World Cup

Time to put that 'miracle' on ice

FoxSoccer.com Jason Whitlock
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Hello! We’re Goliath, not David.

With USA Soccer minutes from World Cup elimination, Landon Donovan channeled Michael Jordan, not Lorenzo Charles, rescuing us from embarrassment with a rebound goal that -- while emotional and thrilling -- won’t make Al Michaels believe in miracles.

Our 1-0 victory Wednesday morning over Algeria is/was mostly a reminder of just how far we have to go in futbol.

We couldn’t put away Algeria until the 91st minute. Algeria was Cinderella. It sneaked into the World Cup by slipping past African Cup powerhouse Egypt.

I’m sorry. Let me apologize. You’re probably thinking this column is contrarian for the sake of being contrarian. It’s not. I’m simply refusing to follow the pack-journalism instructions.

Someone -- most likely an ESPN executive -- sent out a memo that this is the year soccer goes American mainstream. There’s no upside in discussing how boring soccer is. The smart money is on recognizing there’s a generation of 30-somethings who grew up playing soccer and a generation of 50-somethings who spent their 30s and 40s taking kids to soccer practices.

I get it. It’s late June, the sports world’s dead season. The NBA playoffs are over. Baseball has yet to heat up. Tiger Woods’s runs at Jack Nicklaus and Wilt Chamberlain have been put on hold.

Why not catch World Cup fever? Why not perpetuate a lie and ignore the obvious?

We have the 14th-ranked team in the world. We should’ve spanked Algeria 4-nil. Yes, a linesman stole a first-half goal from us with a bogus offsides call. But we missed more wide-open bunnies than the Los Angeles Clippers. We were ragged and sloppy.

All the broadcasters and journalists shouting about the beauty and heroics and miracle of Donovan’s put-back were ready to shout something totally different had Algeria’s keeper controlled Clint Dempsey’s shot.

You can argue that is the magic of sports. You can turn from goat to hero in a matter of seconds. However, the transformation from Goliath to David takes generations. Despite our below-mediocre World Cup history, compared to Algeria we’re a soccer juggernaut.

Nothing skews perspective quite like international competition. When the Lakers and Celtics square off, we get to hear both sides of the argument. We know how the game looks, sounds and feels in Boston and L.A. We factor those competing perspectives into our analysis of the results.

The World Cup narrows our view and, more than any other sporting event, baits us to give in to nationalism, jingoism and racism. It’s not the Olympics. Not everyone is invited. And no one pretends the month of World Cup play is a reason to celebrate and respect the world’s numerous cultures.

The World Cup owes much of its popularity to hate. It’s the anti-Olympics. It’s an excuse for bigots to mask their biases in sporting patriotism.

USA-Algeria lessons

LESSONS LEARNED

The USA is into the knockout stage thanks to five valuable lessons learned against Algeria.

Referee Koman Coulibaly made an awful call in the USA's 2-2 tie with Slovenia. It was an indefensible decision, born out of incompetence or pressure or hatred of the world’s superpower. Maybe it was a mix of all three.

It was not a statement about the people of Africa and Mali, Coulibaly’s homeland.

Sports Illustrated’s Peter King didn’t quite see it that way. After a quick trip to wikepedia.org to find out Mali was “landlocked,” Peter The King fired off an angry column and tweet questioning the sanity of FIFA for allowing a man from a small African country to ref a “vital” World Cup game.

Palin Nation supported King’s courageous patriotism. Peter The King speaks for real Americans in the real parts of America when he’s not parroting the thoughts of billionaire NFL owners.

Let me clarify and add a bit of context. I do not hate soccer. This column is not an attack on the sport. My first professional assignment as a sports writer was covering Indiana University’s nationally ranked soccer program in the 1990s. The experience gave me an appreciation for the athleticism required to play the sport. It also made the sport tolerable.

I don’t want soccer to go away or consider it inferior. I’m just not sold on the World Cup.

Now that traditional and non-traditional American media outlets have figured out the World Cup can be exploited for ratings and clicks, we’re being spoon-fed a line of (spit) about the Cup.

USA vs Algeria

USA! USA!

See snapshots from the United States' victory in Wednesday's World Cup clash with Algeria that gave the Americans a spot in the knockout round.

It reminds me of the exaggerated hyping of Kobe Bryant. No rational person believes Kobe is on the same level as Jordan, Magic, Bird, Russell and Kareem. But the myth is being created because that’s what is good for ratings and revenue. The public must be convinced they’re watching history.

Yeah, let the pundits tell it and Donovan’s goal to beat Algeria belongs next to the Miracle on Ice, Joe Louis’ victory over Max Schmeling, Jesse Owens’ 1936 Olympics, Joe Namath’s Super Bowl victory, etc.

Let’s call it what it is -- more impressive than Erin Andrews’ third-place finish on Dancing with the Stars but not as historic as Tiger's first-place finish on Lap-Dancing with Porn Stars.

E-mail Jason or follow him on Twitter. Media requests for Mr. Whitlock should be directed to Fox Sports PR.


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