- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Before beginning this “outside-the-box” look at America’s pathetic performance in World Cup soccer, a moment, please, for something far more serious. Raise a glass to Crazy Luke Graham.

Crazy Luke was a member of the legendary Graham pro wrestling family — of course, his real name was not Graham, but James Grady Johnson — who passed away this weekend. He was known to melt down in the ring whenever fans chanted, “Crazy Luke, Crazy Luke.”

He was far more entertaining than 90 minutes of American World Cup soccer.

The talk seven weeks ago was about how strong — not how woeful — this year’s U.S. entry into the World Cup would be. One Associated Press story said the biggest problem facing American soccer was the embarrassment of riches from which the United States would choose its roster.

“In a sign of how far American soccer has come, [coach Bruce] Arena has about three dozen capable players from which to pick,” the story claimed.

“Capable” didn’t work. They need to come up with a better type of player than “capable.”

There must be a way to import ringers. There must be some loophole the United States can use to its advantage. There apparently, for example, have been instances in which two countries team up — sort of like a Crazy Luke and Dr. Jerry Graham tag team — to compete. There was Trinidad and Tobago. There was Serbia and Montenegro.

The United States can make the case for such a merger with another country — strictly for World Cup purposes, of course. Ghana seems like an ideal candidate, since it eliminated the American team in a 2-1 victory last week. This way, when Freddy Adu is ready to play in 2010, he won’t have to chose between the two countries.

It could even be one catchy entry: “Ghamerica.” Sounds like a Japanese monster movie.

Or the United States could simply play to its strengths and in four years send another football team — a real football team.

The Super Bowl champs will do. They may be a little weak on the rules and lack the wonderful finesse that makes those 1-1 ties so compelling. But come on, Joey Porter wouldn’t let these soccer players dance down the field without striking a little fear in their hearts.

Yellow cards? Red cards? They couldn’t print enough of them. They would have to come up with a new card, perhaps one with a skull and crossbones. Most of these world-class athletes would fold like beach chairs on the Riviera.

The real problem, though, goes beyond soccer. America doesn’t have a soccer problem. America has a cup problem.

America just doesn’t do well when a cup is on the line. The United States hasn’t won a Davis Cup in tennis since 1995, having lost 10 straight. American golfers have lost four of the last five bids for the Ryder Cup (OK, they won the last President’s Cup. But face it, that’s a tournament we created just so we could have a cup to claim).

And it’s not just the high-profile cups we can’t seem to win. There is the Dressage World Cup Finals, the showcase for show horses. America has won that cup just once since it began in 1986.

America can’t even win its own cup anymore: Yankee sailors last won the America’s Cup in 1992 and have lost three straight. The Carolina Hurricanes won the Stanley Cup, but three-quarters of the players on that team’s roster are from other countries.

America at least could always count on the Nextel Cup, the coveted NASCAR trophy. But you can kiss that one goodbye, too. Toyota begins competing on the Nextel circuit next year.

No, America is much more of a bowl country. Super Bowl, Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl and on and on.

So maybe America just needs to act like America about this World Cup problem and tell the rest of the world thanks, but no thanks. We don’t want to be kicked around every four years. We’ll run our own tournament, thank you.

Only 32 countries qualify for the World Cup, which means that even though this supposedly is the world’s game there are many countries not competing. They need a soccer version of the NIT.

Call it, of course, the Super Bowl of Soccer. Play it indoors, because that is the only soccer in America that has managed to sustain any sort of professional life (1978 to 1992, revived in 2001).

And no cups allowed.

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