The best, sure-fire, fail-safe method of assuring that you hit the bullseye every time you fire a rifle is to shoot at a blank wall, THEN draw the target around the bullet-hole.
I think about that every time I read or hear the after-the-fact excuses that people are still making for LeBron James every time his team falls short. Sure, he took a little flak after the Cavs’ flame-out against the Celts, but that was short-lived.
At least, it was short-lived until his intemperate former team owner, Dan Gilbert, publicly claimed he “tanked” in multiple games in that series. And what’s up with THAT, anyway? Either he didn’t “tank,” but just played horribly, for reasons only he and team insiders know, in which case he’s just a “bum” – or would be a bum, if his name were Kobe Bryant. Or he actually did “tank,” in which case what the Hell was Gilbert doing offering him a max contract, and bemoaning his departure from Cleveland. Seems to me, that’s exactly the kind of player whose ass you’d like to see the door hitting on his way out. What’s wrong with this picture?
Anyhoo, the new mantra is: “Sure, he didn’t finish the job in the playoffs the last couple of seasons, but that’s because he had no supporting cast. It was King James and a bunch of useless scrubs.”
Ex-squeeze me? Maybe it looks that way now, but nobody – and I mean, nobody — was saying anything of the sort when the Cavs were winning 66 and 61 games, respectively, the past two seasons, or when the “experts” made the Cavs the favorites in EVERY SINGLE PLAYOFF SERIES in which they were involved.
To the contrary, all we heard when the Cavs acquired any player in a trade, or signed any free agent, be he Antawn Jamison, Mo Williams, Shaq, Anthony Parker, Larry Hughes, Ricky Davis, Damon Jones, Flip Murray, Drew Gooden, Joe Smith, Jamario Moon, Wally Szczerbiak or Delonte West (oops, more about him later), was that this guy was the perfect complementary player for King James, and that THIS was the piece of the puzzle that put the Cavs over the top and made them THE team to beat.
In fact, it wasn’t only sportswriters and media whores who are on record as having said that. It included alleged “expert” analysts, who’ve actually played, or coached, the game. Just go back and replay what schmucks like Tim Legler, Jon Barry, Sir Charles, Kenny Smith, and everyone else was saying before each of the past two seasons, and before each of the past two playoff seasons.
And players, too. Just go back and replay what Shaq said when he joined the Cavs.
Or what everyone was saying just a few months ago, when the Cavs “stole” Antawn Jamison without giving up anything – and, in fact, having a deal in place to get back Zydrynas Ilgauskas, who was part of the trade. The following was a typical sentiment:
“Cleveland not only landed Jamison — one of the best forwards in the L (averaging 20.5 ppg, 8.8 rpg) — but also keeps the ever improving JJ Hickson. Hats off to you, Danny Ferry.
OK, LeBron. You now have all the horses you need to win a championship. No more excuses.”
Or this gem of a headline:
“Cavs’ Danny Ferry Proves Himself As Elite GM With Antawn Jamison Trade.”
That’s FORMER Cavs’ GM Danny Ferry, if you’re keeping score at home.
So now, we’re supposed to suddenly turn a switch and pretend that all of that pre-failure hype never existed? Sure. It’s what psychologists like to call the “Hindsight Bias” — looking back on recent events and assuming or pretending, not only that they were predictable, but that we somehow predicted them. It’s part of being a human being, but that doesn’t make it right.
Since the moves the Cavs made the past few seasons didn’t result in championship parades, we NOW know, or think we know, that they were doomed to failure from the start. Maybe they were. But is that because the people the Cavs brought in were as mediocre as we now believe them to have been, or is it possible, just a teensy, weensy bit, that one of the reasons those moves didn’t work out is a flaw in the make-up of LBJ himself?
I guess not, because for a gasbag talking head even to broach that theory is to admit that, in fact, he doesn’t actually know squat about the game. The prevailing meme is and has always been that LBJ is the greatest, most versatile TEAM-oriented player. Ergo, if his TEAM failed its most important tests, it’s entirely because of his teammates, not him.
Or maybe not. He’s got lots of gaudy statistics, for sure. But statistics regularly lie. Unfortunately, they are all too often used the way a drunk man uses a lamp post – for support, rather than illumination.
Just for example, people like to cite LBJ’s laudable assists totals as conclusive “evidence” that he’s unselfish, team-oriented and just wants to win. Maybe so, maybe not. God knows, there have been a lot of NBA players who have pursued assists for their own sake, rather than as part of an overall strategy to make the team better. (Wilt Chamberlain, call for you on Line 2.)
