I have to be honest with you. I get a little tired of hearing people all around the world say that the United States doesn’t pay any attention to soccer. Just because we don’t riot, destroy stadiums, brawl, cancel work, assault and even murder disgraced players and coaches doesn’t mean we aren’t paying attention. It just means we are paying attention differently…and isn’t being different what America was founded on to begin with?
Two things every American loves…a winner and a good story. This year’s women’s world cup team gave us both. The only thing missing here was the true Hollywood ending…instead; we got a couple of missed penalty kicks and a celebration from Okinawa to Tokyo. But let me ask you this…how often in life do we really get a Hollywood ending anyway? After all, just because the destination isn’t everything you wanted it to be doesn’t mean the ride wasn’t fun.
And man was this one fun. From iconic veterans to spunky newcomers, the U.S. women had it all. It’s hard not have hope when you….well; have a goalie named Hope. These women played their tails off and their hearts out. They could have let missed goals, blown chances and a few bad calls derail them. They didn’t. They could have let a defeat in group play get them down. They didn’t. They could have given up the ghost in extra time against Brazil and let the land of one name players once again take home the glory. They didn’t. They could have let France win so that we could yet again hear the overblown rhetoric about how superior Europe is. They didn’t.
In fact, about the only thing missing when the smoke cleared was the Cup itself. All across the country yesterday people gathered to wave flags, paint their faces, blow air horns and chant U.S.A. They came together to pull for a group of women who readily admit they have to be role models for the young girls watching them (a novel concept these days). A group of women who won….and lost, with grace. The really strange part is, I think the grace was contagious…I even heard a few fans departing a sports bar commenting on how important this win must be to Japan given the tumultuous year they have had as a country. Wow. In my opinion we could use a little more sportsmanship of this magnitude on a much more regular basis.
In the end, I too got caught up in watching the story unfold over the last few weeks and after a day to reflect on the final reel, I’ll leave you with two comments.
First-the next time someone tells you that Americans are lousy soccer fans, blow your air horn in their ear and show them your Uncle Sam tattoo. They won’t like you anyway, so what have you got to lose.
And second-boys and men out there….the next time someone tells you that you play like a girl… take it as a compliment and say thank you.
The Doctor Is In….
OK doctor, it’s like this. I’ve been feeling a little blue lately. What’s that? Oh yeah…I know I should be happy; it’s that wonderful time of year when Football is in full swing and Baseball is headed down the stretch for the playoffs. I should be smiling from ear to ear, but instead I keep finding myself feeling a little lost and even slightly irritable. Come again…? Where do I live…?…Atlanta…why do you ask?
Hey, what’s with the smirk? Just because the Braves blew a nine game lead in the month of September and missed the playoffs doesn’t make them a bad team….OK. It does. But hey, at least we have those fourteen straight division titles. What’s that? How many world series? I’ll have you know we made it to five…now I know that’s less than fifty percent of the times in the playoffs, but….what? How many did we win? Wow. Now that hurts. We won one. There. Are you happy now….cause I am starting to tear up a little bit.
I know. We shouldn’t get out hopes up. We have had the rug pulled out too many times. At least if you are a Cubs fan you can’t be disappointed because you don’t expect anything. What’s that you say? What else do we have besides baseball? Well….we have an NBA team that can’t get out of the second round of the playoffs….ever. We have…no wait; had…an NHL team that only managed to MAKE the playoffs once. Say again? Oh…yeah. That’s the second NHL team I’m talking about. We lost the first one thirty years ago. How do I feel about it? I don’t. In fact, I’m just kind of numb when it comes to sports in this town any more. Except football that is.
Why you ask? Because things are looking up! We have had three winning seasons in a row and we have a great organization in place…two trips to the playoffs in the last three years…huh? Oh, well we didn’t exactly win either of them. This year? Well, Sport Illustrated picked us to win the Super Bowl! How exciting is that? Pardon me? How’s it going….? Well, we lost our first game because we couldn’t manage to get in the end zone despite our new and improved “explosive” offense….but then we won a big one against Philly! Third game? Uhhh…only scored thirteen point. Jumped offside in a crucial situation. Not that pretty…but then in week 4 we won again….well squeaked out a victory against a mediocre Seattle team. What’s that? Do I think Tavares Jackson is as good a QB as the Falcons made him look on Sunday? Not really. Please don’t rub it in.
How are we going to finish? I don’t know. I’m afraid to say….I might jinx something and then I’ll be mad at myself the entire off-season. Do I really believe it would be my fault? It’s called a coping mechanism Doc…didn’t you learn about that in medical school?
Now that you seem to think that you have gotten to the root of my problems Doc, can you prescribe something to make me feel better? Some sort of treatment?
Come again? NO…I am NOT going to move to New York or Boston! Stinking quack…you get your medical license out of a Cracker Jack box? I’m out of here…
I need to go home and pack up my foam tomahawk for next year. Hey, by the way….you don’t want to sell this couch do you? It’s pretty comfortable and I have a feeling I just might just need it again soon…
The Strange Case of Dr. Ryan and Mr. Ice….
I once had a very wise man tell me “Some stuff you just can’t figure out”. Trust me . . . I’m hip.
I spent my Sunday afternoon (as I always do) watching the Atlanta Falcons play. In this case, being a road game, I found myself viewing the contest at a sports grill owned by a friend of mine. It was a mixed crowd of Falcons and Buccaneer fans and as you would expect, there were some Matt Ryan admirers and some Matt Ryan skeptics. Only in Atlanta, however, would you find that all of the skeptics were wearing Falcons jerseys….some of them with Ryan’s number 2 on them. It seems to be almost epidemic these days….turn on sports talk radio and you will hear caller after caller ranting and raving about how overrated and useless “Matty Ice” is. Being the inquisitive guy that I am, I felt compelled to investigate by initiating a conversation with one of the “Anti-Matt” minions….it went something like this…
Don’t you remember 2007, when Mike Vick went to jail, Bobby Petrino quit and Joey Harrington, Byron Leftwitch and Chris Redman combined for yearlong clinic in how NOT to quarterback an NFL team? And let’s not even talk about this franchise for the forty years prior.
