Choking on all this tired talk of choking

OK, just one more time, then I promise to leave it alone.

If you cover soccer regularly, you have a right to use the word “choke” when you consider the U.S. women’s performance in Sunday’s final. I disagree. I think it’s fair to talk about blowing a lead and the factors behind it. And I think it’s fair to dissect some of the choices made on penalty kicks, by Pia Sundhage and by the players. But if you actually know the game and want to boil it all down to something so simple (the choke bit) I respect your right to do so. But for the journalists and bloggers just dropping by …

Just stop it. Because you’re being jack-buckets. These poor (and gracious) American women keep having to answer to that tired query about choking, and it really is bothersome.  Again, this is just a shallow way for journalists to be blowhards and to obscure their lack knowledge on soccer. It’s a lazy way out.  I’m seeing, hearing and reading guys who I know personally, who have never had so much as a shoe-full of interest in soccer but need to maintain some aura of higher sports knowledge, who want to be hard asses about it and look like authorities when, if we’re being honest, they don’t know their thumb from their ass when it comes to soccer.

What’s wrong with being honest, which would be a much more professional approach? Just say, “Well, I got excited about all this like everyone else, but I don’t follow it closely enough to add much to the conversation.” Wouldn’t we all respect that?

Wouldn’t it be a hoot if Hope Solo or some other U.S. woman answered the “choke” question with a question of her own? “Well, I don’t know about that. But what did YOU think about the choice of a center back out at left back? You know her name, right? And what did YOU think about our one super-sub who we started in the final? You know who I’m talking about, right? What did YOU think of Japan’s tactics, about how they added players to the attack when they were behind? And what did YOU think about our holding midfielder in the final, about whether she was looking a little tuckered? I mean, you know who she is, right?”

Let’s say some of these same guys and girls were dissecting an NCAA basketball final. And let’s say one team lost a 6-8 point lead. Everyone would autopsy the plays, the substitution choices, the individual hits and misses, etc., all the elements of the rally.  And that’s the way to do it. But on soccer, since they don’t know any better, they throw up their arms and yell “choke” and try to move on before anyone exposes them as fakes and frauds on the subject.

Do your homework, guys. Be professionals. Be honest. Or just leave it alone.

Here’s a pretty good post on it. Meanwhile, I have to go stick my head in a bucket of ice water, clearly.

Oh, and here’s the stuff I’ve done lately, the weekly SI.com MLS review, and the weekly tactical piece at MLSSoccer.com. A set-up piece on next week’s MLS All-Star match should be up soon at SI.com.

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