POSTED ON JUNE 30, 2010:
All on the Field
Team U.S.A. makes us believe for a little while in the World Cup. Two of Tulsa's own get a shot at the NBA
Simply the Best … for Now. To date, Landon Donovan is the greatest American soccer player of all time. His résumé includes three World Cup appearances. However, an appearance in the quarterfinals back in 2002 is the best he has to show for it.
Goooaaaaalllllllll!!! Unfortunately for Team U.S.A., scoring only one goal led to their elimination from the World Cup this past Saturday. Here are a couple of questions you can expect during the next couple of weeks.
Has soccer arrived in the states? Will this past month's World Cup frenzy translate into a surge in youth soccer leagues? Only time will tell, but I'm guessing the answer is -- No.
For the record, I already miss the buzzing sound of the vuvuzelas. Many are perturbed by the noise, but I find it soothing. Then again, maybe it's the actual soccer that puts me to sleep.
I can't wait for the Tulsa Talons to have a vuvuzela night. Even better if the Talons introduce the next great noise maker in a future giveaway. Start a trend!
Soccer has tons of potential. With a few minor adjustments, America could compete for a World Cup within the next 20 years.
The fixed amount of time a match takes is a huge bonus for soccer. Baseball games typically run long thanks in large part to slow action on the mound. Basketball games bog down toward the end of competitive games due to time outs and foul tactics.
Even a football game can run long if two pass-wacky coaches are patrolling the sidelines. Soccer, until the elimination round, is set at 90 minutes. It is easy to set aside two hours for viewing.
Another plus, the U.S. can capitalize on is the underdog roll. To date, Landon Donovan is the greatest American soccer player of all time.
His résumé includes three World Cup appearances. However, an appearance in the quarterfinals back in 2002 is the best he has to show for it.
Imagine the next great American-born soccer player. If he leads the country to world prominence, the nation will revere him. High-profile companies throw millions of advertising dollars behind international soccer stars. There is money to be made for the first truly great American-born soccer player.
But it is not all on the upside. Soccer acceptance in this country faces two daunting tasks.
First and foremost is the disgusting art of flopping. Brazil pounded the Ivory Coast during group play. At the end of the game, Kaka received his second yellow card from a referee. He spent the rest of the game in the shower.
Kaka is widely considered a top-three player in the world. His foul on this particular play? He elbowed a player in the chest. However, the Ivory Coast player dropped to the ground as if he took a 12-gauge blast to the face. He withered on the ground holding his face. Meanwhile, replays showed absolutely no contact above the shoulder.
This is unacceptable in America. If wimpy tactics like this are employed on play grounds across America, the other kids would have kicked the faker while he was down. In soccer, this behavior is rewarded.
The second problem is a common theme. Thanks in large part to high definition TVs and super-slow motion replays, we see every referee error.
In the world's game, these errors are magnified by 1,000. When scores average 2-1, missing a goal or penalty call can result in life and death, literally.
Too many times during the past few weeks we watched Team U.S.A. get the short end of the refereeing stick. But it was not just America. Other countries suffered the same fate.
FIFA should make changes before the next WC. The addition of quick replays only enhances the game. Admitting your referee needs help is OK. Getting it correct trumps all.
We have a ways to go, but, in time, we might become a world power and that is something all Americans can support. Now, where is my vuvuzela?
A Bit of a Draft
Thursday, June 24 watched the NBA hold their annual draft in New York. For the first time since 1999, the University of Tulsa took note. The city cared.
We watched the dynamic duo of Jerome Jordan and Ben Uzoh grow up before our eyes. They matured on the court at the Reynolds Center, and we watched as proud parents would.
Jordan was tabbed by the Milwaukee Bucks with the 44th pick. Uzoh's name was not called, but he will join the New Jersey Nets summer team in Orlando.
Jordan might not be with the Bucks by the time you read this. Rumors have him being shipped to the New York Knicks.
Regardless of his final destination, Jordan has an uphill battle. Sure, a seven-footer will be given every opportunity to make the team. However, if he wants to make an impact, toughness will be key.
Having seen the soft-spoken Jamaican up close for four years, it is obvious he needs to develop a mean streak. If undersized UTEP post players can establish position on him, what happens when he faces Dwight Howard or Pau Gasol?
Uzoh faces a similar fight. He's an undersized shooting guard. His court generalship and awareness will go a long way toward making up for his lack of size. Perhaps a stewardship under a solid point guard could convert him into a proficient ball handler.
Aside from the on-court learning curve, both will find life much tougher from a media standpoint. Each player was treated with kid gloves here in Tulsa. Now they get exposed to the New York media frenzy. Good luck, fellas.
Then again, perhaps both are destined for a stint with the Tulsa 66ers.
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