Our country’s soccer fans and pundits have been arguing about so-called passport players since before we knew what a pundit was. It’s been a talker since the days of Thomas Dooley and Earnie Stewart, the top US performers among the foreign-born set at a highly meaningful World Cup 1994.
But old argument doesn’t mean bad or unnecessary argument. In fact, this quarrel needs a fresh going-over every now and then, especially given the ongoing evolution, the steady bulking up of the US game. Abby Wambach may have been an unlikely figure to spin this wheel, but spin she did last week.
A good starting point for the discussion is this dandy little pearl of wisdom (if this one isn’t in your personal, lifetime tool kit, it really should be): “Show me a simple answer to a complex question and I’ll show you the wrong answer.”
If you see Wambach today, remind her of that, after wishing her the happiest of holidays, of course! Wambach was wrong … but no reason to be uncivil about it. Besides, while her remarks on the subject were ineloquent and half-baked, perhaps she’s driving toward a certain point. Landon Donovan got a little closer to the point, mercifully folding more nuance into the conversation. From there, some thoughtful, countering remarks by Mix Diskerud supplied useful balance and context.
Here is the basic outline of last week’s point-counter point:
On the occasion of here retirement, Wambach offered a couple of HSTs (Hot Soccer Takes) on Jurgen Klinsmann’s national team. We all have our thoughts on Klinsmann and a wildly underwhelming 2015, so why shouldn’t Wambach take her swings at the piñata?
She says to fire the guy; Wambach is hardly the only one banging that drum, so nothing too controversial there. But one of her objections to the Klinsmann regime was that he “brought in these foreign guys …” That’s the one that lit the Christmas tree on fire.
Wambach insinuated that this was something new, which it isn’t. Klinsmann has certainly made more liberal use of talented players of American parents who grew up abroad, but he no more invented the practice than he invented eggnog. Around the world, it goes back well before the days of Dooley, Stewart, et al.
And there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. These are US citizens, period. More than that, if you talk to someone like Diskerud, who grew up in Norway but often “summered” in the United States in his youth, he sounds quintessentially American. He knows his Yankees from his Red Sox. He understands that Colonel Sanders isn’t really in the armed services and probably knows that Homer Simpson loves him some beer and doughnuts.