Sunday, June 21, 2009

This is why I love sports

Going into today, the US was in dead-last place in its group of 4 teams in the Confederations Cup - it had lost to Brazil and Italy, and was playing Egypt. It was the only one of the 4 teams that had yet to win a game, and had only scored 1 goal - on a penalty kick. During the ESPN intro for the Italy-Brazil game, the announcers ripped (rightly) into the US side, noting that they had as much chance of advancing as Jon and Kate did of staying together. They joked that it would take longer to explain the convoluted scenario in which the US advanced than it would to play the 90-minute games. They aired an interview from yesterday with Oguchi Onyewu, one of the US defenders, where they asked him all kinds of questions about what went wrong (and to his credit, he took the questions fairly and answered introspectively and thoughtfully).

45 minutes later, Brazil was up 3-0 (all 3 Brazilian goals came in the space of 15 minutes, and the last was a shameful own goal) and the US was up 1-0. All of a sudden, what had seemed like a ridiculous long-shot was 2 US goals away from a reality, and that second half of the US-Egypt game got WAY more interesting! Michael Bradley got a nice feed from Landon Donovan in the box, and then they were 1 goal away. And kick from Donovan (I think), Clint Dempsey got a diving header to find the back of the net, I started screaming, got that rush of excited happiness that you only get when your team comes from behind to win, and MAN. Do I love sports sometimes.

I also thought it was a great sign that, as evidenced in the pre-game, the US sports media was now treating the US men's soccer team like a real side, equals with the great teams of the world. They'd lost, after all, to the two greatest national teams in men's soccer (not necessarily the best teams from each country's history, but Brazil and Italy are perennially the titans of world soccer). A few years ago, the questions would have assumed that the US would have lost those games; now, they assume only that the US enters international competition with the expectation of success.