Tuesday, February 3, 2015

How the Superbowl Destroyed the JK Myth

I blinked at the screen, and I still didn't quite believe it. The Seattle Seahawks, on second and goal with time ticking down in the Superbowl, despite having the running services of Marshawn "Beast Mode" Lynch available, had tried a passing play. 

It was intercepted. The New England Patriots won.

Like millions of others, my first thought was that coach Pete Carroll was an idiot. It wasn't a profound or original thought - the Internet exploded with similar thoughts. Not even the most ardent Seahawk fan thought their coach made the right call.

It never occurred to me that Jurgen Klinsmann would be at all affected. 

Frankly, I'd gotten tired and bored of arguing with JK defenders. Time after time, his lofty, tangled rhetoric notwithstanding, he'd proven he knew little about how to motivate and guide players to good results. 

Granted, I'd had hope back in 2006, when he'd been willing to shake up the established power structure in Germany. With Jogi Low to provide tactical nous, JK tightened up the squad's fitness, blunted the media demands on the players and helped them get to, well, about the same place as they usually did in the World Cup. Yet JK somehow took credit for it all when Low led the team to the pinnacle and captured the World Cup eight years later.

I'd given up on Klinsmann in late 2006 because his bait and switch approach of halfway accepting the USA job before pulling out showed he didn't have anywhere close to same respect for the position as he had for the Germany post. His turn-around led to an awkward transition to the man who deserved better, Bob Bradley. 

After 2010, I didn't think Bradley should get an extension, but not because I thought he'd done badly, just that fresh ideas were worthwhile. But by then, I'd heard enough about JK to be wary of his appointment. 

That culminated in his call to leave Landon Donovan off the 2014 World Cup roster. I was honestly not too surprised by this and instead more disappointed in the lack of backlash JK raised with the move. 

"Trust JK, trust the team!" was the idea I heard from many fans and media, most of whom avoided even challenging JK on the reasoning behind his choice. JK saying he saw other players "a little bit better" than LD was accepted far more than "We don't want to waste a running play" was from Carroll. Both made little to absolute no sense. But the complete hubris and ego involved was also similar. 

At least Carroll took the blame for his call.

What I didn't expect is others to see that, too. Sure, for years I've been skeptical of JK and his tactics, but even the recent losing streak didn't seem to sway his supporters. "MLS sucks, and USA MLS players suck" was the blame for the lack of wins and poor play, again and again. 

But there isn't any NFL Europe to look to as the fairy-tale solution for a U.S. coach's failings. The criticisms of Carroll seemed to suddenly wake people up to the idea that this is what Americans do - those who love sports are unscathing in demanding better from those who guide their favorite teams. In order to push a squad to glory, one can't accept losses or bad calls with lame excuses. 

Not from Carroll. Not from Klinsmann. Not from anyone. 

Maybe it's coincidence, that so many are now looking at JK more skeptically and unhappily. Or maybe it's just that when eyes get opened, even if looking at a different sport entirely, they stay that way. People trust their eyes now looking at the USA play poorly, and they wonder, rightly, why JK, who is so good at taking credit, won't take any blame.

Then there's this. I'll leave it here without any comment. 

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