The United States men's national soccer team has left a wake-up call for 2021. We'll probably hear the alarm go off. But will the folks who run that clown show listen to it?
The USA's World Cup hopes, at least on the men's side, died a predictable death Tuesday night, when Trinidad and Tobago bounced them out of World Cup consideration.
T&T -- or TNT considering how the loss obliterated more than 20 years of hard work to put the sport in the consciousness of the non-soccer aficionado -- did the dirty work.
Notice I said "consideration." The USA never made it to the Cup. It was knocked out in the qualifiers. We're right up there with Chile and Paraguay today.
The last time the U.S. men's team missed the Cup was in 1986. But to be honest, when was the last time the USA was a serious contender to win the World Cup? The U.S. didn't qualify for nine consecutive Cups, not a whiff between 1954-1990.
The U.S. got to the quarterfinals 15 years ago. But by and large, it's usually a 1-2 finish here, a 0-0-3 finish there and then a retirement to the stands to watch South American and European teams play on.
The basic problem the U.S. has, in relation to the rest of the world, is that our best athletes don't gravitate to the game. If you're a great athlete, and you want to make a lot of money being a great athlete, you gravitate to the sport that will pay you the most money.
That's why our best athletes wind up playing basketball, football or baseball. And while there are some native-born Americans who are making good money playing in Major League Soccer and a few in Europe, the dollars and the bodies don't compare to what's happening in the NBA, NFL or Major League Baseball.
For this country to become as dominant in soccer as it is in other sports, that has to change. In the meantime, we pick up the pieces from a series of tire blowouts on the road to the 2018 Cup.
"This is kind of a reality check for everybody in this country," FC Cincinnati defender Austin Berry told me after his team's practice on Wednesday.
FC Cincinnati is getting ready for a match this Saturday in Toronto that could determine whether or not it makes the United Soccer League's playoffs.
"I was watching on my computer, and it had all three of the games on, right in those last couple of minutes," Berry said. "You couldn't believe it."
The USA canned a coach along the way to the 2018 Cup. Jurgen Klinsmann was blunt and, at times, disrespectful of the talent with which he had to work. The suits running USA soccer thought they'd solved that problem by bringing back Bruce Arena as their head coach. Arena had coached the U.S. men's national team in the late '90s after another disaster similar to this current group.
Arena's 2002 squad did OK, but imploded in 2006, and he was out. Whether or not Arena survives this latest mess is a piece of drama still to come. There will certainly be a cry for change above Arena. And usually when that happens, the new guy will want his own guy coaching the team.
"I think whenever you have a letdown like that, of this magnitude, you definitely have to go back and re-evaluate things and say, 'Are we doing this the right way?'" FC Cincinnati forward Andrew Wiedeman told me. "It's definitely going to hurt, not being in the World Cup."
Certainly the makeup of the team will change. Christian Pulisic is the rising star, just 19 years old. But veterans like goalkeeper Tim Howard, who'll be 42 in 2022, and Cliff Dempsey, who'll be 38 by then, are probably finished on the international stage.
Whoever suits up for the U.S. four years from now will hopefully be better than this current collection. More importantly, the people charged with hiring a coach and helping that person find the talent need to change, too.
"I hope this will be good for us and inspire change," Berry said. "We're still growing as a soccer nation. It's going to be good for us."
Now then, a few things that have kept me awake at night over the last few evenings ...
The Bills are better than the Browns, but their offense is one-dimensional. I still need to see more by our Bengals before I start to rethink what kind of season they're going to have.
The Steelers are your father's Stull-ers. Anytime you've got the franchise quarterback wondering if 'he's lost it', you have problems. And, maybe Le'Veon Bell might want to show up for training camp next season. He looks like a shell of his 2016 self, his effort against the Ravens a few weeks ago not withstanding.
You have to be "dead behind the eyes," as Dan Rather was fond of saying, not to feel badly for J.J. Watt.
Jerry Jones is doubling down on his "stand for the anthem or else" policy. Regardless of how you feel about the issue, if Dak Prescott kneels Sunday before the Cowboys' next game (in two weeks) does he really tell John Garrett bench Prescott?
Don't look now, but the "Red Rocker" turns 70 tomorrow. Sammy Hagar or David Lee Roth? Who's your favorite front guy for Van Halen. Mine is Hagar, who turns in a stellar performance on this song from the boys' OU812 1988 album.
The B-side of the single is called "Cabo Wabo," which is the brand of tequila to which Hagar has lent his name. This song hit No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart 29 years ago.
OU812 is the second Van Halen album on which Hagar appeared. The song has its origins in a riff that Eddie Van Halen came up with, with his brother Alex.
Hagar is having a four-day blow out in Cabo to celebrate turning the big 70. And apparently, it's going to be spun into a documentary.
Toby Keith is helping him celebrate, with a mega concert that will also include the Grateful Dead's Bob Weir, Eddie Money and NIckelback's Chad Kroeger. The documentary will be released in theaters. Watch for it, it's called "Red Til I'm Dead."