On Soccer - And Critics
In a break from form, I watched soccer on TV the last two Sundays, taking in the US Womens’ National Team’s stirring victory over Brazil ten days ago, and their equally agonizing defeat to Japan in the World Cup Finals on Sunday.
While I am admittedly not a devotee of futbol, I appreciate spirited competition in most any sport, especially when it’s being played at the highest level --- and from all indications, it doesn’t get more skilled or intense than it did these last two weekends.
Following the USWNT’s defeat in penalty kicks to Japan, two topics have been blathered about this week --- what a lousy way PKs are to determine a game’s winner, especially when the prize is the sport’s ultimate championship --- and what choke artists the US women proved to be, as they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by giving up tying goals, first late in regulation, and then late in the overtime period, before finally losing in the dreaded PK round.
My guess is that most of the sport’s suggested improvements are coming from those who don’t follow soccer on a regular basis. These are reminiscent of the golf course adage “The worst player in the foursome always knows what’s wrong with the other players’ swings”.
As for the notion that the US women choked under pressure, every indication was that the Finals was their best-played game of the entire World Cup Tournament. It was simply buzzard’s luck that kept the ball out of the Japanese net, as the US dominated the game and had the most chances to score.
There are always going to be those who have the need to be loudly critical of athletes’ performances and cast blame, rather than accept the fact that sometimes one’s best isn’t good enough.
Sometimes the other team is simply better, luckier, or somehow finds a way to win…..much as the US team was against Brazil.
When it’s all said and done, the only ones who matter are the players, as President Theodore Roosevelt succinctly put it over a hundred years ago:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat”.
There’s no question about it.