wherein DF travels to Deutschland for the 2006 world cup to follow the US men's national soccer team

Monday, May 08, 2006

LD: enough with the playa-hate

Sign #432 that the US has arrived at a soccer nation: the on-going obsessiveness over trivial details of star players' lives. Case in point: WCIS calls LD a pussy because he likes massages. Then Soccer Thoughts rebuts the notion. DF in Deutschland feels compelled to weigh in with our opinion: this debate is ridiculous.

OK, one thing I do think warrants discussing is the LD and Bayer Leverkusen issue. Donovan's failure to succeed over there and his quick return have long been taken as indications that he's a pathetic weakling, and that he gave up a brighter future for the comforts of home. The truth is, as ST points out, that we just don't know what LD would have been like had he played over there. It's possible that he would have been even better than he is now, but it's also very conceivable that he would have been worse if he didn't get playing time (which happens even when deserved at times if you don't fit the coach's system), or was just plain miserable. And consider DMB: he was having the best year of his life at PSV, but wasn't by any stretch of the imagination the best player for the US during 2004-05. I think that was clearly LD, who led the team with assists over that span, and both assists and goals during the final round of WCQ. In other words, club success in Europe by no means guarantees good form for your country. LD improved for the US after leaving Leverkusen.

But perhaps more to the point, why do people feel compelled to hate on our star player so much? I think it's another sign the US is moving up in the world--now we can take for granted and even disparage one of our star players, much the way that stars in other countries fall out of favor with the media and supporters despite enormous talent and contribution (e.g., Del Piero in Italy, Becks off and on in England). Andrea Canales' ambivalent Soccernet profile of Donovan (which spurred the aforementioned debate in the soccer blogosphere) illustrates the point.

So I guess I do have more of an opinion on all this than I let on initially? Do I think it matters that Landon had a teddy bear that his girlfriend gave to him when he was 16? Hell no. If you can win the Golden Ball at the FIFA U-17s and you play for the US, I don't care if you surround yourself with My Little Ponies and listen to the Backstreet Boys while painting your toenails with pink glitter. (Hm, having written that, I think I would have a problem with that, but it's not what we're dealing with here so let's move on.) Do I think LD's devotion to his family and girlfriend (who is, by the way, a starlet who is likely hotter than anyone who posts or writes about soccer on the internet will ever date, even self included) is a sign of weakness? Just the contrary. I think it proves that his priorities are in the right place (people before career), even if that's not what pleases USMNT fans (again, self included).

But more than anything else, I just don't care that much. This guy is an insane soccer talent and has contributed more to the USMNT in big games than any other player on the roster. He's the all-time assists leader for the US and the third-leading goalscorer at the age of only 24. Moreover, he's shown an unstinting degree of commitment to the US cause, consistently turning up to play in friendlies and WCQs alike, logging more minutes than any other player every year since 2002. I say let's put aside the weird, useless obsession with meaningless trivia about his personal life and support the leader of the US Men's National Team and one of the best players (if not the best, as measured by on-field performance) that has ever played for the Nats.


Blogger u8out said...

Of course, some people just hate US soccer (in the states and abroad) just because. So that could extend to the marquee players, too.

BTW: I like your attitude and your topic. Keep it up.

FYI: I just started my first blog. It's devoted to US men's soccer. Kind of a traditional start, but check it out: http://usmensoccer.blogspot.com/

11:15 PM, May 08, 2006

Anonymous Anonymous said...

In all of this fuss over LD I haven't been hearing much about what he really did wrong: betraying San Jose. The whole return to Germany was just a ruse so that he could switch MLS teams to the Earthquakes' arch-rival, the scum Galaxy.

2:10 AM, May 09, 2006

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for your blog. You said exactly what I wanted to say, only much much better. It's time to stop the hate and support all members of the team.

I've often wanted to just tell all these haters that it's okay, your manhood is still intact despite Landon coming home. Just get over it and be happy to see such a fine player who wants to play in the country and who is completely devoted to our National Team.

9:08 AM, May 09, 2006

Anonymous Joe said...

I don't hate Landon Donovan. Far from it. I just think his incredible effectiveness on the field makes an interesting contrast with his pussitude, and that makes him an interesting character. I love him for that.

I do wonder if all this touchiness over Landon is because we're about a month out from the World Cup. Is the best player on our national team sacred right now? I just know I was saying this stuff a year ago, and nobody seemed to care much.

Maybe U.S. soccer has arrived indeed.

12:03 PM, May 09, 2006

Blogger Chris said...

Thanks for expressing well what I believe about LD: He's the f-ing man when it counts for the US. As long as his personal life doesn't interfere with with his performance on the field (unlike, say, Clint Mathis) he can do whatever he wants.

Moreover, LD is clearly committed to growing the sport in the US and seems happy to be the face of US soccer. I for one am damn glad he is.

1:54 PM, May 09, 2006

Blogger mirarchi said...

Thanks for posting that link to the USA Today article. After reading how Donovan paid for his girlfriend and her family to fly over to Prague five times to visit his girlfriend's brother when he was in the hospital, I have a lot more respect for him.

In my mind, Donovan is probably the most talented American player ever. I realize that he's not going to be effective unless he's happy. I wish he could be happy playing in a top flight league in Europe. But if he can't, I guess I'll just have to accept that.

3:14 PM, May 09, 2006

Blogger DF said...

I don't hate Landon Donovan. Far from it. I just think his incredible effectiveness on the field makes an interesting contrast with his pussitude, and that makes him an interesting character. I love him for that.

I don't think people hate (i.e., despise) LD. I think people hate on him (i.e., always make fun of him, call him a wuss, deride him as "Lannycakes" etc.).

He is, as he called himself in the Canales profile, a different kind of soccer player, one with different priorities. I just don't know if it helps anything for everyone (and not just joe) to always be down on the guy. I hope we can all support him at least through the WC.

And I say all this as no fan of the Gs (I'm a DCU supporter). I think anon is right though that LD's move to LA was another one of MLS's behind-the-scenes moves where they bent the rules to accommodate the needs/desires of star players and preferred franchises.

11:20 AM, May 10, 2006


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