Friday, June 11, 2010

Good Luck, Bob

You may have heard that the World Cup starts today.

Of the 32 countries who made it into the field, TigerBlog has been to 10, which is nearly a third of them. Unless you don't count France, since TB was only in the Paris airport as a stopover between New York and Tel Aviv.

In case you care, here are the other nine countries he's been to: the United States, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, Mexico, Denmark and Greece.

If he had to pick one of the other countries to go to, he'd probably take Australia, though sitting for that long on a plane isn't exactly enticing. And if TB went to Australia, he'd probably stop off in New Zealand as well.

The last country of the 32 he'd want to go to? No offense to what are probably some fine restaurants in downtown Pyongyang, but TB will pass on North Korea.

TigerBlog thinks that Spain will win the World Cup, defeating either England or the Netherlands in the final (he'd be higher on the Netherlands if Arjen Robben's hamstring was fine); the fourth team in TB's final four will be Brazil. For the record, both TigerBlog Jr. and Little Miss TigerBlog have been to Brazil.

TB was in Spain and Ireland during the 2008 European championships, and unless you've experienced something like that first hand, you can't possibly imagine just how wild a scene that is. Even in Ireland, who wasn't in the tournament, it was hard to find someone who wasn't completely passionate about it.

In the United States, soccer is something of an afterthought as far as major sports go, even though it has come a long way in the last 20 years or so. And, as an aside, TB would be picking the U.S. team win the World Cup if all of the best American athletes played soccer instead of football, basketball and lacrosse.

Anyway, by now the connection between Princeton and the U.S. team is well-known. Bob Bradley, the U.S. coach, played at Princeton and then coached here, taking the Tigers to the 1993 Final Four. One of his assistant coaches is Jesse Marsch, who also played here; the team had its pre-World Cup training camp at Roberts Stadium.

There have been a ton of stories written about Bradley in the last few weeks, and each of them is great publicity for Princeton University and Princeton soccer. One of the better ones was on earlier this week.

These stories all paint Bradley as driven, and they all talk about his life as a kid and then at Princeton. In almost all of them, there have been quotes by Princeton baseball coach Scott Bradley (Bob's brother) and soccer coach Jim Barlow (who played for Bradley here and coaches the U.S. U-15 team).

If you want the contrarian view, there's always Rich Fisher's story in the Trentonian. And the comment at the bottom? Sort of harsh, no?

It's been 30 years since Bradley played at Princeton, and in that time, he's risen to become the national team coach for the world's biggest sporting event.

Is there a current Princeton athlete who will follow in Bradley's path? Will a current Princeton soccer player coach the U.S. team one day? Or be an NFL head coach in the Super Bowl? Or win the Stanley Cup from behind the bench? Who knows?

But Bradley has made it that far. Princeton has produced a lot of athletes who have gone into careers in coaching - and there are eight of them who are currently head coaches at their alma mater.

College basketball alone features any number of Princeton alums who are now coaches; it's a profession that has long been attractive to former Tigers.

But to have one of your own coach the U.S. national team at the World Cup? That's something unique, something special.

Every time TB sees Bradley on TV, he thinks back to his time covering Bradley's Princeton teams during his newspaper days and in his early days working here.

There was always something very special about Bob Bradley, but who could have ever predicted that the World Cup was in his future? Hey, if Major League Soccer had flopped - something Bradley had no control over - then Bradley might have ended up back in college coaching, and he probably never would have made it to the level he has.

Or, for that matter, had Jurgen Klinsmann taken the U.S. job, then where would Bradley be now?

None of that will be the issue tomorrow, when the U.S. takes on England to start its World Cup run. Bradley will be the man leading the way, and if you're a Princeton fan, you're pulling extra hard for the Americans.

After all, one of Princeton's own is leading them.

Good luck, Bob. We're all rooting for you.

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