sports (2006-26)

Why the U.S. doesn’t dominate world sports anymore

Losing Our Edge

by Tony Basilio

The U.S. Soccer Team’s World Cup performance has given way to the world asking, “What’s up?” The underachieving lads who were ranked fifthin the world coming into the tourney have the comfort of knowing that they’re not alone in this country. In fact they’re just the latest sports team to underachieve on the world stage. The United States is starting to lose face across the globe as a sports power. So what’s up?

Beano, my daily partner in crime on the radio, has a four-pronged philosophy as to the culprits behind our dismal international displays. Beano believes we only have ourselves to blame.

1. The U.S. is too privileged and too affluent.

2. Too many games and too few practices.

“There are some great things about the traveling sports culture that has popped up in recent years. The problem with it in all sports is that we don’t give the kids enough time to be kids. Even more to the point, they don’t want it. I coach 9- and 10-year-old kids in baseball, and if they don’t have a uniform on, they aren’t playing. And when we do practice and aren’t playing a game, I have parents at my practices heckling kids when they make an error. How are you supposed to improve when you can’t even get away from the so-called grown-ups for a couple of hours to practice?”

3. Our culture of celebrating the individual rather than the team.

Rather than develop fundamentals and a nuanced mastering of the finer points of a sport, the stars are lauded for how special they are. Watch European basketball compared to what we serve up on an international basis. They play the game the way it was supposed to be played. Why? Because they use a total team approach with all five players involved.

My children are not even 7 years old and already are working on a collection of trophies. To put it bluntly, they haven’t accomplished squat! Yet after each season of soccer, cheerleading or whatever, they collect trophies. It’s part of the feel-good society. Everybody’s a winner. What kind of nonsense is that? If you’re in your 30s or above, remember how many trophies you received as a child? It’s great for the trophy people, but deleterious for team sports in our country.

4. The feminization of America.

Talk to any coach and listen to the nightmares about moms siding with kids over coaches in any dispute. There’s no toughness. No consequences. Too many juice boxes. Too many trophies. And not enough dads.

Beano was chiding me at halftime of the U.S debacle versus Ghana (the U.S. team was trailing 2-1) with this quip. “Don’t worry. The U.S. will come back in the second half. I just saw a shot on TV of a bunch of mini-vans backed up to the U.S. locker room. Women had orange slices and bottled water and were heading toward the U.S.A. locker room. So, we’re in good shape.”

Very funny Beano. Very funny.

Tune in and talk sports with Tony Basilio weekdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on ESPN Radio WVLZ 1180 AM. Visit for more information.

Extra, Extra: For additional World Cup coverage, including game-by-game commentary by mystery sports commentators, click here . ’Cause we know how Knoxville loves its football.