Having a lot of assists doesn’t necessarily mean that the player is unselfish, necessarily makes a lot of good decisions, or even that he cares a lot about winning. Allen Iverson, just for example, accumulated impressive assist totals, mainly because he never made a pass to a teammate unless he was pretty sure it would turn into an assist. Those assists looked great on his stat sheet, but didn’t mean that he was running an offense well. In fact, most of the time, the opposite was true.
Here’s what Phil Jackson’s buddy Charley Rosen, never a LeBron hater the way he’s been a Kobe-hater (until the past couple of seasons, anyway) has to say about the current state of LBJ’s game:
“He is either incapable of, or resistant to, playing in a structured offensive system, one that isn’t primarily based on his having the ball on a string.
Forget about his assist totals. He accumulates dimes because he’s a very good passer and because he controls the ball. But how often does LeBron deliberately throw a pass that leads to somebody else making an assist pass? Or LeBron do anything significant without the ball except making dive cuts or (seldom) settling into the low post?
On those rare occasions when it’s somebody else’s turn to go one-on-one or use a screen, LeBron usually stands idly by somewhere on the weak side. For the most part, he’s either a spectator or makes spectators of his teammates.”
Make no mistake, I am not trashing The King’s talents or abilities. They are superb, especially in one who’s still so young. At the end of the day, though, it is about wins when it counts. Which is why Kobe was lambasted so royally when the Lakers lost to the Celtics in 2008, even though there was definitely an argument that Kobe’s “personnel” just weren’t able to match up to the Celts. But even when King James was surrounded by the best players the NBA had to offer – in the 2008 Olympics – he still had some issues when it came to what Magic Johnson called “Winnin’ Time.”
James was publicly acknowledged as the “leader” of that team, which included his new Miami teammates D Wade and Chris Bosh, plus greats like Chris Paul and Deron Williams. Yet, he might well have wound up with just a silver medal had the much-maligned Kobe Bryant not decided to take over in the final 4 minutes of the title game against Spain with both offense and defense. Don’t believe me? More hindsight bias, I suspect. Check out the film from that game. D-Wade had 27 points in that game, but he was clueless, helpless and ineffectual in the end-game until The Kobester bailed everyone out.
And just by the way – not that this matters, given how All-Star teams are selected – the Cavs roster over the past few years actually has had more players who had been selected to an All-Star game at least once in their careers, than the Lakers. True, some of those players, like Shaq and Joe Smith, were past their primes by the time they got to Cleveland; but not all of them were, by a longshot.
If you’re keeping score at home, only Kobe, Pau and Ron Artest, on the current Lakers roster, have EVER been All-Star game participants. As for Artest, he was added as an alternate ONCE, in 2004. And as for the Lakers’ # 2 All-Star, all we ever heard about Pau before he joined the Lakers and started playing with The Mamba, was that he was a soft, cowardly, underperforming piece of “Eurotrash,” whose teams couldn’t win a single playoff game. Of course, AFTER THE FACT, everyone talked about how the Lakers had “stolen” him. (And thank God they did.) But that’s not what anyone was saying while he was still with Memphis. Not even close.
Andrew Bynum, Lamar Odom, and D Fish, to say nothing of the scrubs on the Bench Brigade, have never, ever, caught a sniff of that accolade.
Yet all we hear is that Kobe had by far the better supporting cast around him. Yeah, right. More shooting at a blank wall, then drawing the target around the bullet-holes, methinks.
Forget about Kobe’s having to carry the likes of Smush Parker and Kwame Brown in the bad old days of just a few years ago. Let’s just look at what he had to work with on THIS YEAR’s championship roster:
An aging D Fish, who again proved his ability to come through in the clutch, and who’s exceptionally valuable as a facilitator in the Triangle offence and as a presence in the locker room, but who’s been maligned for years by all Lakers fans – including critic in chief The Sportsgod himself – for being too old, too slow, too lacking in pizzazz. I love Fish, but question his effectiveness in any other offensive scheme.
An enigmatic Lamar Odom, who has the skills to dominate but who seemingly comes awake once a week, whether he needs to or not. And who also, often justly, has been the target of barbs from the Lakers faithful.
