By Paul Kennedy
Watching soccer is a piece of cake these days. All you need is a
smartphone and a television app and you're set to go. Anywhere. Any time.
You could lay in bed and watch the USA's U-20s play host New Zealand even though the game kicked off at 3 a.m. ET
(midnight PT). There was even the choice of networks: Fox Sports 1 or NBC Universo with the great Andres Cantor
calling the match.
It wasn't as easy the first time we watched the U-20s' head coach, Tab Ramos
, play in a major senior
competition. The USA was scheduled to open at the 1988 Olympics in South Korea against Argentina, but there was a small problem: the game in Daegu didn't kick off until 3 a.m. our time, and NBC, the
lone U.S. broadcaster, wouldn't dare air the match.
Our solution? We befriended the owner of an Oakland tavern who had installed a satellite to watch rugby, his favorite sport. We asked
him if he'd let us stay after he closed up and watch the Mexican feed of USA-Argentina game on satellite. To our amazement, he agreed and we were rewarded with an excellent effort from Lothar Osiander
's boys -- this was before they had even qualified for the 1990 World Cup -- and they earned a 1-1 tie in a game they probably deserved to win. It went
downhill -- for us and for them -- after that.
By the next game, others got wind of our secret viewing party and showed up before last call. Our friendly barkeep was OK with a
couple of soccer nuts staying after hours but he didn't look kindly on a whole crew hanging around. As for the USA, a bunch of players went out to celebrate with pizza in Daegu after the tie against
Argentina and got sick. Short-handed, the USA exited after three games.
I don't know what holds next for the USA in New Zealand -- it plays Ukraine on Friday in Auckland
, again at 3 a.m. ET and is assured of playing in the round of 16
-- but I know what I saw on Tuesday morning. Like his '88 Olympic team, Tab's U-20s rewarded us for staying up late. All I can say is watch the highlights of their 4-0 win over New Zealand
or the video of Gedion Zelalem's every touch
. Forget how bad the All
Whites are. Rubio Rubin
, Emerson Hyndman
and Zelalem, to name three, are very, very special players.
Tuesday continued with the news that Sepp Blatter
is resigning, or at least intends to resign after a successor is elected. I, for one, was not jumping up and
Blatter's departure does not guarantee things will get better. Wait, say, until after the Russia 2018 World Cup, and come back to me with your opinion about how things are going at
FIFA has been corrupt for many years. That isn't news. Just the scale of the money being looted has gotten bigger. A lot bigger. Many are applauding us Americans for bringing down
Blatter -- though many more are probably looking at us suspiciously.
Yes, it took "political courage" for Sunil Gulati
to stand up and vote for
and the commitment from the Feds, including the now Attorney Genera Loretta Lynch
, to make the case against
FIFA a priority. But they were only doing what should be their jobs.
I'll remember for a long time watching the U-20s.
But the day Blatter went down? Not so much.