Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Politics, parts and partiality

The Republican campaign manager has accused the NY Times of no longer being a "journalistic organization".

It's not that often that I identify too much with an old gray lady, but in some ways I feel I've fielded some similar criticism when I write about Landon Donovan, the whole "if you're not attacking him, you're not objective" spin.

It's puzzled me that there's such polarity on Landon, however, when he plays a very different part than any candidate in this political season. He's certainly not going to be in charge of anything other than how he plays. No one has to choose him at the expense of anyone else - people can have a favorite USMNT player without denigrating Landon's accomplishments. He's simply a soccer player - and by any measurable degree of performance, a good one.

19 goals, 8 assists, in 20 games.

For comparison, Cuauhtemoc Blanco is renowned (rightly so) as a playmaker, and he has 7 assists this season. Guillermo Barros Schellotto more than doubles Donovan's assist total (18), but LD more than triples GBS's goal output(6). Both CB and GBS have also played a few more games than LD this MLS season. With the U.S. national team, the stats are even more staggering - at barely over quarter-life, LD holds the U.S. records for both all-time goals and assists.

I'm often asked to write about LD because I'm local to LA. Part of my job isn't just to report, but also to analyze. My opinion of Landon is that he's a good player who is near his peak right now. It amused me to hear LD say nearly the same thing.

But my point about LD going overseas has long been thus - it's too late to make him any better. He is, I believe, as good as he gets right now. Going abroad and doing well there won't be doing well because he's abroad, it will be simply the same guy doing well abroad. Going abroad and playing badly will probably illustrate something about the MLS level, as well as how much Landon relies on feeling settled to play well. There's a lot of good players in MLS who fail to do well abroad, for whatever reason.

In other words, if he fails abroad or if he succeeds, Landon is still essentially the same player. Whether the hype about him goes up or down and whether anyone changes their opinion of him based on the outside context of where he plays is another matter.


East River said...

AC, I think the problem people had with your writing on LD is that in my opinion you appeared very friendly and therefore you took it way to easy on him when he played below par. I would say his play this season has been were we knew he could play at but what happen to him the two previous seasons appeared to be a player still fighting to deal with the pressue of being America's best player and a player not pushed enough to play his best in a league clearly below his skills. This year LD is playing way possibly b/c he is motivated as he has decided to play abroad again. He has made statements of late of having that competitive juice back. But your articles tended to take it easy on him on asking those and other tough questions possibly b/c you didn't wanted to be too critical on him and have him cut you off from during more interviews. You can afford to be critial on other MLS players but LD interviews paid (some) bills. I have to leave for work...so I may say more later.

A.C. said...

Previous to this season, LD's last two seasons with the Galax were career bests for him, and I'm not sure where you mean when you talk about in which articles I appear very friendly. I've given lots of criticisms of Landon full airing in both in articles and in questions I've asked him. Show or link examples where I've been "friendly" to him while he played below par.

The one U.S. player I'm not concerned about getting cut off from me in interviews is Landon - not because I'm immune from such treatment, but because I've never seen him dodge a question from anyone.

Frankly, I've never gone softer on any player (or coach) because of fear of repercussion. I'm not saying I haven't suffered backlash from my opinions, but that's not what I think about when I'm writing them.

A.C. said...

Career highs for either goals or assists, I should have specified.

Diane said...

Fans' views are easily clouded because they're so emotionally invested in their teams, and attach too many of their own dreams and aspirations to players. When you write something positive about one they believe is letting them down, or negative about one they believe to be doing well enough, you get caught in the emotional cross-fire.

Yeah, I find Donovan slightly more erratic than some other players I've followed, and he is also a blast to watch when he's on. He's also a bit of a contradiction in interviews. I've rarely seen such a candid player, on the other hand he can be arrogant. So he's human. Which might make him a pain on your team, or even disliked, but I'm always disturbed by the level of vitriol focused on any player because of their form.

Anonymous said...

I disagree about him not improving if he goes abroad. He'll have to adapt to a faster game, forcing him to sharpen his touch and think quicker.

MB said...

People find Donovan erratic, but his statistics show otherwise.

People say he disappears in big games, but nobody can point to any evidence other than WC 06, where the whole US organization was disappointing, not just Donovan. On the contrary, he's been a terror in the vast majority of games that really mattered in his career.

People say he played poorly in Germany, but a look back at his Kicker match ratings and match reports tell a different story.

And so it goes.

BJR said...

I have to admit, there have been several USMNT games where I have been furious with Donovan because I didn't feel like he "showed up," or did enough to impose his will on the game. However, I have to agree with mb: As the best player on the team, he probably often bares the brunt of the criticism for the overall lackluster showing of the team as a whole.

AC, love the analogy with the Times and the GOP. Trying to denigrate the impartiality and journalistic integrity of the Times for exposing the lies and banter of the GOP propaganda machine: "laughable"! (As the great Jesus-in-purple-polyester* would say)


8bitjeff said...

Landon is polarizing because people expect so much from him. If he isn't scoring a goal a game for the national team, they say he has disappeared. It's "common knowledge" that he "sucked" in the entire world cup 2006, but I saw him play his best game ever against Italy in that same campaign. He has 19 goals so far this season because of "Beckham's passing", but Becks has only assisted on a small handful of LDs goals. No matter what he does, he will have detractors simply because he is the best we have ever had, and to some that just isn't good enough.

He is an easy target because he is unabashedly confident. People like an underdog and they want "their" players to be humble. The vocal minority will always pump someone up just so they can knock them down for failing to do what the they expect them to do (or ow they expect them to look while doing it)

Anonymous said...

Andrea, I always read & appreciate your stories about Landon. The truth is, whatever your slant or lack thereof, which I won't pretend to analyze, you get the best quotes from him & put it together in the most intelligent manner. Keep it up, we're reading!