Andrew Bynum, one of the biggest teases in the business, who looks awesome for stretches of games, but then either regresses or gets a debilitating injury. I’m impressed that he played with his injury in these playoffs, and give him props for that, but the Andrew Bynum who gamely played in the playoffs was worse, because of the injury, than a number of the Cavs. The games, after all, aren’t played on paper.
Ron Artest, who spent much of the season trying to figure out the Triangle and to find his role with the team; who scared his teammates and coaches every time he launched a three-ball; and who, just by the by, played some pretty soft defense against LeBron and Paul Pierce in the regular season. It wasn’t THAT many weeks ago that Lakers’ faithful were speculating that the team would have been better off just keeping Trevor Ariza.
Jordan Farmar, who has some skills, but never really established himself as a consistent shooter, passer, defender or decision-maker. A perfect fit for the Nets, with whom he’s just signed. He should have a breakout statistical season, but read the above diatribe against believing in stats.
Shannon Brown, bigger, faster and with more hops than Farmar, but just as inconsistent in all the above areas. I learned all I need to know about Brown when he entered the slam dunk contest last year, and showed he had no clue what it took to compete in it. He’s living proof that jumping ability is meaningless unless accompanied by intelligence and purpose. Or, as the late, great John Wooden often said, that we should never mistake activity for achievement.
Luke Walton: some skills applicable to the Triangle, but slow, unathletic, and, through no fault of his own, unable to play most of the season and playoffs.
Sasha Vujajcic: great pair of clutch free throws. Anything else about his contributions this season we should remember?
Josh Powell/DJ Mbenga: bodies, and fouls to give.
Adam Morrison: who?
So, feel free AFTER THE FACT to reflect on the events that unfolded and admit that maybe the Cavs’ roster wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. But let’s not rewrite history in the process, or negate the evidence of our own eyes and brains, in the process.
Although this column has turned into a LeBron dump-a-thon, and although there’s a lot negative to be said about the silly, narcissistic way in which this tarnished “king” took his leave of the good folks of Ohio, let the record show that there was and is nothing wrong, ethically, morally, practically, with LBJ shopping himself around, and making a decision other than to stay with Cleveland. That’s what free agency is all about. To get rid of it would be to go back to the days of indentured servitude that kept great players tethered to bad teams in perpetuity.
One of my pet peeves is that loyalty is never a two-way street in professional sports. Had the roles been reversed, and Dan Gilbert had dumped LeBron because he underperformed, despite his 7 years of “loyal” and “devoted” service, we’d have heard nary a peep about this good, hard-nosed business decision. LBJ owed Dan Gilbert, the Cavs and the people of Ohio nothing more than to give his all while the Cavs were paying his salary. Whether or not he fulfilled that obligation is still in question. What shouldn’t be in questions is whether, once that contract ended, he “owed” them anything else. It says her, he didn’t.
Oh, and just by the by, everyone dumps on the Cavs now for failing to surround LBJ with the right “pieces.” I guess maybe they could have done that, had they decided to do what Miami and the Knicks, to name just two teams, tried: tank whole seasons, or multiple seasons, by getting rid of players who might be able to help the team win now, to clear enough cap space to land more than one premier free agent.
The Cavs’ management may not have been geniuses, but what exactly were they supposed to do? Had they thrown away 2 or 3 of LBJ’s seasons by jettisoning productive players so that they’d have cap room for 2011, does anyone really think LBJ would have stayed around? They surmised that their best shot was to do what could be done to help James reach the promised land, and it seems to me that, with 66- and 61-win seasons, they didn’t do a half-bad job. The lesson I take from all this is that the only teams with a shot at landing a true franchise player free agent, from now on, will be those willing to endure years of mediocrity – and deliberately creating such mediocrity. Is that really a model we’re comfortable with?
Oh, yeah, almost forgot about Delonte West. As anyone who goes to websites NOT sponsored by ESPN already know, there’s a persistent rumor going around that LeBron’s teammate, the aforementioned Mr. West, was boffing LBJ’s mother – and that he wasn’t the only Cav doing that. Worse, LeBron was the last to know, and was irked beyond belief when he found out about it.
This rumor, among other things, has inspired one of the most tasteless (but kind of funny, in a twisted, misogynistic way) T-shirt slogans I can recall: “LeBron, you may be headed south, but your mother’s riding West.”
