The United States has experienced a recent trend of athletic underachievement as American teams were defeated in five major world sporting events this past year. It began with the highly touted men’s soccer team failing to win a match at the world cup and finishing last in their group. They only managed to score one goal, and it was against Italy, the eventual champions. This was a team that had come off a Cinderella 2002 World Cup performance where they defied all odds to advance to the quarterfinals and came into this World Cup poised for a championship run.
This annoyed Americans, but soccer is not exactly our forte. We are out of our element. We don’t even call it by its official name.
USA baseball was defeated by Mexico in the second round of the World Baseball Classic. So much for America’s Greatest Pastime.
Both the USA men’s and women’s basketball teams took the bronze in the World Basketball Championships. This was after a dissappointing Olympic performance. That was supposed to be a wakeup call. The men’s team regrouped and rallied around Coach K, resolving to play team basketball. However, they were exposed by Greece.
The American golfers were thumped by the Europeans in the Ryder Cup.
Jim Litke of the Associated Press wrote, “What all those events have in common – other than the word ‘World’ in the title – is that our guys didn’t get paid for playing.”
“Yes, they flew first-class and received jewelry, a week’s worth of clothing, gourmet meals, courtesy cars, child care, music players and more – all free of charge. But most of them have garages so crammed with freebies that the second or third Mercedes gets left out on the driveway as it is. And while national pride might be reward enough to motivate the rest of the world’s athletes, it no longer works on ours.”
Litke said that the only way for America to get back on top is if they are paid to be on top.
“Maybe we don’t play team sports well, because even in those,” said Michael Jordan, who walked the fairways at the Ryder Cup all three days, “all you hear about growing up is how you can’t ever count on anybody but yourself. Over here, they play one basketball game a week and practice for five. We play three nights out of seven, or more.
And what do you see every time you turn on the TV? Highlights. Somebody doing something spectacular, and usually it looks like he’s doing it by himself. After watching that all the time, what kid is going to work on fundamentals – passing, setting up teammates, playing defense, stuff like that?”
Greece sure knew how to do that.