Is Landon Donovan’s goal overrated?

Posted: July 15, 2010 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

It’s been three weeks since Landon Donovan’s thrilling last-minute goal against Algeria took the US from the brink of elimination to the top of their group in one swift strike. I thought by now, people would’ve calmed down a little and been able to put this goal into perspective. Unfortunately, this goal continues to be overrated.

Now, I’m not trying to be a downer or hater here. I celebrated this goal just as much as any other US fan. I jumped off the couch when I saw the break develop. I grasped my head with both hands when Clint Dempsey’s initial try was stopped. I yelled like a teenage girl at a Jonas Brothers concert when the ball hit the back of the net. I posted an all-caps facebook status with lots of exclamation points. I got goosebumps the next day when I watched all the YouTube videos of crowd reactions from bars across the country.

But I also heard and read a lot of people overreact to this goal. It was called the goal that would make soccer big in the US. It was declared one of the greatest American sports moments in years. It was compared to Mike Eruzione’s game-winning goal against the Soviet Union in 1980 — more than once.

I knew there would be a good deal of overreaction in the immediate aftermath, but I expected it to subside in the coming days. Instead, it was blown even further out of proportion.

Somehow, this goal came to make the whole World Cup a success for the US, despite the fact that they lost to Ghana — who, by the way, aren’t exactly world-beaters — in the second round. Donovan was on pretty much every late-night talk show, and all the questions he was asked were about how incredible the goal was, how great of a tournament it was for the US and how great it all was for the future of US soccer.

This perplexed me. After all, wasn’t the US supposed to reach the second round? Sure, not too many people expected them to beat out England and win the group, but they were expected to get to the second round nonetheless. Where were the questions about losing to Ghana… again?

The US met expectations. Last time I checked, meeting expectations isn’t considered great when it comes to sports. Reaching the playoffs didn’t make the most recent Red Sox, Patriots, Bruins or Celtics seasons great. Reaching the Hockey East semis didn’t make the most recent BU hockey season great. All those teams were expected to get that far. Great would’ve been actually winning something.

Same goes for US soccer. Getting to the second round isn’t great. Getting further than anyone expected — say, the semifinals — would’ve been great.

With that said, can we please end any and all comparisons to the 1980 US Olympic hockey team? That team wasn’t expected to do anything. Playing in a group that included Sweden and Czechoslovakia, the US wasn’t even expected to advance to the medal round, never mind beat the most dominant team in hockey history and win the gold medal.

US soccer pulled off the first-round tie against Sweden (in this case, England), but they didn’t beat Czechoslovakia, the Soviet Union and Finland (in this case, the equivalent would’ve been something like Germany, Brazil and Spain). So, they were only three huge upsets away. So close.

Which brings us to the Eruzione comparisons. I’m not even going to explain how ridiculous these are because I think most reasonable, intelligent people realize there’s no parallel whatsoever. But the point is that some people have made the comparison. They shouldn’t even be mentioned in the same breath. Unless I missed something, Algerian soccer isn’t exactly Soviet hockey.

Onto the best US sports moment in years. It wasn’t even the best US moment of this year in my opinion. Remember the Winter Olympics? Zach Parise tying up the gold medal hockey game with 25 seconds left in regulation? Shaun White absolutely obliterating the halfpipe competition? Lindsey Vonn becoming the first American to win gold in the downhill? Want to go back to the 2008 Summer Olympics and bring Michael Phelps, Jason Lezak and Nastia Liukin into the discussion?

I’ll take any of those moments over Donovan’s goal.

My frustration with this whole thing came to a boil last night when Donovan’s goal won the ESPY for Best Moment. Here’s a brief introduction to the three moments it beat out.

The New Orleans Saints’ five-year effort to rebuild and revitalize their city in the wake of Hurricane Katrina culminating in a Super Bowl victory that provided hope and happiness to a region that still needs a lot of help.

Phil Mickelson winning the Masters while his mother and wife were both battling breast cancer, and then embracing his wife in an emotional hug and kiss after the final hole.

Joannie Rochette winning Olympic figure skating bronze two days after her mother died of a heart attack and letting tears flow freely down her cheeks as her program came to an end.

Not only do all three of those moments beat Donovan’s goal for me, but they all blow it out of the water. There was no emotional human interest side to Donovan and the US soccer team.

It was without a doubt a great goal. It was last-minute. It had an exciting buildup. It sent the US onto the second round. But in the end, all it really did was take the US from disappointing to meeting expectations. It took them from a D performance to a C performance.

Today’s list: My 10 favorite musical artists
Didn’t really feel like putting much of an effort into this, and I figured this would be an easy list to make.

10) The Clash
9) The Kinks
8) Pink Floyd
7) Led Zeppelin
6) Eric Clapton
5) Neil Young
4) Bruce Springsteen
3) The Rolling Stones
2) The Beatles
1) The Who

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