Klinsi spoke of the USMNT needing to be be 'nastier' a few nights back, the hothouse flower population has suddenly exploded in our little soccer bubble. Well, it's time to un-clutch those pearls and favor deep breathes over gasps, because I've had it. I've had about all I can stands and I cain't stands no mo'!
From every corner, I'm seeing fans and media members and folks connected with the game all worked up with huffing-puffy-chested sanctimony, insisting we should decline his request to lower our sainted selves for beast-like stomping, flopping and generally acting a fool a la certain shady national teams.
Erm, just for grand starters, Jurgen Klinsmann did not ask in any way for diving, fraudulent simulation, intent to injure or Daily Mail-worthy scandals of blatant human immaturity on the field. If one bothers to listen to the words that come out of his mouth, it's pretty plain that he asked for more American Bulldog in battles and less apparent resignation to bad ref calls. That fact alone should have handled the non-issue easily.
But, no. There must be a kerfuffle, the German guy insinuated we might reduce edges other teams currently enjoy, the very edges we've griped about plenty of times. Many have gone so far as to have the Scarlett vapors, throwing the nasty term "un-American" at Klinsmann, wailing that he fits all sorts of insulting adjectives because Americans only play fair and Americans never act as gamesmen and Americans never gripe and so on and so ad nauseum forth.
Respectfully... give me a break already. You almost made milk come out of my nose.
I do not want wild play, either. I do not want fish imitations or dissent yellow cards. I do not want to be the Hanson Brothers or '96 Juventus or any band of roving lunatic cheats in long socks. But to sit here and watch everyone and their mother pretend as if, unlike all those other countries, we are all inherently allergic to underhanded play as a nation of 300 million people is a real belly laugh.
It's downright tiring when the genuinely good guy reminds you every five minutes how good he is. It's quite another level to cry from the din of our election cycle, JP Morgan, the New Orleans Saints, that crazy astronaut lady, and to my mind quite possibly the voting for America's Best Dance Crew this season, that we Americans might faint if we have to even think about something so icky and gross as underhanded play. Puh-lease. Barry Bonds has a Kanye song named after him. Our executives have handed not one, but three shows to Gordon Ramsay. The name Gillooly ring a bell? Don't even get me started on Chris Brown's entire career.
We could go all on for days with similar and far worse real-life examples, but the point is not to argue that we suck. No, the essential point that shouldn't even matter here is that we're not magically born angels in America, so there's no need to pull the home country assertion equivalent of flopping in the box.
It turns out showing more edge is then not anything to threaten our national identity (real or imagined). As such, I hereby declare as a patriot that we are, on a moral sliding scale, definitely not above throwing a little well-commissioned elbow. I'm an American and I've thrown an elbow. We've all thrown a little elbow, don't pretend. Hell, I've seen an elbow thrown at Wal-Mart. And gosh, Carlos Bocanegra was roundly (and accurately) praised for message-flattening Scott Brown in the Scotland friendly just three American evenings prior to Klinsi's alleged horrid shriek of a no-no.
Here's the deal... did you ever notice how we get tons of crap calls and nasty rides on the pitch? Me, too. Notice how we aren't World Cup champs? Hey, me, too! Do you like being partially beaten with gamesmanship? Me, neither. Do you believe that this team can grow from where it is now as relative pups in the world game and that the best USMNT days still lie ahead in the future? Let's all take a guess together. And finally, are you born an American in all your naturally imperfect glory, fully aware that some compatriots around you do actually operate with lies, cheats, stealing or harm and some even prosper from it? I thought so.
Some fine enough folks need to open the ears, get over themselves and just stop it. The guy didn't ask us to come out against Canada, play dead for treats, chew through boots and maul the referee tonight. He only asked us to have more bite in a challenge and bark a little when our Oguchi Onyewu gets railroaded (which happens more than often enough for my humble liking). Maybe I'm an idiot - but coming from a non-native, I'd like to think that sounds distinctly American, unlike this holier-than stance. For crying out loud, we are a proud member of CONCACAF! We eat dirty play for breakfast, we brush our teeth with it.
So, here follows my official reaction to what he said. Good on you, coach, and don't listen to those hens. I'd share a slice of fresh-baked apple pie with you any day, ya old dog.
- Greg Seltzer