Laurie, who keeps me so entertained with the Los Angeles Galaxy Offside, wrote something in the comments to a last-gasp, wise-crack post I wrote on Freddy Adu after his hat-trick against Poland. Here's her comment:

"Did you ever think that Adu should have been, simply, a U-20, rather than the great hope of American soccer? Do you think he would have been happier that way?"

I wrote something different in response, but here's a more blunt version: Oh, hell yeah and on both counts.

There's something almost pervasively corrosive in the mania for crowning sporting "phenoms." I only say "almost" because, when it pans out, the child-star gets adulation, more money than God has, and a beautiful, if often failed, actress out of the bargain. But too often, especially here in the States where quality and temperament ain't what they are in the rest of the world, everyone loses in the wake of these public, semi-conscious/half-voluntary coronations: the player labors under a load of publicity and expectation too few seem willing (Landon Donovan) or able (Adu) to shoulder; fans get set up for glory, only to suffer disappointment that mutates into this a perverse form of bitterness they unload on the player - in other words, what amounts to a complete stranger becomes someone you kind of loathe for reasons that should be sort of embarrassing. The cycle ends with the player's paycheck shrinking along with their cache. Fans and pundits just wait around for the next kid's life to ruin.

So here's a new deal: let these kids play and let their achievements speak for their quality; let no one be "The Real Deal" till they prove it on the field and against grown-ups.

Is this even realistic? Of course not. If we weren't crowning the next savior, what the hell would we talk about all day?


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