(Hopefully) good sports essays and observations for good sports by a guy who tries (and can sometimes fail) to be a good sport.


Not much to tell.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Friday, July 22, 2005

When Being #6 Is Something To Cheer About

We live in a country and a world where people always remember who won, but seldom, if ever, remember who came in second. Sure, we'll remember that Joe Frazier fought amazing bouts with Muhammad Ali, that the Celtics and Lakers battled mightily in the 1980's in the NBA (and that Celtic and Rangers battle mightily in the Scottish Premiership -- at least Scots will remember that), but we don't remember who finished second to Lance Armstrong three years ago or who Michael Phelps edged out for his gold medals. It's hard enough to remember the champions if you go back enough years, let alone those who were the runners up.

Which means, of course, that if you're not number one, what does your ranking mean? For starters, it tells you who you have to beat to get to the top. If you're not ranked number two, what does your ranking mean? Again, it tells you what you have to do to get to the finals, if the final game is a two-person or two-team matchup. So, if you're number 6, why should you get excited?

Because we're talking about soccer, that's why. Particularly, U.S. men's soccer. Most recently, FIFA, the ruling body for international soccer, came out with its perioidic ratings. And before you say, "well, there's Brazil, Argentina, England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain and then all the rest," look again. Because in the peleton behind Brazil at #6 is the U.S. national team -- its highest ranking ever.

While some of the perennial bellwethers are ranked highly, currently showing up in the top five are Mexico and Czech Republic, both of which, while historically decent teams, haven't been elite teams. Coming in at #3 is the Netherlands, which, as the tallest country in the world (i.e., its citizens average the greatest height in the world), had fallen on hard times (I might be wrong, but I believe the Dutch national team failed to make the World Cup in 2002), with some suggesting that if your players are too tall, they can't compete as effectively on the pitch. So, does this mean that the ratings are upside down? No.

It's unclear what the ratings actually reflect. Italy, which has some outstanding players, is ranked #14, so it's not clear whether the Italians have fallen off or they simply haven't played their best players in the international matches that contribute to these ratings (meaning that they haven't won as many games as they could have had they played their front-line talent all the time). Still, rankings have to be based on something, and the #6 ranking is nothing to laugh about. What this says is that the U.S. has some a long way in the past ten years in soccer and is a force to be reckoned with.

If the rankings hold and the U.S. team peforms accordingly, look for them to make the quarterfinals of World Cup 2006.

U.S. fans love contenders and winners. If the national team continues to improve and has a chance at competing meaningfully with the titans -- Brazil, Argentina and France, among others -- more and more U.S. viewers will tune in.

We call baseball's championship the World Series, and while U.S. players are the best in baseball, not that many other nations play the game (evidence of this is that the International Olympic Committee just dropped baseball from the summer games). We deem the winners of the Super Bowl world champions, and while they're the best at what they do, football is hardly played in any other country. While basketball is played worldwide, it isn't played on very high levels in that many countries outside the U.S.

But soccer is.

We've watched Lance Armstrong defeat cancer and win the Tour de France year after year. We watched the U.S. men's ice hockey team defeate the Soviets in the 1980 Winter Games en route to the gold. Outstanding accomplishments, both.

But if somehow the U.S. men's soccer team were to win World Cup 2006, well, that would be one of the most amazing stories of them all.

Because then a U.S. team would have beaten the world at its own game.


Blogger Sports Junky said...

I agree,

I love NCAAB. and recently I have bought stock in it. Not like real stock on Wall street, but a stock market that is strictly for sports.

You have seen it? Its pretty cool. You buy issues for your favorite teams and you make real money. Not like a fake stock simulator. I cash out Dividends each time the team wins. Also I can sell my team stock when the price goes up.

check it out if something like this interests you.
heres a link
you can log in and check it out for free..

They just released IPOS for NCAAB this week, so there are alot of good deals there.

Hope that helps

2:33 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home