Monday, June 29, 2009

From Heaven To Hell

Have you ever heard the sports fan who says he'd rather his team lose by 100 than by 1? You hear that a lot after heart breaking losses. I've never subscribed to that theory.

I might now though after watching the U.S. men's soccer gut wrenching loss to Brazil yesterday.

That game was like a sports adaptation of the Greek myth about Icarus. The U.S. took a 2-0 lead and thoroughly outplayed the mighty Brazilians in the first half. The U.S. went for a quick kill at the beginning of the second half, but like I
carus, the team flew too high, their soccer wings melted, and the team came crashing back to earth. (Hey, I said it was just an adaptation of Icarus.)

The point is, as wonderful as the first half was to U.S. soccer, the second half destroyed any positive effects the first half provided. It was a one goal loss on the scoreboard, but I think it did more mental damage to the U.S. team than the 3-0 loss to Brazil earlier in the tournament.

The gam
e reminded me of the back to back Super Bowl match-up between the Dallas Cowboys and Buffalo Bills in 1993-1994. The first Super Bowl was a crushing defeat for the Bills. The team turned the ball over a record nine times, they lost starting quarterback Jim Kelly, and the Cowboys cruised in a laugher 52-17.

The next year the two teams met again in the Super Bowl. This time the Bills were ready. While the Cowboys strutted into the Super Bowl assuming the game was already in the bag, Buffalo came ou
t determined to prove everyone wrong. And the Bills did....for a half. The team led the Cowboys 13-7 at halftime and the Bills could taste the upset victory.

The Cowboys then came out in the second half and rammed the ball right down Buffalo's throat. The final score was 30-13, but the event was even worse than the 52-17 Super Bowl the year before. Dallas wasn't clandestine with the play calling, they lined up and handed the ball to Emmitt Smith nearly every play. Buffalo couldn't stop them. It was as if Dallas was screwing around in the first half and now they decided to go ahead and win the game. And there was nothing Buffalo could do to stop the great Cowboys freight train.

That was the same feeling I got yesterday. Brazil kind of wanted the Confederations Cup, the U.S. ne
eded the cup. The U.S. men desperately want to be taken seriously by the traditional soccer powers of the world. A big upset win over Spain helped, but that could be chalked up to a fluke. But to win twice against the big boys would show that America was capable of doing some damage on the World Cup stage.

Instead they look like a little dog that kept yipping at the big, bad Brazil dog. The Brazilians let them get away with it for a while, and then brought the hammer down. America had zero answers for Brazil in the second half and once the game was tied, I doubt anyone in the stands wondered which team would eventually win.

On the scoreboard, the game was a hard fought one goal loss. But U.S. fans now know just how big the chasm is between American soccer and the world's best. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

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