World Cup '18 (Someone Will Be Wrong) Part II
At the beginning of the World Cup, Putin and RT assured the world that Soccer's biggest event was going to be a triumph of the human spirit. At the same time, ESPN and the British Media warned that the tournament was going to be a historic bloodbath. There really wasn't a middle ground between the predictions, so I wrote the article World Cup '18 (Someone Will Be Wrong) as a time capsule. I have a number of observations about the tournament, but the main one is... the Russians were right.
(Just because the Russians pulled it off, doesn't mean Qatar will pull it off. The basic premise that World Cup 2022 had to be moved to December is already a fail for Qatar. I watched a very good Russian team dismantle an overmatched Saudi side in the first round of the 2018 tournament. Saudi Arabia was in their fourth World Cup and is the 50th best nation in World Cup history. Qatar has never been to a World Cup and has less WC experience than Middle East minnows Kuwait, UAE, and Iraq. Iraq had a better argument to host a World Cup than Qatar. Qatar is going to have a whole different slate of REAL problems, which will be addressed later....)
Other than Alexi Lalas being screamed down by an overzealous fan (Lalas didn't disclose the full nature of the verbal assault), I don't recall any stories of bad behavior in Russia. And, of course wherever there's going to be large crowds of people, you're going to have minor incidents, but the Russians did a great job when the glare of the Western Media was most intense.
As I watched the finals, I was focused on the soccer. I had watched enough games throughout the Russian countryside that went off without a hitch that by the time the finals came around, any possibility of crowd violence was out of my mind.
I had watched France's Kylian Mbappé run like a gazelle early in the World Cup and I had watched Croatia's Domangoj Vida play lock down defense, game in and game out. About half way through the first half of France/Croatia Final, I saw Kylian Mbappé flying around Domagoj Vida, and Vida was clutching and grabbing the Frenchman. Right there, I knew that France was going to win. It didn't matter how fundamentally sound the Croatians were, France had the better athletes.
The game was officially over when Paul Pogba put away his own rebound in the 59th minute.
Between Mbappé and Pogba, France is going to have 2 of the best players, in their prime, when the 2022 Cup rolls around. And as soon as that thought crept into my mind, I realized that America's World Cup success is, at least, 20-30 more years away. I could argue that Mbappé and Pogba are two of the best athletes in France. And they are soccer players. When you think of the best pure athletes in America, who do you think of? Basketball players and football players. Even die-hard fans of American Soccer didn't scream out Micheal Bradley when asked of great American athletes. When you think of Bradley, you think of toughness and intelligence, not athleticism.
If the best athletes in France are playing soccer, and the best athletes in England are playing soccer, and the best athletes in Brazil are playing soccer......
America isn't going to make consistent in-roads internationally until they attract their best athletes to soccer. And as long as American Soccer players make less than football players, baseball players, basketball players, and hockey players, you aren't going to attract the top level athletes.
Fox tried to make a soccer doubleheader out of a World Cup game and then a MLS game. They thought they'd get some cross-over fans. That was the WORST thing they could have done, because it was like putting on an NHL game and then a college hockey game back to back. When you see the discrepancy in the quality of play between the two, you are only keeping the hardcore fans.
As MLS continues to water down their product with expansion (MLS now has more teams than the Premier League), the Americans (and Canadians) keep showing that they are doing the WRONG things to improve soccer. By cashing in on multi-million dollar expansion fees, they are chasing dollars instead of shoring up the quality of the league. Now you could argue that the players aren't going to make more unless they have more teams. Again, we are talking about SOCCER. MLS has leagues worldwide to compete with, the more expansion, the less (quality). The NBA competes with no one. The NFL competes with no one. MLB competes with no one. And the NHL now competes with the KHL. American Soccer is in a real tough spot and don't give me that Jürgen Klinsmann crap about bringing in more Germans. America needs to figure out American solutions.
I don't want to dwell on the sorry state of American Soccer, I just wanted to again stick up for the Russians. During the World Cup Final, Russian leftists Pussy Riot ran onto the pitch and briefly delayed play. Pussy Riot running onto the field in Russia is no different than the time a naked weirdo danced on stage of the 1998 Grammies with Soy Bomb written on his chest. Some things are beyond the control of the authorities.
Once the girls ran onto the field, did you notice all the yellow vests pouring out of the tunnels. It was a sea of fluorescent yellow around the stands within 2 minutes. With a billion people watching, Pussy Riot had continued to protest Putin without the support of a discography.
I'm not saying whether Pussy Riot's politics are right, wrong, or indifferent. What I'm saying is that they're a political organization, they are not a band. Let's take an American band that leans to the left, how 'bout Green Day? What would happen if Green Day ran onto the field in the middle of the Super Bowl with a banner that said IMPEACH TRUMP. Those who hate Trump would probably go out and buy GD's latest album, those who love Trump would be screaming from the rooftops "Green Day initiated a terrorist attack, put them in jail for 20 years," and pure football fans who don't care about politics would probably say, "dumb punks shouldn't be near a sporting event."
Green Day would then have 100 million people who had an opinion on them, good, bad, or indifferent. They could potentially market their views to sell their many, many albums or their over 100 song discography. Pussy Riot, on the other hand, pulled their stunt in front of about a Billion viewers, but they're too stupid sell any of their music. Why? BECAUSE THEY'RE A "BAND" WITH NO MUSIC.
I want to be crystal clear that I am talking about SOCCER. The Russians did a great job with a SOCCER TOURNAMENT.
That mishmosh that happened today with Trump and Putin....
I'm not talking about that.