By Paul Kennedy
Every sport should be so lucky to have young men like Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey and Robbie Rogers.
Donovan was painted in some quarters as being AWOL when he skipped the start of the 2013 season and put himself out of the national team picture, as if he somehow owed it to us to be in San Pedro Sula for the start of the Hex.
Bruce Arena, his coach at the Galaxy and on two World Cup teams, knows Donovan better than any other coach, and he says he told Donovan it was a "bad plan." Whether it was a good plan or bad plan -- and we all know how it's turned out -- it was Donovan's plan and no one else's, and all the credit to Arena for supporting him.
Dempsey's decision to return home to play for the Seattle Sounders is being compared to Donovan's decision to go to Cambodia. How dare he return to play in MLS with a year to go until the World Cup? As if Dempsey's talents are going to suddenly erode if he's away from the EPL for a year.
Soccer is an unusual sport because we don't just root for our home team, we root for our national team. The U.S. national team happens to our national team, but that doesn't mean Donovan or Dempsey owes us anything, no more than they owe Jurgen Klinsmann anything.
Did Dempsey consult Klinsmann, who made him national team captain just two months ago, before making his decision to return to MLS? Except for his family, Dempsey says he did not consult anyone. A few sleepless nights were all that were needed. "I mean, it's one of those things that as a professional you have to make tough decisions. You have to do what you think is best for you and your family," he told SI.com's Grant Wahl.
At the end of the day, Klinsmann will decide whether Dempsey remains on the national team, but what he thinks about Dempsey playing for the Sounders is irrelevant. Dempsey did what was best for himself and his family and that's all that should matter.
Who could ever argue about the opportunity to make more money than you could ever possibly make? And do so while raising your children like you were raised and allowing your grandparents a chance to see you play like they didn't before?
Which brings us to Rogers and the question of a boycott of the Sochi Olympics because of Russia's new anti-gay law. Would he boycott the Olympics if he was eligible to play? No, it's not time to impulsively jump on the boycott bandwagon, Rogers wrote in USA Today.
Rogers says he couldn't imagine supporting a boycott of the Sochi Olympics that would deny other athletes the opportunity to do what he did: fulfill the dream of a lifetime and compete in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
It wasn't your dream or my dream, it was Rogers' dream.