My fellow Americans will take to the pitch again Sunday in France, resuming their quest to advance in the Women’s World Cup with a match against woeful Chile.
I have no doubt that victory will be ours. I’m just hoping to see a better demonstration of fair play and sportsmanship.
In case you missed it, on Tuesday the Americans beat Thailand, 13-0, in their opening Cup match. Our players never let up and celebrated every goal with exuberance you’d expect to see if somebody hit a walkoff grand slam in the seventh game of the World Series.
In the aftermath of our World Cup slaughter and the odious, self-congratulations that accompanied each goal (even the ones after we reached double figures), some criticism was aimed at the American squad. This triggered the standard angry defenses from the Colosseum crowd.
If you don’t like it when we score so much, shut up and figure out how to stop us!
Thailand didn’t want us to pull back. That would be insulting and patronizing!
This is the World Cup! Not 6-year-old soccer in Newton! You’re probably one of those liberal parents who want everyone to get a trophy!
Goal count matters when you are trying to get out of a World Cup bracket! Why stop scoring when you might need those goals later?
America first, baby. Who’s side are you on? If you don’t like it, tough!
You only care about soccer once every four years!
And, of course, the ever-handy
You wouldn’t say that if it was a men’s team!
Through decades of commenting about this topic (Alabama 62-7 over Mississippi, Little League coaches who want to win 21-0, and Geno Auriemma — the godfather of running up the score), I have learned that it’s generally impossible to change anyone’s mind. You’re either in favor of stat-padding slaughters replete with over-the-top celebrations, or you are not.
Swell. But let’s kick around a few thoughts anyway.
First, we have the phony argument that we might need those goals later on. Technically, that’s factual, but soccer folks know that it’s not really a factor here. America is in a bracket with powerful Sweden and two tomato cans — Thailand and Chile. Everyone knows that the US and Sweden will advance. As for who gets the higher seed in the next round, no one knows if the top seed will actually make for an easier path.
“The US is not here to be anyone’s friend,’’ former American great Alexi Lalas said on Fox’s World Cup studio show. “ . . It’s not their problem if they’re playing against a poor team.’’
Very true. But there’s a classy way to proceed in a blowout like that . . . and then there is what our team did.
Commentator Heather O’Reilly, a former US World Cup competitor, said that the best way to show respect was to run up the score, adding, “These countries need to improve.’’
I think the Thai players knew they needed to improve long before watching our players showboating after goals that made it 12-0 and 13-0.
“It was an explosion of joy,’’ US forward Megan Rapinoe explained on Fox. “If our crime is joy, then we will take that.’’
So much joy. So much winning . . . but too many goals. And too many choreographed celebrations after the outcome was long decided.
I know this is not youth soccer, but is it too much to ask for a little old-fashioned dignity and sportsmanship — even at this high level of play?
America’s World Cup roster is peppered with smart, charismatic players, great athletes who have been role models and inspirations to young girls and all citizens of the USA. But they do themselves no service with the behavior we saw Tuesday in France.
The US women’s national team is on a mission. The much-decorated program wants to avenge a stunning early loss at the Rio Olympics three years ago. This is a quest to get back on top of the world. But that was a bad look on Tuesday.
Would I say the same thing if this was about a men’s team?
Absolutely. I’ve had a little fun with Geno over the years, but that has nothing to do with the fact that he coaches women. I simply prefer competition. And compassion when it’s called for. I crush Nick Saban and John Calipari for running up the score. I didn’t like it when Bill Belichick piled on against a Joe Gibbs Redskins team. I was never a fan of front-runner Red Sox teams padding their stats or of watching the three Boston outfielders doing their little dance after yet another rout of the hapless Orioles. High school and Little League coaches who show no mercy are the devil in my book.
If this qualifies me as a pearl-clutching old-timer full of righteous indignation, I’ll own that.
But I’ve been watching sports for a long time and I know bad karma when I see it. That’s what I saw on Tuesday.