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America joins the world of overreaction

Sunday, June 13, 2010
Jun 13


I am right there, bearing down on goal, a Jabulani at my feet. I look down, I look up: Hello, Rustenberg! I am Emile Heskey and Martin Tyler is correct -- there is a lot of me.


Tim "Timminy" Howard -- all orange and lean and big and gangly, with eight arms and nine heads like the love child of a Hindu god and a Lernaean Hydra -- is bearing down on me as I bear down on him. I know that everyone in England thinks I'm going to hit it right at him, or send it sailing over the bar, or even hit the corner flag. And then that's all they'll remember. Not the dozens of won headers, the way I received the ball using my superhuman strength again and again with my back to the goal, not even the perfect pass I made to Gerrard for the opener. They've all forgotten Munich, they've all forgotten Niigata, they've all forgotten why I'm in the side. Not this time. Tonight it's going to be different, tonight I'm going to slot it. SLOT IT! I throw a little shimmy, drop the left shoulder, shake 'n' bake, rope-a-dope, bubble and squeak and I chip it with the outside of my …


My Sharper Image Limited Edition Vuvuzela Alarm Clock awakens me from my dream of dreams. Who am I? Not Emile Heskey. Where am I? New York. I stagger to the kitchen and flip on the coffee machine. My butler hands me the Post (relax, he's only a dramatic device). USA wins 1-1. Best tie since Bunker Hill. I go online, I read the writers who will shape this story in the U.S. -- courage, pluck, grit, resolve, organization, heart, apple pie, cheesecake …

What? Is this some kind of parallel universe? I have woken up in a country that gives a damn about the World Cup and, more than that, is celebrating a draw? Am I going to go outside and see the road signs in meters? Is Jim Rome coming on the podcast?

Saturday was a banner day for U.S. soccer. The U.S. got a fantastic result against England -- a historical foe, a country that believes it is a great soccer power, containing several famous and highly paid players who performed way below the sky-high expectations (some would say lofty entitlement) of their fans and media.

But today, I quickly realize, is even more significant. Today, America, you have become a true soccer nation. Because today, like the rest of the world, you have overreacted to a single game of soccer. You have, magically, without even a penalty shootout, turned a tie into a win. One game does, in perception if not fact, change everything.

Welcome to the sense-defying land of the World Cup of WiffleSoccerParity. Sweet dreams. Hit the snooze button on the Sharper Image vuvuzela alarm clock … and ignore, for now, the inevitability of the dreaded


Which brings me to …

Things I think we can all agree on:

1. Vuvuzelas -- not even a little bit funny anymore. I wonder how many people are going to want to relive the sights and sounds of this tournament by going to see the Official World Cup Movie of Parity in Dolby surround sound.

2. The USA's game against Slovenia on Friday is massive. As is England's against Algeria. But the U.S. plays first. And Slovenia's win Sunday makes it a bigger must win. But I've got to think that the U.S. team watched the Slovenia game and thought: We can have them.

3. The brilliant World Cup predictions of my partner in blog and pods (that's you, Rog). I quote from just one from this past Monday: "Can we field a goalie who can regularly catch a Jabulani?" No we can't.

4. How much does Serbian forward Milos Krasic look like Peasant No. 4 from any Monty Python movie?

5. ABC/ESPN's transitions in and out of break are intentionally designed to convince young children that "The Lion King" is about to come on. Thanks, ESPN, this is really working with my young daughters and making child care much easier while the wife is at her mother's.

And finally, Sunday's game reports.

Teutonic Walmart versus the Socceroos

Ruthless. Efficient. Low prices. Nice selection. Excellent parking. The Germans brought the World Cup of WiffleSoccerParity to an abrupt and thunderous end by showing the rest of the world what a real win, by a real contender, one no one has been talking about, actually looks like. Their passes, crosses and shots flew fast but perfectly. They had width, they ran and ran, they tackled hard, they rarely wasted possession. Bastian Schweinsteiger has a funny name but controlled the game and might even win a best supporting actor Academy Award (two in a row for Germany!) for his second-half dramatic shin clutches and agony rolls, one of which resulted in the very dubious sending off of Tim Cahill.

Serbian Fire versus the Ghana Git You Suckers

I think someone has to sit down with the Serbian team and explain how television works. You see, lads, there are these things called cameras that see and record everything that happens on the field from every angle. So if you jump up to head the ball and hit it with your hand, and the ref catches you, the whole world is going to see, in slow motion, from multiple angles, what actually happened. So continuing to feign disbelief and protesting your innocence at the ref and linesman WHEN YOU KNOW WHAT BLOODY HAPPENED BECAUSE IT NEVER ACTUALLY HIT YOU ON THE HEAD AND THAT THING YOU FELT HIT YOUR HAND WAS, BIZARRELY, NOT A PIGEON BUT A FLAMING JABULANI will make you look like a monumental wombat. And a cheat. And that clip will be seen all over the world, for the rest of your life, by everyone you know, by your children and your children's children.

Slovenian Green Dragons versus the Algerian Desert Foxes

Though I need to check this, I'm pretty sure there were some Slovenian Green Dragons in Harry Potter. Didn't Hagrid have a baby one? Anyway, game was kind of boring except for the fact they were playing on an artificial surface that played somewhere between a polished hardwood floor and a trampoline. This caused a goal-conceding keeping error that, though way less blatant than Robert Green's, was somehow far more comical. To be honest, were this not the World Cup of WiffleSoccerParity, neither of these teams, on the basis of Sunday's performances, should scare England or the U.S.

But let's not overreact.


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