Thursday, June 25, 2009

It's not 1980

Of course I was rooting for America as I watched the second half of yesterday's Confederations Cup semi-final. It was great to see them win. Soon as it was over I just figured I'd check twitter to see what was being said and there were a lot of posts comparing the win with the 1980 Olympic hockey team's accomplishments. Today, George Vescey, who is old enough to know better, continues with that theme, although at least Vescey merely says this is the "second-biggest upset by an American team" in any sport.

First, there is no comparison with 1980. For it to come anywhere near 1980 you would need the following conditions:
  1. a team comprised totally of amateurs;
  2. the competition to be more a lot more meaningful (like the World Cup);
  3. the whole nation riveted, watching and rooting for the guys wearing USA on their chest;
  4. a semifinal match-up with the world's greatest national team and that team to just happen to be from America's primary rival on the world stage (the USSR).
Is this even the "second-biggest upset by an American team" as Vescey contends? Well, of course, America isn't as involved in the sports that feature international competitions so maybe it is. However, I would say that the following are bigger upsets (given the stakes and the competition);
  • 1-0 win over England in the 1950 World Cup;
  • 1960 Olympic hockey gold.
I think I would probably say that the win over Portugal in the 2002 World Cup was bigger and also, maybe, the 1996 win over Canada in the final of the World Cup of Hockey, although that wasn't really much of an upset seeing as America had great players at the time. Still, this was the Confederations Cup and, well, let's face it it's not that prestigious a tournament and the fact that the stadiums are only half full tells a big part of the story.