On Charlie Davies: Every Boy Has A Winnie Cooper

This is Jared Dubois‘s second feature for The Shin Guardian. You can catch Jared on the soon-to-launch Best Soccer Show.

Thanks for the walk down memory lane, Jared.

(Sigh....)

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.

Chuck D...still in the house?

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.

Not happily ever-after...

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.

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27 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by s44 on 2011/09/21 at 12:20 AM

    Forget Winnie Cooper, let’s talk Kelly Kapowski.

    I’m hooked on “White Collar” pretty much just because T-A T has ended up (1) no longer skinny and (2) way more interesting to watch than she ever was in the old days.

    Reply

    • Posted by Jesse G. on 2011/09/21 at 10:23 AM

      So true. I actually love that she’s not skinny anymore but is still quite hot, imo. I also like how she’s gone from popular nice girl (Saved By The Bell) to hot manipulative vixen (90210) to normal good looking, accomplished woman with an incredibly happy and realistic marriage (White Collar).

      Reply

    • Posted by Alex on 2011/09/21 at 3:47 PM

      You old people have funny tastes…. haha jk

      Reply

  2. Posted by Jared on 2011/09/21 at 3:21 AM

    Also, the one that got away is Giuseppe Rossi. I’ve never really missed Davies because I knew he was never coming back to the level he was at before. I also think part of it has to do with the fact that he was injured through a poor decision that he made so I never felt bad for him in the way I do for a guy that gets injured on the field.

    My nostalgic USMNT player has always been John O’Brien. His injuries cost the US quite a bit in 2006 and in all likelihood in 2010. Loved the way he played. I was hoping after seeing Holden develop into a central midfielder that he might be able to do some of the same stuff but now he keeps getting taken out by thugs in the Premier League.

    Reply

    • Posted by Colin on 2011/09/21 at 4:32 AM

      “he was injured through a poor decision that he made so I never felt bad for him in the way I do for a guy that gets injured on the field.”

      That seems a bit harsh. No sympathy at all? Which decision was bad? To break a US soccer mandated curfew?

      The curfew was mandated for him to get proper rest…not because Bob Bradley is some sort of psychic and knew there would be a terrible accident. If he had done the same exact thing only two days later (ie, when there was no curfew)…would you feel any sympathy then?

      Reply

      • Posted by Jared on 2011/09/21 at 4:36 AM

        The bad decision was getting in a car with someone that had been drinking. I could care less about any curfews.

        Reply

        • Posted by Colin on 2011/09/21 at 11:31 AM

          Whether its true or not could be up for debate…but he claimed to have not seen the driver drinking at all that night and that he didnt even suspect that they were. All the while, he was sober as a bird and would have driven had he suspected that the driver was impaired.

          Reply

      • Posted by Jared on 2011/09/21 at 4:38 AM

        I also should say that I feel sympathy for him as a person but not as a soccer player that’s why I was comparing him to a guy that gets injured on the field.

        Reply

  3. Posted by dbex on 2011/09/21 at 6:46 AM

    That was more lyrical than it had any right to be. Kudos.

    And I think you hit the nail on the head about how Davies will always be frozen in time as the guy who took it to Mexico in Azteca, who split Brazil wide open with a brilliant early pass….because we never got to see him come back to earth the way most players do after hitting those heights. Gotta say, watching his Azteca goal in a jam-packed Lucky Bar ranks a close second behind LD’s Algeria goal as the most spine-tingling moment I’ve had in many years of soccer watching. I wish Davies the best here in DC, but don’t hold out any big hopes that he’ll ever new what (we thought) he was….before.

    Reply

  4. Posted by picardinho on 2011/09/21 at 8:10 AM

    I couldn’t agree more with this. The Charlie Davies that some have built up in their heads was never really there. “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.” I mean isn’t that really the sum total of his contributions to the national team. His goal against Egypt was more scrappy than anything. He scored a total of 4 goals for the national team, granted in only 17 appearances. Conor Casey scored more goals for the US in 2010 World Cup Qualifying. Those two instances showed flashes of potential, but other players have shown potential too. I’m looking at you Eddie Johnson, who has a higher strike rate (42(12)) for the national team than Davies by the way.

    Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/09/21 at 8:33 AM

      In my opinion, that speaks to the point.

