Ian Darke: That's a good ball, he's found there, to Guedioura, who plays it deep--Saifi! With a header.It's been a day since the goal that changed everything for US soccer, and Ian Darke's brilliant call still gives me chills. I watched it projected in a lecture hall with a bunch of other folks in the astro department here at BU. It was a moment that, as Donovan said, makes me believe in the good in the world.
Howard gratefully claims it--distribution, brilliant. Landon Donovan. There are things on here for the USA. Can they do it here? Cross--and Dempsey is denied again!--and Donovan has scored! Oh, can you believe this? Go, go, USA! Certainly through! Oh, it's incredible! You could not write a script like this!
[27 seconds of silence]
[The replay is shown]
John Harkes: Well, here is the ball here-- [chokes up]
Ian Darke: --played in, and it comes out here to Landon Donovan, who strikes again. What a golden goal for the USA! If you're just joining us, there it is--the moment, deep, deep into the match to give the USA, surely, a place in the last 16! It is breathtakingly exciting!
--USA v. Algeria, Group C, World Cup, June 23, 2010
One thing though--I got a bit carried away there. This isn't the turning point for soccer in the US--this is its coming out party. So many reporters and pundits are wondering if this is the breakthrough, if this is truly the moment that elevates soccer to big-time status in America, if it's finally made it. What they don't seem to realize is that America is already a soccer nation--you just have to look at the population under 20 to see that it's true.
Glenn Beck recently ranted:
It doesn’t matter how many celebrities you get, it doesn’t matter how many bars open early, it doesn’t matter how many beer commercials they run, we don’t want the World Cup, we don’t like the World Cup, we don’t like soccer, we want nothing to do with it.”
Now, Glenn Beck is right--by and large, people don't get converted to sports. Oh, sure, the US men's national team is going to have a lot of support over the next few days, and possibly weeks, should they push deeper into the tournament. But the vast majority of these people are not going to wind up as soccer fans. They're not going to actively seek out MLS, or follow the European leagues. When the World Cup is over, and when Donovan's Wheaties box is taken off the shelves, people will forget about the Messis and Altidores, the Maradonnas and Bradleys...until four years from now, when they'll wonder what happened to them, shrug their shoulders, and get swept back up into the spirit of the World Cup. And that's great! That's what the World Cup is about, transcending sport and uniting nations. But these are not the fans that make soccer a great American sport.
What Glenn Beck doesn't realize is that for America to become a soccer nation, the US men's team doesn't have to convert a single fan. All they have to do is wait out the inexorable, inevitable demographic turnover that will take place when Glenn Beck grows old, and the kids of today are running the world (and writing out his social security checks). Because thanks to the internet and cable TV, they are the first generation of Americans to grow up in a world where they can surround themselves with professional soccer, following the sport at its highest levels (i.e., the European ones). My generation (and those before me) had no domestic league or any media coverage of the international game; without heroes to worship, we were doomed to see soccer as a youth sport, something to grow out of. But these kids, they never had to be converted to watching soccer--they speak it natively. For on the internet, it's just as easy to follow Arsenal as it is to check the score of the Twins game, it's just as easy to YouTube David Beckham's free kicks as it is Brett Favre's touchdown passes, and they've been doing it their entire childhoods.
So don't be crushed if we get knocked out by Ghana on Saturday--the battle has already been won. The sleeping giant is not just awakened, but checking its email and eating its Pop Tarts. There's an army of true soccer fans hiding underground, in their parents' basements, communicating through channels hidden to the masses, coming ever closer to that inevitable, glorious day when they will rise up and soccer will assume its rightful place as an American sport.