Fortnight Of Escape: A Team For The Times

Let me state this up front. I really don’t like soccer THAT much.

It has, I’m certain, everything to do with never having played the game. Nor wanting to. Not being eye-foot oriented. Not understanding the game well enough to transcend “1-nil” scores, autocratic referees, red-card expulsions, the science of shirt-grabbing, Second Coming goal celebrations, running clocks and stoppage-time approximations.

But thank you, U.S. World Cup team, for a fortnight of escape and healthy nationalism.

In the aftermath of 9/11, we’ve become a society obsessed with security. Understandably so. There’s this strong correlation with survival. There was also that mushrooming melodrama between India and Pakistan.

Our media “diversions” have been pedophile priests, stock analysts, auditors, western wild fires and a Utah kidnapping. Locally, there’s pubic access TV, FCAT reactions, USF subplots, fast food stickups and the win-friends-and-influence-waterfront-folks campaign of Don Connolly.

And then there’s soccer. Of all things. Imagine feeling (almost) guilty about not getting up — or staying up — for those 2 a.m. games with Portugal and South Korea.

But even on replay, what was not to like about the U.S. team and its feisty, underdog effort?

Never was it more important for such a high profile U.S. team to look so good and look so much like, well, America. It was black and white and brown. Players of African, European and Hispanic descent. Mohawks, dreds, ponytails and buzz cuts.

More important was the deportment department. Was there ever a better time for a team on the ultimate world sports stage to properly act the part? Exuberant, articulate, polite and proud to be representing the U.S. No arrogant attitudes or boorish behavior. No trash talking in victory; no bad mouthing in defeat. No self-indulgent posturing.

They were sons and brothers and nephews and buddies and boyfriends and members of an extended American family that now includes more than 25 million soccer-playing kids. They acted like they wanted to make all of us proud, and they did. They acted like they were honored to be there — not like they were doing their country and their sponsors a favor between endorsements, court appearances and rehab stints.

Talk about a “dream team.”

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