I’ve been asked the same question in two separate radio or podcast interviews over the last two or three weeks: “Will Bob Bradley feel hard done because he wasn’t, apparently, U.S. Soccer’s first choice?”
This query caught me by surprise at first. I answered dutifully and then didn’t give it any more thought. I have more important things to contemplate – like the brisket Frito pie I’m having for dinner.
Seriously, I just didn’t give the question much regard because I didn’t think it was particularly relevant. The very notion seemed silly to me.
Then I heard myself answering the same question once again. And then I saw it was the (somewhat loose) premise of an AP piece on Tuesday. Seriously?
So now I’m thinking: maybe I have it wrong. Maybe I’m being hard-headed or obtuse. Maybe these guys have it right and I have it back-assward. (One of the guys who asked me is a fellow journalist whom I very much respect.) I could be wrong – it certainly has happened before.
Nah. Not in this case.
Look, let’s get a few things on the record:
No. 1: This happens all the time in sports. In college athletics, for instance, Athletic Directors will stand at a podium before a room full of check-writing alums, TV cameras and writers’ notepads and swear to the heavens the man they are about to introduce as the new football/basketball coach was his first choice all along. And he will be lying.
It happens. All the time. This is big boy sports. These guys are big boys. They get it. Whether they consider themselves the first, second or third choice matters very little in the end. If they want the job, they take it. If they don’t want the job, they don’t. If they do take the job, they want to win. That’s it.
No. 2: Bradley is a pro. If he gets a check to perform a job he’ll do his tip-top best. There’s really nothing more to it. (And by the way, he gets paid north of $500,000 a year. So there’s amble motivation in that alone. Most of us do the best we can at a tenth of that amount or less.
To suggest that he may not put his full effort into the enterprise because he may not have been Sunil Gulati’s top choice is really a little daffy.
No. 3: More than just a professional, Bob Bradley is a competitor. I suspect that, as I said, this will mean absolutely nothing. But if there is an effect from all this, if in his quiet moments Bradley does think about it all and allow himself to get emotionally twisted up about it, I suspect it would go the other way. As in, Bradley will work twice as hard to prove Gulati was wrong to pursue Jurgen Klinsmann. Again, I really don’t think that’s the case. But the “pissed off Bradley” scenario is far more likely than the “pouty Bradley” scenario.
No. 4: Bradley is a soccer geek. And I mean that in a good way. He doesn’t know how to be anything else. He’s going to watch his MLS games. He’ll watch his EPL matches. And he’ll watch his Serie A matches. (He’s a big Serie A guy.) And he’ll spend a lot of waking hours trying to make himself better at the coaching craft. He’ll probably make another trip to Europe this year to spend time at one of the power programs, looking for little tricks or tweaks to his own practice field MO, the way he did last year by spending time around Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United. Seriously, does anyone see Bob Bradley saying to himself: “Well, I was going to accept that invitation from Pep Guardiola to spend some at Barcelona. But now, since Sunil obviously wanted that German dude, I’ll just stay here in California and catch up on Seasons Two and Three of Mad Men. Take that!”
Nah. I don’t think so either.