Thanks for the walk down memory lane, Jared.
Every boy has a Winnie Cooper.
You know the girl…
The one that you cherished and pined over as the one girl that had it all. One that was equal parts childhood innocence and teenage desire. She was everything you ever wanted but never had.
What wasn’t to love about the story of Winnie Cooper and Kevin Arnold? (For the youngsters reading along “The Wonder Years” was a sitcom that ran during the late 80’s through early 90’s and tagged a long for six years as a 12-year-old boy–Kevin Arnold played by Fred Savage–came of age.)
It was a tale every dude, every teenage boy, could relate to.
An exercise in objectifying only the positives in a woman, and then lifting that profile higher and higher until it was on a pedestal of such a lofty elevation that the real life version would never be able to live up to what you had made her out to be in your mind.
Those moments prove there is just one fish in the sea.
This girl came in varying TV forms. One man’s Winnie Cooper, was another man’s Kelly Kapowski, was another man’s Joey Potter, was another man’s Charlie Davies…
Wait. Charlie Davies?
Yes, Charlie Davies.
American soccer fans have been waiting, if not pining, for that one true striker.
The one that could fill that dark, yet optimistic, part of our hearts that has all but given up on ever seeing the first world class American Striker. And when Charlie Davies came on the scene it was like love at first sight.
The kid had it all, he was a young unabashed talent that could finish with maturity yet still filled with enough child-like wonder to dance in the corner like he was up in the club.
In that Winnie-like way, he made you feel like you were important, tantalizing the US fanbase with proclamations of a World Cup win and a swagger befitting a striker that grew up sniping in the barrios of Argentina.
And the best part of all, unlike many other would-be suitors to the American striker throne Charlie was able to show a level of consistency for both club and country.
He may not have always scored, but somehow he always managed to thrill. He always managed to leak in behind a defense or issue an authoritative step over that had your inner monologue crying out, “That’s my girl.”
You know what I mean.
The arc of Charlie Davies has been well-chronicled and you shouldn’t be–and you would be–bored with another recap of it here. But I would make the argument that his fall may be just as much of a blessing as his rise looked like it had the potential to be.
Every boy has a Winnie Cooper.
But how many of us married her and lived happily ever after? The few that have are legends, but for the majority of us, our lost idealistic loves are just that… lost.
In a sense, the lack of attainability is what separates the Winnie Coopers from the rest.
We will never get Charlie Davies back. Not the one we watched score in Azteca. Not the one that made our jaws drop with his left footed first time service to set up Landon Donovan against Brazil in 2010.
That man is gone, much like the man that goes off to war and–though he may come back in perfect health–the proverbial “something” is different.
He is changed by what circumstance life has given unto him. So too is Charlie Davies.
I watched Charlie Davies score three goals last week at Home Depot Center as DC United treated Chivas USA like they were the mentors in a father-son game.
He projected in many ways like the guy I unfairly put on a pedestal a few years ago.
And I got excited all over again, like when I read the words high school girlfriends wrote in my year books over a decade ago. I remember what it was like to feel enamored with something; the hope of attainability that was just never quite within reach.
But it’s important that I also remember that many things have changed since then. Charlie Davies isn’t the only one that has had to move on.
It’s not enough anymore to be just young and talented. In the last 2 years names like “Agudelo,” “Bunbury” and “Klinsmann” have come along and not bothered to dogear the chapter titled “CD9”. They have pressed on in his absence and turned the page.
Every boy has a Winnie Cooper.
But do you remember just how the story of Winnie and Kevin ended?
The Wonder Years is told as a memory. The memory of how one man remembers a time of his life unlike any other since.
Kevin and Winnie don’t end up together in the end, but they remain life long friends. I know… sucky ending right? But it’s realistic.
In many ways Charlie Davies has become even more immortal to US Soccer fans because of the fact he will be forever unchanged in our minds.
For a two-year period Charlie Davies was perfect for us, and every striker that ever comes along afterward will be compared to him in some way because of how unique his story has turned out.
The visage of the Ghost of Charlie Davies past has become larger than life–perhaps larger than the player that inhabits the #9 kit for DC United.
Even if Davies never gets back to his old form, it’s important to remember that he can still serve a purpose at the national team level. He may never live up to the image we had for him a few years ago, but who could?
The American soccer landscape is littered with the corpses of kids that were prematurely touted as the next big thing and failed . Yes, perhaps Davies could have been the exception, but history has shown us that US stars fading as quickly as they rise is–sadly–much more the rule.
Charlie Davies is already guaranteed posterity, no matter where his story goes from here. He will be forever in our minds as the one that got away.
The appeal of Winnie Cooper is not that she was beautiful or that you loved her. The appeal is in the fact she never gets old, or fat, or nags her husband about the clothes on the floor.
You see, they never tell that part of the story. There days–not recounted in the sitcom–where Winnie snaps at Kevin and is less bemused by his fascination with her and more irked his constant niggling presence in her high school life. To be honest without being crass–that happens at least once per month for women coming of age. Somehow The Wonder Years apparently didn’t tape on those days.
Because that isn’t what people want to see. In fact I’m guessing that most people until they read this piece probably didn’t even remember that Kevin and Winnie don’t get married and live happily ever after.
We choose to remember the ideal.
That is what sustains a memory.
I choose to remember Charlie Davies as the striker that he could have been. And then, in turn, I regard with nostalgia the player that scored a great hat trick last week for DCU as a good up and coming striker that looks kind of like a chick I really liked back when I was a kid.
“Winnie” Charlie Davies is gone forever and that’s okay because one day “My” Charlie Davies will come along and her pedestal will sit forever–for a career’s duration–in my backyard.
I found my wife, didn’t I.
And where is Winnie now…I should’ve ended the piece before this….link.