A blog about the study of sport in society
Loved your Times essay and the idea of examining sport off the playing field.One practical comment, perhaps off the point, perhaps not: From the fictional account based on the Miracle on Ice, it seems a key contributor was allowing the coach rather than the board of US Hockey to select the players. From my dozen or so years in youth soccer, sometimes disgruntled, sometimes astute parents used to say the national-level players weren't necessarily the best, but the best players whose parents were dedicated enough and able to ferry the players long distances and awkward times required by top competition. Just as it's hard to define US personality (pragmatism was a great shot!), it's hard for teams or player evaluators to determine who is hardy enough, has the skills and personality to make it at the top level. One minor move might be to tilt the selection process toward the coach and away from consensus. As a former coach, that's my bias. But even making coaching decisions on less than meritocratic practices at least gives the boss and his staff the team he or she wants. As you must be well aware, a coach can be a tactician or a team-builder and it is the rare bird who combines the two. NFL blowhard Bill Parcells said "if you want someone to make the dinner, at least let him buy some of the groceries." And as another fictional TV character said in response to "Who's Bill Parcell?" he's a coach who didn't win a Super Bowl in his last 16 years of coaching. So pithy words don't necessarily produce results. (As if there's any surefire method!) But the NFL has a lot of better talent pickers than US Soccer. And it's just a guess on my part but I've seen enough graybeard soccer blowhards to think their assessment metrics are based less on talent than on which team makeup will make it rain cash. But that's only my 2 cents, and is probably as skewed and biased as the greater sums coaxed from donors by the people making the decisions. Boy that turned out rambling! Your column still stands as great on Klinsmann, details like changing his name and invoking the '80 Winter Olympics. Well done!