PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 23: The USA team celebrate Landon Donovan's winning goal that sends the USA through to the second round during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Group C match between USA and Algeria at the Loftus Versfeld Stadium on June 23, 2010 in Tshwane/Pretoria, South Africa. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
While the 49ers remain in their offseason for the time being, the world of sports continues at full throttle with world class events going on, including the World Cup and Wimbledon. In America, soccer and tennis have a lot of participation, but when it comes to television viewers, they are not normally on the level of the major sports in America (football, baseball and basketball). There are plenty of American fans of each sport, but the average American might not be quite such a fan.
And then you have moments like today. For those that have not paid attention, we had two epic performances (one of which will continue tomorrow) that will go down in history: one because of it's length, and one because of the level of drama. Over at the All-England Tennis Club, two relatively unheralded tennis players, Nicolas Mahut (France) and John Isner (USA), began a match at 11am London time, 3am pacific time. Ten hours later, the match was suspended due to darkness. The score at that point: 4-6 6-3 7-6 6-7 59-59. Yes, you read that correctly. In what is officially the longest tennis match ever was tied 59-59 in the fifth set. As I understand it, other Grand Slams go to a tiebreaker in the fifth set as they do in other sets. Wimbledon, however, has the players keep playing games until somebody wins (by two for those who don't know).
At approximately 9:10pm local time, Mahut told the officials it was getting too dark to see the ball and they should suspend the match. In the US Open and Australian Open they've got lights for night matches, but that is not the case in London. And so, the match has been suspended until tomorrow morning. What I found most entertaining was when the officials were conferring and deciding on whether to suspend the match, the fans were chanting "We Want More! We Want More! We Want More!" which is oh so reminiscent of "Let them Play!" in the Bad News Bears.
While a lot of folks might have missed this epic, record-setting matchup, I'd imagine fewer missed another amazing finish. Join me after the jump.
What really can be said about the USA's 1-0 victory over Algeria? With England leading Slovakia 1-0 throughout the morning, the US needed a victory over an Algerian team that failed to score a goal the entire World Cup. I'm not a huge soccer fan, but the nationalism of the event sucks me in every time, even more so than the Olympics. The US thoroughly dominated Algeria in the offensive zone, but they could not manage any goals. They'd get the ball down close and something would get in the way. There was the offsides call that waived off Clint Dempsey's goal. It was a bad call, but in the heat of the moment was it absolutely atrocious? I'm not much of a soccer fan, but I didn't see it as being a horrendous call. Bad, but not the worst (aside from costing a huge goal) Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.
Over the course of the match it seemed like every five minutes the US was able to get close and would either kick the ball too hard or just miss wide right or wide left. Over and over again. I headed over to my bar review class at 8:15 and watched the remainder of the match on my phone. As they went into stoppage time, I was resigned to a USA loss, which would mean soccer gets packed away for another four years until the 2014 World Cup.
And then the miracle happened, as Landon Donovan scored with just over two minutes remaining in stoppage time. I won't go into the details of how he scored the goal (great throw by Howard, Algeria's attacking offense left them short handed on defense), but suffice to say, it caused me to yell out loud.
While soccer may never fully catch on as a spectator sport in America, it's moments like these that transcend all sports. Soccer and the World Cup is one of the last truly nationalistic sports and sporting events left. For our non-American readers you may be indifferent to the USA victory and that's certainly fine. But even if you're indifferent to the specific victory, I'd imagine you understand the point I'm making. For our fans in England, the 1-0 victory had to be a nailbiter given the fact that a tie would have sent England packing after the group stage.
While the Wimbledon match did not match the level of thrilling desperation of America's victory today, the amazing endurance of the two players and the record-setting length of their matchup are one other reason why people watch sports.
We watch sports because in spite of all the analysis we conduct and all the discussion we have throughout the year, at the end of the day, sports is unpredictable. As the saying goes, on any given Sunday any team can beat any other team. At the end of the day, it seems more than likely one of the major powers will win the 2010 World Cup, and there's nothing wrong with that. The reason many of us will continue to watch is that we know something shocking could still happen.
The US faces Ghana on Saturday at 11am pacific on ABC. The World Cup officially enters the single elimination stage and the odds are not exactly in America's favor to win the World Cup, let alone get into the semis or finals. And yet, we'll continue to watch because you just never know what might happen.