aforementioned Confederations Cup.
So, for all those Americans standing in the the rubble of their broken TV sets, with a remote (and their temper) the likely culprit, take a couple of steps back. This team was (to quote an infamous coach from 2007) who we thought they were.
Don't be angry. Be disappointed.
That's definitely the emotion that the U.S. National team is feeling right now.
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