      Davies had the attitude of a striker and his inflated sense of self gave the team some identity.

      As much for his production, his swagger made the collective “you” feel good about the US chances, about the US teams.

      To use the analogy above, very Winnie Cooper like. She wasn’t the hottest. She wasn’t the prom queen (I don’t think), but she made you feel like you could talk to “that beautiful chick.”

      Reply

  5. Posted by Eric on 2011/09/21 at 8:48 AM

    I just feel that someone should mention just how Danica McKellar (Winnie Cooper) turned out looking now. I’d put her up there in the hottest now.

    Reply

  6. Posted by Matt Mathai on 2011/09/21 at 9:29 AM

    I don’t think I get the point of the article.

    What everyone was excited about before the accident was his potential. He burst on the scene in a big way and the prospects for the future were bright.

    We moved on since the accident because we had to – there was no guarantee that CD would be back. That said, with the possible exception of Agudelo, we don’t have a single striker who makes the kinds of runs that Davies makes routinely.

    I’ve watched him very closely during his MLS comeback. He’s making steady progress and I think he’s about 85% of where he was. That’s already good enough to be a single goal back in the MLS scoring race. I don’t understand why you’d dismiss any striker in that position, particularly one who has his experience. Sure, it helps w/ the melancholy of the piece, but I don’t think it fits the facts.

    Reply

    • Posted by Bob on 2011/09/21 at 9:46 AM

      “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.”

      I think he is saying that we will never get the full Charlie Davies like we had in 2009. Some are dismissing Davies’ goal total this year as being padded by penalty kicks, or as chip shots after receiving excellent passes from Pontius, etc. If that is truly the case, then I think the author is saying he looks like the Davies of old, but not entirely how we remember him to be.

      Reply

      • Posted by Martin on 2011/09/21 at 9:19 PM

        I wouldn’t presume to speak for the author.

        Like Matt Mathai I’ve seen a fair number CD’s games. Davies is now a different type of player. He is in some ways a better striker than he was but because he has changed his style, he will never remind us of the 2009 Charlie.

        He probably needs a little more time to work on his consistency but he will probably be considered for the US at some point if he keeps progressing, and if he fits in with however JK finally decides to play.

        Reply

    • Posted by Kevin O' on 2011/09/21 at 10:13 AM

      Well said, Matt. Most of Charlie’s injuries were internal, who knows how long it will take to make a full recovery. It’s way too early to forecast how his career will play out. And a nose for goal is an untaught instinct. I don’t care if he becomes a poacher supreme with no wheels, as long as the goals come, does it really matter?

      I would agree that John O’Brien was the one yank I was always pining to see play more. And if we’re being honest, Clint Mathis would be my next vote. But Winnie Cooper isn’t a powerful enough metaphor for these two, what they could do with the ball was straight up lust. So from that era I would go with Sherilyn Fenn or Linda Fiorentina.

      Reply

    • Posted by KMac on 2011/09/21 at 10:29 AM

      +1

      Reply

    • Posted by mbw on 2011/09/21 at 11:11 AM

      I also very much agree, and will be interested to see how Davies does the rest of the season and then what Souchaux decide to do in the off-season. I’ll also venture to predict that Klinsmann’s tactics (if they stick) will eventually be a bigger impediment to Davies’s national team prospects than will his own playing level.

      It might be worth noting that, from a purely statistical perspective, Davies is basically laying wood to a pretty decent league: if you give him the benefit of the penalties, he’s at .75 goals/90, way ahead of anyone else with more than six goals; discounting penalties, he’s second only to Henry. Stats-wise, among forwards, there’s Henry, Keane, Koevermans, Davies, and everyone else. Of course, the fact that he’s played 500-800 fewer minutes than many of the other top scorers is also significant, but that gets into a different discussion.

      Reply

  7. Posted by guest on 2011/09/21 at 10:08 AM

    Sigh is right. Sigh for three halves of soccer in 2009 that ruined me for the next 2 years of what should have been perfectly acceptable results. Sigh for the winnie cooper on the field and the one on the couch during those matches. Sigh for all those moments in life when you thought you’d ‘arrived’ and had it all figured out but also for the inevitable piercing of that veiled dream. If ’tis better to have loved and lost then never to have loved at all, then here’s to Torsten Frings, Luis Fabiano and Charlie Davies.