A secondary rumor, posted on sportsbybrooks.com, is that LBJ made his arrival in Miami contingent on the Heat’s getting rid of Michael Beasley, because (so Beasley’s father said) Beasley looks a lot like West, and James just didn’t want to be reminded of West every time he stepped into the Heat’s locker room. Who knows? It’s true that the Heat sent Beasley to the Bulls for, basically, nothing. On the other hand, it’s also true that Beasley, to be charitable, “underperformed” last season, and was/is a bit of a head case, besides.
I don’t know if any of that is true. But if even some of it is, how much incentive would LBJ – heck, how much incentive would any normal person — have had to stay in a locker room filled with reminders of such perfidy, no matter how much money the Cavs could offer him? And who could blame him for leaving like a thief in the night? Just saying.
Now that the World Cup has ended, I’d be remiss if I failed to tip my hat to the greatest sports prognosticator in history. You can have your Jimmy the Greek and his ilk. Just give me Paul, the Oberhausen, Germany, Aquarium’s “psychic” octopus, who predicted the outcomes of 8 matches – including the semifinal and final matches – with nary an error. Can they rent him out for the Super Bowl and the Kentucky Derby?
We sure could have used him as the “where will LeBron sign” circus played out. It could, at least, have spared us that horrid1-hour “The Decision” pseudo-reality suckfest.
write history and
It took the Lakers winning the NBA title to awaken me from my dogmatic slumbers. Sweet revenge, made all the more sweet by the un-Lakerlike way they had to perform to win at the end.
I’d ordinarily not care particularly who the unfortunate opponent was, but I have to admit that the Celts’ loss gave me an extra crispy helping of schadenfreude. Not because of the long, tortured history of the Celtics-Lakers rivalry, mind you, but mainly because the Celts, to a man, have shown themselves to be churlish, oafish boors, who don’t know how to win, or lose, with anything approaching grace.
There may be teams that show less class than the Celts in winning and losing. But not in recent memory. In fact, even though I remember Larry Bird as one of the all-time great trash talkers, I give that team a pass. It’s hard to remember any teams that have come close to the Celts’ crass, boorish and graceless behavior since the “Bad Boys” Pistons, who to a man vacated the floor and refused to shake hands with Jordan’s Bulls when the Bulls finally scaled and conquered Mount “Jordan Rules.”
Following the lead of the self-aggrandizing, chest-beating KG — who did nothing in this year’s Game 7 to erase his well-earned reputation as an all-time great, if only games were played for 3 quarters, and 4th Quarters never existed – the Celts, from the stars down to scrub charity-case Brian Scala“weenie,” took every opportunity to offer excuses for failures, and to give no credit to any achievement by any Laker. I can understand the joy of Paul Pierce (Inglewood boy that he is) at finally having become relevant in the twilight of his career, after years of outstanding performances for mediocre teams, having been forced to play beside clueless “chuckers” like Antoine Walker and Ricky Davis. But his relentless and incessant insistence on pumping up his belated achievements by belittling the Lakers has rubbed me the wrong way for the past 2 years. Ditto Ray Allen, whose jealous hatred of Kobe Bryant is well known and of long standing.
Of course, that’s Bahston for you. Red Sox and Celtics fans are insufferable enough when their teams are losing. But they’re worse when their teams have success. It’s a New England thing, I guess. Not that Lakers’ homers aren’t obnoxious in their own right. But Celts’ fans, players and coaches are in a (low) class by themselves when it comes to making excuses and to giving no props to any opponent.
They are followed closely, seems to me, by Suns’ players, who, despite the graciousness in defeat of their coach, Alvin Gentry, also refused to acknowledge that they’d lost to the Lakers 2-4. True, after Game 2 of that series the Suns were at a minimum competitive. But for Ron Artest’s stirring put-back of a Kobe miss at the end of Game 5 – an achievement overshadowed only by his full-game heroics in Game 7 of the league Finals – who knows what might have happened? But we know what DID happen. And for Steve Nash and Amare Stoudamire not to acknowledge that reality, and to insist despite empirical evidence that “the better team lost,” is kind of galling. Not as galling as actually losing to the Suns might have been, mind you; but galling nonetheless.
Since the punditocracy can’t take being wrong, I was prepared for an onslaught of anti-Lakers and especially anti-Kobe negativity after the Lakers won the Finals, and Kobe was awarded the Finals MVP. But I never thought the viciousness would be as pronounced and logically contorted as it’s been.