Yeah, but we could have waited for Vick to come back.
So instead of drafting a guy who is smart, low-key, media-savvy and by all accounts a great leader and teammate, we should have sacrificed three seasons to wait for a guy in Federal prison?
All I’m saying is that Vick is a better quarterback then and now than Ryan.
Didn’t we just beat Philadelphia with Mike Vick last Sunday night…if memory serves, Matt Ryan threw four touchdowns?
Lucky. If Vick doesn’t get a concussion we lose.
Are you aware that Matt Ryan has more wins since 2008 than anyone except some guy named Peyton Manning?
Big deal. Ugly wins. Lucky.
SO… the fourteen come from behind wins in the fourth quarter or overtime were all lucky games against bad teams?
OK. But he also has better numbers for his first three years than anyone except Dan Marino.
All 10 yards at a time. Dink and dunk.
OK. So you do know that the Falcons have had three winning seasons in a row (never even had two before) and in three years Matt Ryan has led them to the playoffs twice. The same number of times Mike Vick got them there in six years. In fact, we had the best record in the NFC last year…13-3.
Yeah but he can’t WIN a playoff game. 0 and 2 buddy.
All right. I’ll give you that. He hasn’t won one YET. But you have to admit that Green Bay was unstoppable last year and in Arizona it sure wasn’t Matt Ryan that was out of position and gave up a huge third down at the end of the game. Right?
Should have had a lead. Wouldn’t have mattered then. It’s always the same. He can’t throw the ball down the field…
At this point in the conversation, as if on cue, Ryan completes a long pass to Julio Jones.
I thought you said he can’t throw the ball down the field?
No, what I meant to say is he WON’T throw the ball down the field. One read and then dump it to the check-down receiver.
Fast forward to fourth and one Tampa at the end of the game.
Everyone in the stadium (and viewers worldwide) knew that the Bucs would attempt a hard count to draw our defense offside. And strangely, it worked. To the collective groan of fans all around me, Kory Peters jumped and that was that. Game over. Tampa 16, Atlanta 13. As Jeff Van Gorder (the Falcon’s defense coordinator) raged on the sideline and owner Arthur Blank grimaced, my new friend turned to me, snarky smile on his face and said…
“See, that’s what you get with a dink and dunk quarterback”.
Someday, when the Falcons win a Super Bowl (and although I am admittedly biased, I truly believe they will), I will pause and think of my partner in this conversation and his call-in show soul-mates. I’m sure that they will be watching the game somewhere as Matt Ryan hoists the Lombardi trophy…and I can almost hear the comment that will follow….
“See! He can’t lift that thing above shoulder height….I told you he didn’t have any arm strength…!.”
(AP Photo/Steve Nesius)
All Is Forgiven . . .
Anybody remember the bad old days? The days when all you heard on sports talk radio and television were terms like “stalemate”, “appellate court” and “player run workouts”. They say misery loves company and it sure seemed that way as we commiserated over a beer and talked about “Billionaires arguing with Millionaires”. We lamented the possibility that we might actually have to think about what to do with our Sundays this Fall and Winter and when we heard about plans that included a scenario for a shortened season, we had had just about enough. We cursed the commissioner, we vilified the Jerrys (Richardson and Jones) and we stopped following our favorite players on Twitter. If Chad Ochocinco wants to be rodeo cowboy we’ll root for the bull. We were absolutely, positively, eye-popping, insanely mad.
Then it happened.
As suddenly as it had arrived, the lockout was over. In the blink of an eye the world spun upside down. And if you ever had any doubt about the power of the NFL, then consider this; in roughly a 72 hour period, Roger Goodell and his minions managed to completely erase and reprogram the memories of millions of fans. It was like “Men in Black” without the funky pens.
The next thing you know, players were hugging owners, the commissioner was hugging the head of the players union, rookies were hugging veterans, Packers fans were hugging Bears fans….OK; maybe not that last one. All we needed was a campfire and an acoustic guitar and a hearty round of “Kumbayah” might have broken out.
Quickly, the talk turned to fantasy drafts and the stores were overrun with shoppers seeking tailgate supplies and logo merchandise. Training camps were swiftly opened, stadiums across our fair land scrambled to get ready for action and almost universally; sports bar owners rejoiced.
A frenzied whirlwind free agency period ensued and for 7 days, we were all mesmerized by the pace of the moves. Haynesworth and Ochocinco to the Patriots…Ray Edwards to the Falcons…the Eagles just signed who? And WHO ELSE? It was electrifying. By the time we caught our breath pre-season games were upon us. Too bad nobody cares about the pre-season. But wait…not so fast my friend.
You see; this year we did. As a matter of fact these are some of the biggest pre-season ratings ever. In the spirit of full disclosure, I was able to sell two of my personal pre-season Falcons tickets…for actual money. Believe me when I tell you that is a first. I am beginning to shudder to imagine what that first weekend will be like when things open up for real. Tell Hank to dust off the guitar and Faith to warm up the vocal cords and let’s bring on the Packers versus the Saints. I only wish both of them could lose. But that’s a “me” thing.
If it’s true that forgiveness is divine, then there are a whole lot of blessings being tossed in the direction of the NFL and its fans. Maybe just maybe some good can come out of a lockout after all. Perhaps the NBA can find some hope in that….but I doubt it. They ain’t the NFL. Not even close.
Are you ready for some football….? I’m guessing you are.
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