The Group of Death is not a Bruce Lee movie. Actually the “Group of Death ” is just as arbitrary as the INC claiming that they built the “World’s Largest Dome Arena“. The title Group of Death in the context of the FIFA World Cup is a indeed a subjective label but here Bleacher Report explains why people come to that conclusion. The label may be subjective but the fact remains that the USA were able to battle their way out of the so called Group of Death. Which may be the most amazing thing in world sports because almost every country except the U.S. and the Philippines obsesses about soccer 24/7, 365.
The U.S. obsesses about the NFL and it is not even close when it comes to advertising.
So by definition great athletes in the US will gravitate to the gridiron variety of football. The NBA will also get its fair share of America’s great athletes. Not as much as they did in the 80s where there was almost no foreign born players. Look how many players the champion Spurs had who were not born in the US? The same can be said about the once “National Pasttime” baseball. 77 % of Major League baseball players still born in the US. Hockey may be thought of as more Canadian, Swedish or Russian sport than an American sport. Yet a quarter of the world’s top hockey league is composed of people from a nation that cares more about football, basketball , baseball and NASCAR than hockey.
Quick review, the US hosts the best gridiron football, basketball, hockey and baseball in the world. They supply a significant amount of players to those four leagues plus the number of male athletes that medal in the Winter and Summer Olympics. After all those entities get their share of athletes, the leftovers play soccer. These leftovers came out of the group of death and made it to the surviving 16. To quote a common contemporary idiom, “mind blown”.
Team USA does have some German/ US dual citizenship people on their roster but we are not talking Andray Blatche type ringers here. Countries like the U.S. and the Philippines that really do not care about soccer will often be Plan B for dual citizenship types if they are good enough to be given the choice. The best athletes of the US are playing centerfield, point guard or quarterback and they still got out of the “Group of Death”. Their culture relegates soccer to fifth in importance among team sports. They still have the likes of Michael Phelps and yet are still standing with 15 other teams after group play in the world’s biggest tournament. I am not sure if the athletes in the US playing world class soccer are even leftovers. They are so far down the food chain they are just a rumor. Yet they are in the knockout stage.
You want a local angle to this? I am sure there are people who think the Azkals are a big deal in the world when they are not. Why should they be? This country does not even care to have big time soccer organically yet they want to be recognized externally. They call a victory against Maldives “historical”. I like to think I know a little bit about sports, the only thing that was historical for me was that I had no idea the Maldives had a football team capable of playing in a historic game. For me the Maldives was a place international hunk Fabio would take his “special lady” when he wanted to surprise her. All they would need are the plane ticket, bikini and a toothbrush. I am not making this up.
Now that we see what the US can do with their fifth most relevant team sport. Imagine what the Philippines can accomplish if they devote themselves to one sport that nobody else in the world devotes themselves to? Oh wait bad example. We already do that. Brazil devotes themselves to football and every World Cup they are contenders. Philippines devotes itself to basketball and they still resort to naturalizing NBA bench players with no connection to the country and they call it pride.
My thoughts on this are very simple. Like what you like. Just don’t expect world wide attention if you can’t compete with them. Like what you like and don’t make nationality a qualifier to what you like. You want to get a bunch of foreigners who never lived here or went to school here or can even sing the national anthem yet you identify with them as a “Filipino ” team I will call you on that. You want to devote yourselves to basketball fine. Then please line up in the buffet line where they serve humble pie when we are not significant internationally. The world resents America for not worshiping soccer the way they do. Yet, they made it out of group play. Pinoys are the exact opposite with basketball. Complete devotion yet the culture does not produce a significant player or significant team with any kind of notoriety.
The Filipino only loves basketball. That’s a fact. But they get beat at their dominant sport by countries that prioritize soccer and baseball over basketball. What glory is there in being the only basketball myopic country in the world when other countries leftovers beat you ? None really. Just remember that if you think PBA is quality basketball. One of the most prominent PBA players was married to Kris Aquino. Shows you how little prestige there is in being a professional athlete in this country. You get to the pinnacle of sports in this country and Kris Aquino gets to be your wife. Some honor.
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