It was predictable that they’d blame the lousy refereeing, while overlooking the fact that a lot of the lousy refereeing throughout this year’s Finals actually worked in the Celts’ favor. Deadspin.com ran a live feed commentary from disgraced former NBA ref Tim Donaghy for every game of the Finals. Read it. It’s a litany of “no calls” by the refs when Celtics fouled Lakers players. True, what the heck kind of credibility does Donaghy have, these days? I can only point out that Jose Canseco had no “credibility” when he wrote about MLB steroid use – until, of course, he did.
As many free throws as the Lakers got in Game 7, they could have had double-digits more, and put the game away long before the last minute. Of course, except for Kobe, none of them could MAKE any of the FTs they were actually awarded. Including Pau Gasol, whose contribution can’t be minimized (I mean, NINE offensive rebounds), but who, in my opinion, like Shaq, regularly is less of a factor than he should be in the end-game because he can’t make his free throws. 7 for 13 in Game 7, just for example, doesn’t get the job done.
I’m not going to join in the orgy of MJ vs. Kobe comparisons – all structured to make Kobe appear to be a stumblebum. But I will say this: for whatever reason, The Mamba gets far fewer “superstar” calls than any other player of his stature, ever. Fewer by far than LeBron James or D-Wade today, and certainly, no contest, fewer than MJ, even in his rookie year. Not even close. I’m still reminded of Magic Johnson’s classic barb during a Team USA photo op at the Barcelona Olympics, when he told Larry Bird and another player not to stand too close to MJ, because “the refs will call a foul on you.” True, dat.
And anyway, the wheels of the gods grind slow, but they grind exceeding small. Maybe the Lakers (minus Andrew Bynum, as we all remember, and, oh, yeah, also with a limited Trevor Ariza, who’d been out from late January to the middle of the playoffs after suffering a broken foot) wouldn’t have beaten big, bad Boston in 2008 under any circumstances. But what I remember most from the 2008 Finals is the way the refs consistently let Boston get away with thuggery against Kobe without calling any fouls. Wouldn’t have helped in Game 6 of those Finals; but sure would have helped in, say, Game 2. So if anything, the wheel of life came around full-circle in 2010. Tough noogies, you whiners.
It was equally predictable that the talking heads would blame the loss on the absence of Kendrick Perkins – whose presence certainly would have made the game different – while ignoring the offsetting impairment of Andrew Bynum, who followed Kobe’s example and gamely played with immense pain, but was ultimately unable to be a force.
It was even more predictable that they would show their visceral dislike of Kobe by claiming that he didn’t deserve the series MVP. That may even be true, but so what? First of all, the Lakers won the series. What does it matter to a distraught Boston honk WHICH Laker won that award? And anyway, as far as I’m concerned, individual awards like that are at best meaningless “beauty contests.” Who knows who or what an “MVP” is? Heck, voters can’t even figure out what makes a person worthy of being selected for an “all-defensive” team, so what chance do they ever have of figuring out what makes one player more deserving than another of being the MVP?
It may well be that Kobe was “carried” and “bailed out” by his teammates in Game 7, although he made some important contributions himself, with 15 boards (4 offensive, by the way), and serious defense on Rondo, who, lest we forget, was touted as the best Celt and the reason for their resurgence when he ran roughshod over Cleveland and Orlando. But again, so what? One of the reasons they were mentally and emotionally able to “carry” him and “bail him out” was because he is, in a real sense, their leader, and helped make them tough enough to do that.
Mind you, he’s not the guy they go to for advice, or a sounding board, or an encouraging pat on the butt. That guy, as Kobe acknowledged in multiple post-game interviews, is D-Fish. But then again, MJ wasn’t that guy on the great Bulls teams, either. As everyone associated with that dynasty (except, maybe, Jordan) acknowledges, it was Scottie Pippen who played that role and held them together when MJ was cursing and intimidating them.
Still, Kobe has definitely emerged, post-Shaq, as a leader that his teammates will follow, because of his strong will, exceptionally hard work, and his dogged willingness to keep on playing despite injuries that would keep just about everyone else off the floor. He played the last half of the 2008 season, including all the playoffs, the 2008 Olympics and all of last season with a finger injury on his non-shooting hand severe and painful enough that everyone, including The Sportsgod, sagely pontificated that he needed to cut his season short and get surgery for the long-term good of the team. Thank God he doesn’t listen to The Sportsgod.
