Is no one else as curious as I am about what Ali Krieger thought after the World Cup meltdown (too soon?) to the Japanese? Today it felt that unless you read Sports Illustrator Grant Wahl today, it would be tough to know which otherwise indispensable American right back inadvertently assisted on Japan’s first goal. In short, the play was a killer. In a 2-2 game decided by penalty kicks, the most memorable moment was, alas, the slapstick sequence that saw Rachel Buehler clear a ball from the box directly at Krieger’s shins, whence Krieger poked the ball straight to right-place, right-timer Aya Miyama, who scored easily for the tie.
“A calamitous series of errors,” ESPN.com’s Jeff Carlisle called it, then ditched the active voice and avoided assigning so much as a verb to Krieger’s role: a cross “was cleared by Rachel Buehler straight at Ali Krieger, whose attempted clearance fell right at the feet of Miyama.” Other accounts buried the sequence, or preferred to dote on the victory for women’s soccer at large. Those are fine angles, yes. But neither of those addressed the sequence that made your stomach drop into your cleats.
Whenever journalists are accused of being bloodsuckers, remember this moment of politesse. Why not call a goat a goat? (But do so with more nuance than this guy.) If every mother in America watches a sequence in a game and says, to no one in particular, “Oh, bless his heart,” that’s the poor sumbitch what needs a notebook pointed at ’em after the game. Not because human beings are nourished by misery, but because we spend our entire lives trying to avoid awful moments, and when someone else feels a profound, soul-snuffing failure, we want to know what’s on the other side of that fence. (For the same reason, universities should hire as graduation speakers those alumni who faceplant in life. Successes taste better firsthand; failures are best served vicarious.)
The AP story took a light touch as well (“Rachel Buehler and Krieger did not clear the ball out of the penalty area”) but I thought Wahl got it right, addressing the painful moment, not mincing words: “Right back Ali Krieger helped gift Aya Miyama Japan’s first goal in the 81st minute after a scramble in the U.S. penalty box …” Over at Yahoo! Sports, Zac Wassink split the difference by not naming names: “Aya Miyama’s game tying goal for Japan in the 80th minute absolutely never should have happened …”
Maybe the Krieger reac will come later in the week. How did Krieger, who was playing in the same city (Frankfort, Germany) where she’s a club star, and who had enjoyed a brilliant World Cup run to this point (she was the one, remember, who punched in the decisive penalty kick against Brazil), handle being the Scott Norwood/Bill Buckner/Ralph Terry of this World Cup? Or is it better that in a team sport decided by thousands upon thousands of decisions and movements, the decision ultimately does fall on the team?
Guilty or not, the player who takes a loss the hardest should get the mic. Failure need not be an orphan.