I wasn’t going to address yesterday’s Bob Bradley comments, but many of you asked TSG to. Our lowest readership comes Friday evenings, so it’s a good time to sneak this one out there.
I really think there is a little too much over-saturation of the Davies’ situation right now; we’re culpable contributors mind you.
TSG was invited to yesterday’s event in NY; we tried to make it–couldn’t make it happen. Our apologies.
So the comments and interactions I’m reading are all secondhand. In reading through the reams of copy–if transcribed correctly–it sounded like a refreshingly candid Bob Bradley.
Here’s specifically what Bradley said, courtesy of Grant Wahl:
“Let’s say it’s 100 steps to get back to the same level [that Davies played at before],” Bradley said. “Back to some version of regular training, you can decide what step you think that is. Is that step 60? Is that step 80? And eventually with any athlete those final steps are the hardest steps. So we still need to see where that goes. I’m so thrilled and excited that this is a great story. And Charlie is, as everybody knows for us, a popular guy. He’s a guy that everybody likes. You can’t help but feel that way about him.
“The only part that’s coming up is this: There’s going to be a decision on our end that is simply about the World Cup. I know that’s been one of his motivating forces in this whole thing. Regardless of how that particular decision goes, it’s gonna be important … If at the end he’s at step 80 and we think in order to start that camp he needs to be at 85, that can’t get in the way of him getting back to step 100. So it’s a tricky part because, look, I know what’s on the table right away. I know that a lot of his drive has been with that goal. And that means something to all of us. But at the end of the day, we still have to assess completely where he is as we make decisions, even for the camp.
My thoughts? (and this is most certainly not a column about the never-ending striker options.)
For my part, I’m certain Bradley couldn’t have done any better with the response, in both his recognition and grasp of the situation and the fact that his response was sufficiently ambiguous.
The first thing to remember is that when Bradley broadcasts, it’s not just heard by fans. It’s heard by players and opposing coaches. There is really a very small set of coordinates where a coach’s comments are what he can offer, what he wants to offer, and what is true. For Bob Bradley–think Bill Belichek–it’s really safest not saying anything.
In Bradley’s commentary, I thought it was great that we acknowledged the magnitude of the situation and it’s impact on himself and others.
In regards to this statement, “If at the end he’s at step 80 and we think in order to start that camp he needs to be at 85, that can’t get in the way of him getting back to step 100m,” I’m still, well, flummoxed.
There is some hypothetical match fitness level (80?) that, according to Coach USA, Charlie Davies needs to be at in order to make camp. Continuing, how “85” gets in the way of “100” is just confusing to me.
But what could Bradley say that would be interpreted correctly by his standards?
What message does it offer for team cohesion if there are different fitness level thresholds for different players. That would only cause conflict.
Why should Bradley comment on one player’s eligibility if the others don’t learn where they stand?
Bradley perhaps paid Davies the highest compliment, if you read into the commentary, that his fitness was just about the only thing holding him back from being there. His comment: “He’s a guy that everybody likes. You can’t help but feel that way about him.”
Usually that statement is followed, “He can always be on my team.”
Why not challenge Charlie further? If his “30-spot” is not guaranteed, maybe you wring that final .01% of extra effort out of him by challenging whether he’ll be ready….so he may be more ready if and when he does come in?
There’s no media benefit for Bob Bradley to saying anything other….especially at a big event yesterday where the entire media is going to broadcast. In short, it’s one of the few events before June where the message will get heard.
So that’s how I read into Bob Bradley’s commentary above. There’s really not much there. I’ll await the action.
80% of Charlie?
On another note, something I’ve heard from broadcasters, friends, fans alike is that “an 80% Charlie Davies is better than 100% of someone else.”
I concede that Davies instincts, skillset pre-accident, and feel for the game was the highest of any potential strikers for the US, including Jozy Altidore.
But why do fans feel that statement is an absolute truth?
Should Charlie Davies not be fit to compete at the World Cup level, how can you bring him?
I don’t want him risking his health further. I don’t want any doubt of the players around him if he’s capable of making that run, that play, that shot.
Is Charlie more prone to another injury and leaving the USMNT down a striker if he harms himself, against, say England?
I can make a statement that a pre-October 2009 Davies is easily your best option up top, but an 80% Davies with a month to go. I’ll sleep on that one for now.
Further, a similar comment that I’ve heard and challenge is: “Well if USMNTers see Charlie there, it will push them further.”
I think it’s the other way around. If Charlie Davies isn’t there, there is even more pressure by the players, especially the strikers, to prove their mettle.
Here’s a player who tried to make it back from catastrophic injuries….and he didn’t make the squad. You took his spot. What are you doing to do.
And finally, what do I think as we round into May?
I wrote a piece for Monday before Davies’ announcement–entitled “To Me, It’s the Struggle.” I’ll include the abbreviated portion below.
One of the most touching moments in sports that I can remember in the past few years occurred late at night–I think nearly 2am–during the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
For some reason, I was up, on the couch and the remote settled on MSNBC and the weightlifting competition. If you viewed the clip above you witnessed a little bit of it. Matthias Steiner, who previously had only lifted 203KGs, moved up and claimed the weightlifting gold medal at an astounding 258kgs.
The clip doesn’t tell the story, but the picture on the right does.
Steiner was on a year long pilgrimage to that win, from the moment his wife died in a car accident the year earlier. He dedicated everything to her.
After the buzzer told him he had succeeded on the final clean-and-jerk, the German lifter came away in a convulsing, primordial celebration–prancing around the stage like a kid. On the medal stand later, he stood–gold medal in one hand, a picture of his late wife in the other.
The jubilation of that moment still palpatably rings through for me–I tear up, I’m not embarrassed to say it, when I watch that video nearly every time, even today.
The next day, I sent it around to my friends and family with no fear of being “that guy who forwards those things.”
That same feeling I have about Charlie Davies’ return….already.
As a journalist–and I try to play one here on TSG–I pose and debate questions all the time about whether Davies is ready, whether his inclusion is merited again in South Africa with the little data we are afforded. Most, if not all, is really conjecture with as best an analytical and logical bent.
But as a fan, the messages from the Sochaux and US star, the tweets, the salutes, are the best tonics to the logic.
To me, Charlie’s kind of done it already–whether he makes the World Cup or not. In the name of his teammates, the fans and himself, he’s pushed to himself to excel. He’s gotten us all to “believe”–that verb is probably the most popular one in CD9 stories here on TSG.
Sports, soccer, it is about relating through human emotion to your fellow person. “Sport” is one of the oldest known ways to bring a community together.
I’ve mentioned it before, but the Davies saga is something that all USMNT fans can unite around. It’s the “thrill of victory and agony of defeat” with more skin.
We all want him in South Africa. For himself. For his teammates. For us, for the emotions we’ve invested in his plight. It’s something completely universal, from die-hards to casual fans. And that’s just plain cool and right.
As a fan, I’m hoping that Chuck D is mixing it up in Rustenberg on June 12th. I imagine I’ll feel the same way I do watching that video.
*Oh and I won’t begrudge Bob Bradley if that doesn’t happen. That’s his job.