35 days and counting to World Cup 2010.
There are still a lot of Americans who don’t get what it’s all about, who laugh at a sport where six goals is a rarity (meanwhile, the sport it most easily compares to, hockey, averages about the same number of goals per match, but I digress.)
If you don’t get the World Cup hype, that’s okay. You’re allowed to not like it or understand the sport and its popularity. Understand this however; it still is and will continue to be the #1 sport of choice everywhere in the world. A big part of that has to do with the relatively simple gear needed-a ball. Any size ball. Or as we used to do back in high-school in the cafeteria, an empty juice box stuffed with paper. Two kids and a ball and you have a game. Baseball cant do that, American football requires more and the only other sport that is as simple to get started is the second most popularly played sport in the world, basketball.
And to all those who deride soccer in typical smugness, consider these facts: Of all the sports started by Americans-baseball, American football and basketball, the only one that America can win in a truly global contest (unlike the inappropriately named ‘World Series’) is American football, and that’s because no other country plays it. Or cares to.
A fully American team would struggle for a medal in the most apple pie of American sports, baseball and in basketball; we’ve already seen the rest of the world compete with and beat the US regularly. Don’t hate people, participate. My home country, Jamaica did not qualify for the World Cup, but my present home, the US did, and I will be rooting for them to shock the world.
Last summer I laid a Vegas wager on the US to win the Confederations Cup, a WC precursor tournament.
The Confederations Cup had the following lineup: Spain, the #1 team in the world and the prohibitive favorite to hoist the World Cup trophy this year. Brazil, the #5 ranked team, the only 5 time World Cup winner and another favorite to win the title this year. Italy, the title holders who stunned the world at the last tournament by winning it all with a squad of unknowns and the inspired play of the world’s best goalkeeper, Giancarlo Buffon. The other teams were no slouches either; the African champions Egypt, Iraq and New Zealand.
The US squad, after initially losing to Brazil and Italy in the 1st round by an aggregate of 6-1, put on the best run I’ve ever seen of a US team. They beat Egypt 3-0, Spain 2-0 and took a 1st half 2-0 lead in the finals against Brazil before losing 3-2, with Luis Fabiano playing the match of his life for a flat Brazil team.
If this US team can build on that performance, they will be very much in the mix of the World Cup, believe me on that.
I’m working on my brackets and I’ll put out my predictions for the tournament in the coming weeks. In the meantime, check out the Vanity Fair pictorial from the great Annie Liebovitz on the stars to watch in the upcoming tournament.
Speaking of baseball, if you haven’t seen Jason Heyward of the Atlanta Braves play, you need to. I’m not one to heap praise on a player too early in his career, but this kid appears to be real deal. Watching him play he looks like a cross between Darryl Strawberry and Albert Pujols. Henry Aarons has proclaimed him to be the next great star in baseball and he appears to be right on the money. He is big (6’7’, 200+) hits for a decent average, is articulate and intelligent.
It will be interesting to watch him grow as a player, and considering that baseball has the lowest number of blacks playing the sport since Jackie Robinson, I wish him success. Oh yeah, first game of the season first at bat, he hits a 3-run home run. Welcome to the big time, young Mr. Heyward.
Ryan Howard signed a contract extension with Philly that will pay him on average $25 million per year. Now i’m not one of those people that complain/gripe/envy athletes for how much money they make; I think those comments from average folk and sportscasters are generally mean spirited and borderline racist most of the time.
My question is this however; if Howard is worth $25 million, how much is Albert Pujols worth? Pujols in my opinion, is not only the best player in baseball, he is the only legitimate threat to reach the standard that hasn’t been achieved in over fifty year: the Triple Crown (most hits, most RBI’S and highest average.) What price does a team put on that? I think if Pujols hits the open market as a free agent next year, there will be two main suitors for his services-the NY Mets and the Boston Red Sox. St. Louis, unless they pony up some money now to keep him home, will not be able to afford to keep him.
One month in, the two best teams in baseball appear to be Tampa Bay and the Yankees, followed by Philly, Minnesota and San Francisco. I think the worst division in baseball is the AL west, where a .500 record might win the division.
Interesting conversation with Irwin Clare of Team Jamaica Bickle at Penn Relays a couple of weeks ago; his insight into the lack of corporate appreciation for Jamaican sports was refreshingly contemporary and on point. I particularly liked his description of the Jamaican “bauxite” mentality; ‘we allow others to take our ore and leave us with holes.’ True indeed.
I wish him and his organization all the best in the future and I hope they continue to build on the foundation laid over the last decade and a half. Yeah he went to Kingston College, but I wont hold that against him.
I’m out like the Greek economy!