Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Ireland v USA - Round two - playing for your country

The vast majority of my readers are Irish-American and a question that often pops up over email is 'So what's it like living in Ireland?'. Well, I am here to serve you, and having spent time in both Ireland and the States I feel qualified to play the two off each other in a series of pieces on exactly where is it better to live, Ireland or the States.

Round two, who plays harder for their country? Let's chop it up.

The breaking news reported over the last 24 hours, that LeBron James actually will play for Team USA in the basketball really shows the ugly side of professional sports in the United States. Ugly? Yes, ugly.

My point is, good for LeBron, however, if things were right, it would be him begging the powers that be to include him in the squad.

In the rest of the world, to represent your country is the single greatest honour that can be bestowed upon you in sports. International sporting events are the great leveller. It doesn't matter who's wage packet is the biggest, once you step between the lines, it's whoever wants the win most for their country.

It's ironic really, considering the enormous value placed on paper-thin patriotism in the States right now. The fact of the matter is, if LeBron had said he wasn't going to play, most of the media persona's in the US would have been happy with that.

It would appear, in these circumstances, appearing to be patriotic is actually more important than being patriotic. Supporting the troops, making fun of French people and booing the Dixie Chicks appears to be more important than representing your country on the field of play.

The downward spiral that teams representing the US are going through right now is a case of greed mixed in with the US sporting media's general lack of a decent 'world view' when it comes to sports. Selfish players know they don't have to represent their country because the media is not going to slate them for making such wallet-based decisions. International sporting events, which have the power to bring countries together, to stop warring factions and to galvanise entire nations, are vastly more important to the rest of the world than general professional sports. Why is that not the case in the States? Simple, money and greed.

You can paint it any way you want, reason it in any shape or form, but those players who choose not to represent their country at whatever discipline are turning their backs on the States as they just don't give a damn - it doesn't pay to play for the USA!

So how does Ireland fare when put up against the States in terms of pride for playing for your country? There is absolutely no comparison. Ireland by a long distance. The passion with which the Irish soccer and rugby teams, in particular, take the field is matched by few on the international circuit.

Robbie Keane - head over heels

A good example is Irish soccer star Robbie Keane. Keane earns big money playing in the flashy English Premiership for Tottenham Hotspur. He is, in fact, their highest paid player. When he is picked for the Irish team, Keane throws 100% of his heart and soul into the game. It is basically a given in the rest of the world, when your country picks you, you play. Not only do you play, you leave your body and soul on the field.

When someone decides to turn their back on their nation, that's headline news. That happens less often than a David Ortiz inside-the-park home run.

Wrap it up any way you want, package it in any way you see fit, but US professional sports and US national teams have a terrible co-existence that is getting worse year by year. Look at the US results in recent world events. They flunked the World Baseball Classic horribly. They flunked the basketball even worse. They tried hard in the last soccer world cup but clearly lacked match practice against top class opposition.

Here's the thing. In all those, no one in the US sports media really cared. While Ireland stops and stands still for the duration of any world cup or similar event that Ireland manages to qualify for, you barely even had coverage of the WBC that wasn't buried under headlines of so and so's contract or who just got arrested most recently off the Cincinnati Bengals.

So, which is better when it comes to representing your country, Ireland or the USA? Ireland, in a terrific land slide. After the USA taking the first event, 'the weather', we have a 1-1 tie on our hands. Sounds like a World Cup scoreline eh?

Running scoreline; Ireland 1 USA 1

Previous head-to-heads
Round one: The Weather

3 comments:

The Omnipotent Q said...

Good column, Cormac. It was maddening to hear all the paranoia regarding the World Baseball Classic when it came to the American players. All you heard was the fear over someone getting hurt, and it really worked against them. The WBC is a fantastic idea, and I hope it continues to grow. But the World Series is so entrenched, and there's so much money on the line with it, I fear that the WBC may never grow here.

blacksoxfan said...

A lot of that can be chalked up to history. It's traditional in Europe to play for your nation. International Championships are the tradition. In the US it's not the case because most of our sports no one plays outside of the US until recently.


Also Lebron James is an idiot anyway so that doesn't really matter.

Cormac said...

¨A lot of that can be chalked up to history.¨

you meant to type ¨money¨ right?

Irish National baseball team

Irish National baseball team
Team Ireland at the European Championships, Croatia, 2000.

A nice little mention for this blog on Fox Sports

A nice little mention for this blog on Fox Sports

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