U.S. Soccer fans are habitually on the lookout for their savior, for their “Superman,” to borrow a term from a current provocative work in U.S. theaters.
So, we tend to fall for the next big thing, for “this year’s love” as it were. And as everyone knows, we don’t always think clearly or rationally when smitten.
That’s why everyone was so enamored with Charlie Davies, even though his body of work was wholly incomplete to suggest that he really was our Superman. But Davies came strutting along, offering the right set of skills and the right amount of moxie at the very position where the U.S. national team seemed skinniest. Oh, the United States looked like it would qualify for the World Cup about 15-16 months ago, but the program was muddling along in a lot of ways. The lack of a striker who could consistently, ruthlessly break down defenses and supply goals was top of the chart among the reasons why.
Davies looked like the real deal, even if we didn’t know a lot about him. He’s like the backup quarterback in American football that way; the guy we don’t know about is always our favorite. If we haven’t seen a player’s dents and dimples just yet, we blissfully allow ourselves to believe they don’t exist.
This Davies fellow, he’s young. And he’s playing abroad. So he must be damn good! Right?
So Davies scored and the Confederations Cup and then at fortress Azteca. The deal was done. We were in love.
But what did we really know about the guy?
Here’s what we have discovered since: there is mounting evidence that he’s a 24-year-old who, at best, just hasn’t grown up. At worst, he’s someone whose judgment is fatally flawed. There’s a growing body of evidence to suggest as much.
Every good U.S. fan knows about the terrible events of a year ago, when Davies was involved in a serious car crash in the nation’s capital, an awful accident that killed a fellow passenger. Davies body was badly mangled.
His terrible injuries created long odds that Davies would be available for the World Cup. Fans were reluctant to buy it, however. They wanted Superman. So whenever I (or anyone else) wrote that Davies’ comeback hopes seemed overly optimistic at very best, many fans got all twisted up and wondered why we couldn’t understand this man’s special, super-human personality and properties? Why were we “against” the guy?
Because he was so badly damaged, no one made too big a deal about why Davies was out in the wee hours on a night before a World Cup qualifier. His judgment was awful, but his body and possibly his mental state were badly injured that we could all agree he had suffered enough. No reason to make a federal case of his poor choice that night.
Then there was this business of his Twittering last spring – where most of the breathless accounts of his “remarkable” recovery were originating. It was concerning to those paying attention past the Hollywood type “hope floats” element of the story. Davies was creating a situation that would surely put the U.S. coach and the program in an awkward situation. U.S. officials, fully aware of the devastating consequences of his range of injuries, were skeptical that the striker could make not just a full, physical return, but that anyone could get back into form and fitness in time to contribute at soccer’s peak level, a World Cup.
No one begrudged Davies’ hopeful stance or battling mentality. But his public pronouncements were bound to create tension that the U.S. program simply didn’t need at its most important moment.
Now, for the events of last weekend:
You probably heard that Davies was in a car that was stopped for traveling at 125 mph. Honestly, I don’t care which version of the story is true, that Davies was driving or that he was a passenger.
Either way, he exhibited incredibly poor judgment. Twice.
To be in a car traveling at such a thoughtless, reckless rate of speed is stupid for any of us. People die this way, and not always the careless ones in the offending auto. To have survived a crash where others did not just a year before, and then to be in a car that’s moving with such brutal force once again looks like the height of absurdity.
And then, to allegedly get involved in lying to the police or swapping places … or anything short of just copping to the absolute truth, that tells us even more about Davies – even if so many U.S. fans don’t want to hear it.
I don’t know Charlie Davies. I’ve talked to him once, and only then in a small group setting. So perhaps it’s not fair to say he’s a guy who is incapable of exhibiting good judgment, of making prudent decisions that benefit the greater good and not just making choices that feel good at the moment.
Perhaps it’s more innocent than that. To give him the benefit of the doubt (one more time!), perhaps we should say he’s just a kid who needs to grow up. At 24 years old, I’d highly recommend that it happens fast. Because Davies had better know this:
The graveyard of sports, all sports at all levels, is littered with the bones of talented types who just couldn’t get it together. There are reams of example of potential unfulfilled. These guys get stuck; humanity moves on without missing a beat.
And then we look back just shake our heads – and go on looking for the next Superman.