Michael Bradley showed his passion at the end of the Egypt game when he told us all off. That for me wasn’t a rebuke but a proud moment. The United States National Team which for years lived in a bubble with nothing but a few media who followed them and passionate, sometimes uncritical fan support had become big time. And much like society as a whole at this point in time it was the blogosphere driving the train.
Prior to matchup at Saprissa, against Costa Rica in World Cup qualifying, I announced on this website and my personal site that all of my energy as a blogger in the next month would be devoted to covering the national team. After all this is our national team and for me as a long time fan of the game in this country, when the national team plays nothing else matters to many fans like myself. International Football is what drives the American appetite for this game, more so than any club or league can.
But for years, it has been commonplace for fans like me to over sell the quality of our national team, as well as to over emphasize positive results while not seeming overly concerned about negative results. It was after all in our DNA as we tried to sell the game at home while maintaining a facade of being an emerging world power to fans from abroad.
But with the advent of blogs, more prominent in US Soccer circles because of the lack of mainstream media has come accountability for the national team. For years the US has struggled to achieve results in big tournaments but has often times gotten a pass for poor play.
Conversely, the good work the USMNT has done in certain tournaments most notably the 1999 Confederations Cup and 2002 World Cup (until the Germany game) were largely ignored in the mainstream sporting press. During that 1999 Confederations Cup, the newly launched Big Soccer carried a lot of extra traffic and had posters like me on the site all day from our day jobs talking up the national team. But this again existed largely in a vacuum.
Bloggers like Bruce McGuire of DuNord (a frequent guest on our show), Jason Davis of Match Fit USA, Adam Spangler of This Is American Soccer, Brian Quarstad of Inside Minnesota Soccer and our own Daniel Feuerstein come to the table with different perspectives about US Soccer and our national team. But one common thread unites us: we love this national team and devote our energies and thoughts to seeing this team achieve meaningful results on the world stage.
I would argue that Bruce McGuire has done more to promote US Soccer than any other person outside the USSF and paid media. Like Bruce, most of us make little or no money blogging about US Soccer but are driven by passion. We tend to spend more on merchandise, travel, tickets and memberships to supporters clubs than we re-coop from blogging.
For me, the US Men’s National Team has been most important non amateur sporting institution in my life since the mid 1990s. I am almost positive this is the case with many of my fellow bloggers and podcasts hosts. We are not professional media (even though some of us, myself included have moved into professional media circles thanks to our success in blogging) but in fact passionate fans who have elevated this sport beyond the vacuum and niche it previously occupied.
Michael Bradley’s rebuke of all of us stung, I must admit. I have personally always wanted what’s best for the national team, but the fan I have been for many years’ leads me to question to drive and passion of our players from time to time particularly when compared to their predecessors.
The US National Team generation which included Tab Ramos, Eric Wynalda, John Harkes, Earnie Stewart, Marcelo Balboa, Alexi Lalas, Cobi Jones and Joe Max-Moore among others never once performed in the indifferent or disinterested manner in a competitive match the way this US team did against Costa Rica and Brazil. Sure, we had plenty of head scratching results in that period much like today, but never once did I question the commitment of our players and their resolve to fight for their national flag and the USSF crest.
Today’s national team seemed to have regained the passion for the colors between Thursday and Sunday of last week. Michael Bradley’s comments confirmed for me that those of us who love this team and blog not because we make a fortune off of it but because of our passion had made a difference.
This is our national team and even if the players felt they needed to prove a point to us, this Confederations Cup experience which has resulted in the first ever US trip to the final of a major FIFA event cemented a further relationship between blogs and the national team.