We are out of the World Cup.
Let’s first acknowledge that any discussion of football is just that.
Let’s also agree that nothing is more important than rebuilding the shattered lives of the victims of ruthless hurricanes, of racial and gender injustices, and of devastating wars.
And with our hearts aligned with that somber backdrop of human tragedy, let’s allow ourselves the space to care about sport so profoundly that we dedicate energy to playing, it, coaching it and even writing about it. Defeat in any shape or form will move us emotionally and I find that to be remarkably human.
Only those who earn it are welcome to the world’s stage. And we, the US of A, are not welcome.
We have been found wanting.
There are many nations sitting home like us to watch, not participate in, the world’s greatest sport event. And that fact is no consolation to the richest nation on earth. Interestingly, we love David and Goliath stories when we are David. Not so much when we are Goliath having squandered our measurable advantages, stumbling home defeated and baffled.
So, we can whine or win.
I think we all know what whining looks like. It blames and shames. It will tempt us into believing that merely changing the name from Jürgen to Bruce to Bob to Balthazar will satisfactorily satiate our angst. It will not. Whining will lead us to another match with soggy excuses and ridiculous rationalizations. I think we all know that whining divides us and leaves us ill prepared to drive solutions into the positive light of accomplishment.
Or we can win.
Let’s rally and be extraordinary in our response – together where common cause is fueled by uncommon discourse.
We may not know what winning looks like the day after defeat, but surely we know what the process of winning requires by now. This lesson reaches far beyond the boundaries of sport and into the very heart of all achievement of every generation of every nation.
We must be ambitious.
We must be dedicated.
We must learn from our errors.
We must be resilient.
We must be accountable.
We must be respectful.
These are the tenets of character that must be employed when we need them most.
Well, dear football fans and friends. We need them now. Not two weeks, two months, or two years from now. We need them this morning when the forces of either apathy or anger are lurking to strike our most vulnerable selves. No throwing up our arms or throwing darts will guide us to our best selves.
Let’s breathe deeply. Let’s lift our fallen football stars. Their World Cup dreams are deferred at best and over at worst. Let’s talk about it. And after a soul-searching review, let’s do something about it.
Let’s prepare to win before we are called upon to win. This result is no stroke of misfortune as we live in a country of great fortune. Let’s rethink and redesign talent development in such profound ways that future generations will not have to host a World Cup in order to play in one.
Let’s prepare to win now that we have lost. Johan Cruyff once mentioned that, "before I make a mistake, I don’t make that mistake." Perhaps that statement seems more logical and pertinent now. We are disappointed in a missed opportunity, but will be fabulously foolish if we do not now seize the opportunity that failure affords us.
I am accountable and I am in if anyone is listening. And if not, I am all in anyway. As a coach I am responsible for activating talent capable of not only beating the best, but also being the best.
It hurts, but I am inspired to replace the taste of failure with something more palatable – like resounding success.