THE WORD FOR THE DAY
Two of the biggest events in all of sports get underway today.
The U.S. Open golf tournament teed off early this morning at Pinehurst #5 in North Carolina, with it’s new degree of difficulty. This afternoon host Brazil takes on Croatia to open, arguably, the largest international sports event on the planet, the World Cup Soccer Tournament. The United States team, currently ranked 13th in the FIFA rankings, gets into the action on Monday with the first of it’s group games, against Ghana.
Ironically, Ghana is the team that eliminated the U.S. from the last two World Cups and, as the most winnable match in their group, if the U.S. loses to Ghana on Monday it’s as good as the third straight tournament in which they’d be eliminated by the same team. Though countries in other groups roll their eyes when they hear the phrase, the U.S. is said to be in the “Group of Death, with Ghana and two of the tournament favorites, Portugal and Germany.
The U.S. goes into the tournament in a swirl of controversy over remarks from head coach Juergen Klinsmann in a Time magazine interview, in which he said it was “Unrealistic” to expect the U.S. to win the World Cup, his team has yet to reach that level of play. Pundits from all over the soccer world are trying to disect that comment, speculating that Klinsmann said it just for public consumption while offering his team a different dose of behind closed doors motivation. With all the national protests, incomplete facilities and threats of transit strikes in Brazil there are much better reasons for controversy than Klinsmann calling the U.S. chances of winning the World Cup unrealistic. He didn’t say it can’t happen, or that the U.S. can’t go deep, but, in a group with two of the tournament favorites, unrealistic isn’t the most unrealistic word for him to use.
It’s like saying it’s unrealistic to believe Phil Mickelson will win this week’s U.S. Open and complete a career grand slam. Ironically, Phil will turn 44 on the day the U.S opens World Cup play, which is just one of the reasons it would be unrealistic to expect him to win the Open.
Finishing four strokes off the pace of last week’s St. Jude Classic is as close as his game has looked to being U.S. Open ready since he won last year’s Open Championship. That was 11 months ago. He hasn’t won since. He’s winless in 10 starts this season, with two missed cuts. Phil wants the Open so bad and, at 44, the clock is ticking so loud, he’s likely to do more than just his usual amount of on course gambling in an effort to get it. With the new hazards, large fields of vegetation growing out of sand traps, even the normally long hitting Bubba Watson has decided to play more layup golf this week in an effort to avoid lies so treacherous they’re where Open hopes go to die.
Just because it’s unrealistic to expect Phil to win the Open doesn’t mean he won’t do it. Many of the reasons why he shouldn’t are the same reasons that he could. It may be unrealistic to think the U.S. will win soccer’s World Cup, but that’s one reason why they could. They’re talented, a top 15 team in the FIFA rankings, and if enough other teams believe the U.S. chances are unrealistic they’ll be underrated. Klinsmann’s comment has more to do with the mentality on the international soccer scene and the expectations of other teams and their fans. Brazil, Portugal, Germany and Italy all expect to win.
The sports word for the day is “Unrealistic”. Not that there’s anything wrong with it.
With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.