This season, a veritable trifecta (that we know of): a knee injury that apparently existed even in training camp, which drastically impaired his mobility and his ability to get the proper loft on his shots; a BROKEN index finger on his shooting hand, which required him to wear a cumbersome splint and to re-learn how to shoot to compensate, and which kept getting whacked on in every game; and, as an afterthought, a dicey ankle. There may be more that we don’t know about, but those will do. What other player in the NBA would have withstood the pain and played – effectively for the most part – with even one of those afflictions?
Not that he was asking for or needed sympathy. But it’s laughable that when someone like Bron Bron has a hyperextended elbow and plays, there’s talk of putting him in for a Purple Heart and a Silver Star. For Kobe, however, nada. When the team’s best player consistently showed his determination to play with those kinds of injuries and that kind of pain, is it any wonder that Andrew Bynum didn’t think twice about sitting out the playoffs, but instead showed up game after game, to give it a go with a knee injury that caused such pain and swelling that teammate DJ Mbenga admitted it make him sick to look at?
Like many in Lakerland, I gained a huge quantum of respect for Bynum because of his willingness to play with the pain just so he could give the team more size inside. But I firmly believe that without Kobe’s example, Bynum, who many of us have derided as soft, would have packed it in in May. The Lakers proved that “toughness” and “grit” aren’t the unique province of Eastern teams. And all that started with and emanated from Number 24.
The fact that one of Ron Artest’s biggest thrills about the late trey he made at a crucial juncture wasn’t just that it helped the Lakers win, but that “Mamba passed me the ball; he passed me the ball,” kind of says it all, too. If a team leader is the alpha dog from whom all the others in the pack seek validation – that’s KB on the Lakers.
And what about Pau Gasol, a great player in his own right, derided as a “soft Euro” off his 2008 performance? He doesn’t and didn’t need Bryant to “validate” him. But he also never got out of the First Round of the playoffs until he joined the Lakers. Nobody can call him “soft” again after that Game 7 performance. (Of course, no one who ever saw him play for Spain in international competition could say that, either, but who ever watches those games?) He’s a prideful man, and a star in his own right. But he defers to and takes his cue from KB, as well.
Speaking of Gasol, has anyone noticed how, despite the fact that English is, maybe, his fourth or fifth language, he speaks it better than most of his native-born teammates, and is regularly the most articulate, or one of the two or three most articulate, of the Lakers in interviews? Ah, the vaunted American education system.
Notwithstanding that this column is written mainly as a paean to the oh so satisfying Lakers victory last week, I can’t sign off without acknowledging another stirring performance – the one by the U.S. soccer team in the World Cup. They won their Group – for the first time since 1930, when pretty much nobody competed in the World Cup – and play Ghana in the “knockout” round on Saturday.
I know, soccer is at best a minor sport here, and I’m as bored by it sometimes as the rest of the Sportsgod denizens. But national pride is still national pride. Especially when it sure seemed as if the FIFA powers that be absolutely had it in for the plucky Yanks, who’ve been the victims, in this year’s tournament and in 2006, of some of the flat-out worst officiating I’ve seen. (The Aussies might make a compelling case for their own victimization, ‘cause the refs also seem to have it in for them, too; but we’re in the U.S., for Pete’s sake.)
Not exactly “Miracle on Ice 1980 redux,” maybe, but eking out that 1-0 victory against Algeria in the most dramatic possible fashion – 91st minute, when they were just a minute or 2 away from a result that would have been worse, for U.S. soccer fans, than the Lakers’ 2008 Game 6 loss to the Celts was to the local faithful – was pretty darn dramatic.
That it was Landon Donovan who scored that epochal goal made it all the sweeter. I’m one of those who’s always believed that, while he may be the best player the U.S. has to offer, he’s been either a bit of a choker or totally snake-bit in the clutch. We need look no further back than last year’s MLS Cup when, once again, he blew a penalty kick that could have helped the Galaxy win. But he’s a hard worker, has some charisma, cares deeply about the game and about his teammates. And, damn it, he deserves some luck after having received the royal shaft a lot during his career – most notably when the German Bundesliga team for which he played on loan deliberately refused to give him a chance, and really trashed his reputation and stunted his development. Maybe his electrifying stint for Everton in the English Premier League this past year helped him break through. Whatever it was, he’s been a much more masterful player and leader this time than in 2006.
USA, all the way! Well, probably not, but this is the best team this country has fielded since the mind of man runneth not to the contrary. I’m on their bandwagon, and not ashamed to be there.
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