American Soccer Players Are New Heroes

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Jeff Klein at The New York Times Soccer Blog has gathered a wonderful
video collection of 17
celebrations
around the country (many of them here in California).
Most of them are either after Landon Donovan’s stoppage time goal or
post-match, but this one from San Diego actually starts a few seconds
before the goal so it captures the false start after Dempsey’s kick into
the goalkeeper, an intake of breath, then the explosion. It’s just what
it felt like at Nickies in the Lower Haight and one imagines all over
the country.

This intense interest in the World Cup is more about national pride
than a new-found love of soccer. Hopefully interest in the game will
continue to grow for kids and their parents, because of all the team
sports it’s the one that will produce the highest degree of physical
fitness, which according to statistics we desperately need to provide
for our young.

Donovan It’s even easy to imagine highly competitive high school soccer in
more parts of the country but the economics and the low scoring will
prevent the game from catching on at the professional spectator level.
However, the United States international team could continue to improve
dramatically as more and more kids go to play in the European leagues
after they leave school.

Whatever
happens later, for now it sure is great to get up at 5:30 in the
morning and to go find a pub to share this team with others. It’s also
fantastic to play well in the world’s game. Take a look at the bottom of
the NYT blog’s game play-by-play.
It was a joy to read all the well-wishing comments from around the
world.

It feels, too, that this team which plays a foreign game has an
iconic American hero. Donovan is slight, without much swagger to him. He
spends most of his time running, and his rush up the field on the
winning goal was breathtaking. But he is most compelling when he stands
still.

When Donovan is poised before the ball at a corner kick or a free
kick he has an air of quiet certainty, alertness and complete
self-possession. His confidence and attention radiate to his teammates
and to all of us.

Landon-donovan-2 There’s a little Tom Hanks in these photos, but when he is surveying
the pitch before kicking the ball into play it is more like Gregory
Peck, as if Atticus Finch were a coach whose job is to integrate a high
school team in the 1960s American South.

He tells us with his eyes
that he’s going to get it done. A hero makes people say “That’s what I
want to be like.” Donovan inspires that.

Ray Lewis
Ray Lewis heads up the tax consulting business, Tax Therapy, based in Boulder and San Francisco. Ray writes about everything from finance, taxes, business and technology to sports, travel, politics and music.

He was formerly a technology consultant at The New York Times and the Philadelphia Inquirer, and served as a faculty member of The Sawtooth Writers Conference in Stanley, Idaho, an annual event dedicated to teaching fiction and poetry to gifted teenagers.
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