Sunday, June 18, 2006


If Americans love an underdog, as the popular saying goes, I wonder what they think of America. I mean, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, we haven't exactly been an underdog. We've given the world our Big Macs and the shells of our uranium-enriched artillery fire. We've expanded our sphere of influence to include the Baltics and Central Asia, and warned Russia not to so much as recommend a course of action for any of its neighbors. We dope like the East Germans used to dope, be it in baseball or the Olympics, and we win gold and break records and then go on to smile in the Wheaties commercial. If you grew up in the fifties, you knew a different USA than the one I've known. And so it's kind of hard to get really passionate about any of this. Usually, polite disdain is my reaction.

But then there's the World Cup. And maybe this is why I like American soccer so much. They're expected to lose, but sometimes, like in 2002, they beat the World Cup favorites (Portugal) and other times, like last night, they draw a bunch of goons from Italy, leaving them with a chance to advance to the knock-out round.

Landon Donovan. Claudio Reyna. Kasey Keller. Demarcus Beasley and Brian McBride. These are guys worth knowing, international soccer a sport worth following. Now onto Thursday's match against Ghana, which I should take in from Kherson, before taking the overnight train to Kiev rather than Kharkov, because the Kharkov train leaves before the final whistle blows.