    Reply

  8. Posted by Crow on 2011/09/21 at 10:10 AM

    Wow, Grantland is being given a run for its money!

    Even though this show was before my time (I was born in ’85), I liked this piece for the same reason I like works of Cormac McCarthy (All The Pretty Horses) and Fitzgerald (Winter Dreams) to music such as Death Cab For Cutie’s Transatlanticism. I enjoy when artists explore the melancholy of “lost” ideals, especially when they were possibly impossible to attain in the first place.

    I think the 2010 World Cup Run would not have happened if not for Davies. He was really the only player other than Dempsey that brought some bravado to the team. Remember the debacle in Costa Rica- it was Davies coming in at the end and getting scrappy that gave some life/hope to the team- at least from this fan’s standpoint. And Davies possibly saved Bradley’s job (and got him a new one now!) and started the memorable cup run with that goal vs. Egypt which allowed the moments vs. Spain and Brazil. Finally, the goal vs. Mexico was the ultimate HOW DO YOU LIKE THEM APPLES? moment. I almost dream for a win at Azteca more than I do for a World Cup.

    And I will never forget the epic 2009 WCQ vs. Costa Rica. It probably will go down as my favorite sporting moment of all time that I experienced. I will never forget running my printer dry at home printing out a million of those #9’s. Gluing them to cardboard because I knew it was going to be wet. Being in the stands during the 9th minute salute. The absolute insanity after the Bornstein goal- I thought RFK was going to collapse. I remember the WTH reaction from Europe and elsewhere upon viewing the epic scenes of smoke, #9’s, and fans united.

    None of these things would have happened if every event did not transpire as it did. And the same with everything that is to come. Even if Charlie does not attain ‘100% form as before’ he can be a valubale player. And he may be stronger mentally than before which could add value to him as a player. It’s possible (not probable) that he could have just faded out or at least not realized his full potential if the accident would never have happened.

    Look at an athlete like Josh Hamilton. He basically destroyed his career on his own. Now, he is back and when he is healthy is possibly the best player in baseball. I honestly think he could win the Triple Crown if he could stay healthy for a season. If he would not have gone through his drug-enduced spiral, he possibly may have put up much better stats, etc. But because of what happened, he surely has inspired many, many more people.

    The point is our romantic view of anything fades over time or doesn’t fulfill the impossible expectations we attach to it. Whatever does end up turning out is always better anyway because it is real.

    Reply

  9. Posted by kaya on 2011/09/21 at 10:50 AM

    I love the comparison, and to expand on what Crow mentioned, the entire 2010 qualifying through the finals carried such an improbability to it: the Confed Cup, the game at San Pedro Sula where Connor “Kersey” scored 2 goals for the US to qualify… obviously the drama of CD9 and the Costa Rica game, straight through to the Donovan Algeria goal. You can’t take the CD9 out of the 2010 WC even though he wasn’t at the finals, and 2009-2010 will always be a couple of Wonder Years in the minds of the US Soccer koolaid drinkers.

    Reply

  10. [...] The Fan In You « On Charlie Davies: Every Boy Has A Winnie Cooper [...]

    Reply

  11. Posted by Crow on 2011/09/22 at 7:57 AM

    I was thinking about this post some more and NODBODY can live up to the expectations or place we put them in. Heck, look at Lio Messi. He’s “the best player in the World” and yet he stills has “disappointed” for Argentina. He didn’t play that well in the Copa del Rey last year. At some point he will probably come up short for Barcelona in a big game.

    And again as was stated- the Charlie Davies story is not over yet.

    The whole period of elevating someone or somthing to mythical status is fun, but the real contentment comes for enjoying what is really there. But I guess that is just what the article was trying to say.

    Reply

  12. Posted by KickinNames... on 2011/09/22 at 10:34 AM

    I was always more of a Marcia Brady guy….yeah..Marcia…what was the story about again?

    Reply

  13. [...] Jared DuBois. The TSG vet presiding over matter here in his third preseason preview. DuBois co-hosts The Best Soccer Show, self-titled of course. Jared needs no further intro around these parts. He’s legendary, not least for calling Charlie Davies his Winnie Cooper. [...]

    Reply

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