As a quick departure from the usual banter that graces these pages, I wanted to take a moment to discuss a phenomenon that gripped our country for the last two weeks.
You see, for the last month or so, Americans had been inundated with a seemingly endless stream of bad news. The nation collectively was a little bummed out and needed something to get excited about. A 28-year-old with a receding hairline from Ontario, Calif., leading a group of players with backgrounds as diverse as the country they represented stepped up and filled that void.
Landon Donovan, striker Clint Dempsey (who learned the game playing with Mexican immigrant kids in the trailer park where he grew up in Nacogdoches, Texas), goalkeeper Tim Howard (whose tremendous focus comes from the coping mechanisms he employs living with Tourette’s Syndrome), and the rest had bars filled at 7 a.m. and millions letting out cathartic, primal cheers with every success. At the 72nd minute of the Algeria game, trading was down 32 percent on Wall Street – a 10-day low for that time of day – and didn’t rebound until after Donovan’s now-legendary, last-minute goal.
Purdue University communications student Robby Donoho compiled reactions to the goal from around the world in this Youtube video that has seen nearly 2.5 million hits in four days. In case you’re curious about the approximate manner in which I reacted to the goal, forward to the 3:25 mark.
Draws against (former?) soccer power England and scrappy Slovenia followed up by the victory against Algeria gave the U.S. team its first World Cup group win since 1930 and a far less treacherous path in the tournament than other countries had to face. While I think most knew that the team wasn’t quite talented enough to make a serious run at the title, it didn’t matter, we were enjoying the ride and the “Hey, anything can happen!” mentality rightfully ran rampant.
Against an extremely talented Ghanaian team though, the team looked physically and emotionally exhausted as they again fell behind early. Donovan converted a second half penalty kick to tie the game and renew hope, but “The Black Stars” scored early in extra time and used ball possession to literally run the clock out. Nielsen ratings show Saturday’s nerve-racking match was the most-watched soccer game in U.S. history, with 19.4 million viewers.
Americans have a notoriously short attention span and the excitement of the last couple weeks will no doubt soon be forgotten by many. But just take an extra moment to reflect on how cool this was to collectively experience.
You just never know when it will happen again.
~ Darius Schwarz, AGO Public Affairs Intern