Soccer & Basketball
I’m not the only one who thinks the US should have better athletes playing soccer. Neither am I alone in thinking that soccer players are revolutionizing the way basketball is played in the US.
Here in America, a German was marking basketball with a kind of creative progress. And there in Germany, an American team was offering soccer nothing. Winning isn’t entirely the point. It’s that a big, rollicking, sports- crazy country that is supposed to show every four years that it has arrived in the Beautiful Game, produces zero that’s distinctly American or worth watching.
Tony Parker, the French kid – albeit with an American father and a Dutch mother – who plays for the San Antonio Spurs, has brought basketball a one-off combination of speed and wisdom that incorporates a prodigious eye for space. Besides his athleticism, Parker represents deftness, control and cooperativeness, a kind of ideal European metaphor.
Add to this Boris Diaw of France and David (sic) Barboza of Brazil, playing in Phoenix with their own distinct character alongside Steve Nash, the Canadian whiz, and making the NBA pretty again. Or Manu Ginóbili, out of Argentina via Italy, a kind of above-the-rim acrobat when he isn’t hurt at San Antonio, whose individuality (and generosity) have enriched basketball.
Meanwhile, from the World Cup Americans, nothing different, reckless or apostate is allowed to emerge. No distinct identity or charm has fastened to their national team. Its bosses’ notion of acceptability seems to be in aping what’s ordinary and boring in European football, and in running from any instincts that would lead United States from its pedestrian conventionality. Or toward a really American approach.
An American World Cup team that could change soccer forever would have a soaring Kevin Garnett type in goal, his scalp nearly reaching the crossbar and his wingspan going post to post. Or Dwyane Wade clones on attack, using incredible body control, spring and height to reinvent soccer as it’s played in the air above the penalty box.
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