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UPDATED — USA in Pyeongchang: How bad is it?

Updates are in italic. Things have taken an upturn.

We’re at the middle Sunday of the 2018 Olympics, and the USA has … 10 medals.

The Netherlands have 13, perhaps an advantage of picking one sport and getting really, really good at it. They only have four athletes at the Olympics who aren’t speedskaters.

Canada has 16 medals in seven different sports, and we haven’t even hit the hockey medal rounds yet.

Germany has 18. They slide, shoot and ski jump quite well.

Norway has 26. Basically, if it involves skis, the Norwegians have medaled. They’ve already equaled their total from Sochi.

The USA had 28 medals in Sochi. It’s no surprise that they do better in North America — 34 in Salt Lake City and 37 in Vancouver, compared with 25 in Torino.

Sure, the numbers were in the 20th century. In those days, 13 was a record. In 1988, Bonnie Blair and Brian Boitano were the only Americans to take gold, and Blair accounted for two of the USA’s six medals. But that was a different era. The Winter Games have grown — 38 events in Lake Placid 1980, 68 in Nagano 1998, 98 in Sochi 2014.

And the USA has gained from the X Games-ification of the Winter Olympics. Freestyle skiing officially debuted with one event (moguls) in 1992, then added aerials, then ski cross in 2010 and halfpipe and slopestyle in 2014. The USA had 21 medals in that sport coming into Pyeongchang, along with 24 in snowboarding.

But it’s not just the newfangled sports that have kept the USA near the top of the medal table. In Sochi, the USA took five medals in Alpine skiing, four in bobsled (including two in women’s, still a new-ish event), one in luge and one in ice dancing. Even with the long-track speedskating shutout, that’s not a bad showing.

The USA is actually competitive in sports that were once far beyond Americans’ grasp. I was there in 2010 to see the USA’s first Nordic combined medals. The long-overmatched bobsled and luge programs have sprung to life. Skeleton’s return to the Olympics was a boon for the USA — apparently, going head-first down a long slide suits us. And the USA took two medals in last year’s biathlon World Championships to go with a steady stream of cross-country skiing medals, two sports in which the USA has a combined total of one all-time Olympic medal.

So what’s going on in Pyeongchang, where snowboarding accounts for half of the USA’s medal haul so far and all but one of the Americans’ golds?

Two categories. First, near misses:

  • An ailing Mikaela Shiffrin, who already has the only non-snowboarding gold for the USA so far, was fourth in her best event (slalom).
  • Jessie Diggins came into South Korea with a terrific shot at winning the USA’s first women’s cross-country medal, and she has finished fifth, fifth, fifth (relay) and sixth.
  • Nathan Chen made a heroic effort to reach the podium in men’s figure skating and posted the top free skate, but he was fifth overall. (Should’ve been fourth.)
  • The luge team relay, led by surprise men’s medalist Chris Mazdzer and track record-breaker Summer Britcher, was fourth.
  • Lindsey Jacobellis and Nick Baumgartner each took fourth in snowboardcross. The USA also nearly had fourth-place finishers in men’s and women’s halfpipe, which you may have not noticed given Shaun White and Chloe Kim’s golds.
  • Brittany Bowe has nearly broken the speedskating hex, placing fourth, fifth and fifth.
  • Maggie Voisin, who was injured in a training run in Sochi and couldn’t compete, finished fourth in slopestyle skiing.
  • Casey Andringa was fifth in men’s moguls.

So the 10-medal haul could easily be 15 or more.

Second, ill-timed down years:

  • Biathlon. Lowell Bailey took gold and Susan Dunklee took silver in last year’s World Championships, but it’s just not happening this year in the World Cup or in South Korea.
  • Men’s Alpine skiing. While the women have two skiers vying for G.O.A.T. status (Shiffrin and Lindsey Vonn), Ted Ligety is the only viable medal contender for the U.S. men. He was fifth in the combined.
  • Long-track speedskating. There’s really no good way to explain how a team with Bowe and Heather Bergsma has gone two Olympics without reaching the podium.
  • And the glory years are long gone for Nordic combined, women’s short-track skating and skeleton.

So what’s the path forward here? Can the USA still get into the mid-20s?

Let’s peek at the remaining medal events:

Sun/Mon, Feb. 18-19 – Day 10. 0 medals. Indeed, none

6:15 a.m.: Bobsled, two-man final two runs. No chance.
6:53 a.m.: Speedskating, men’s 500 meters. Little chance.
7:30 a.m.: Ski jumping, men’s team. No chance.

Mon/Tues, Feb. 19-20 – Day 11. 1-2 medals (running total: 11-12) Got both, bronze in each case. Total of 12.

⭐8 p.m: Figure skating, ice dance free dance. Very good chance. If the Shib Sibs aren’t at their best, two more teams have a shot.
⭐8:30 p.m.: Freestyle skiing, women’s halfpipe. Very good chance. Maddie Bowman is the defending gold medalist.
6:15 a.m.: Biathlon, mixed relay. If Dunklee, Bailey and Tim Burke have awesome legs … well, we can dream.
6:33 a.m.: Short-track speedskating, women’s relay final. Didn’t qualify.
7:45 a.m.: Nordic combined, large hill 10k race. No chance.

Tues/Wed, Feb. 20-21 – Day 12. 1-4 medals (running total: 12-16) OK, I was wrong about the women’s team pursuit. The USA took bronze. That made up for only getting one in women’s bobsled. Vonn got her medal, and yes, so did Diggins (with Kikkan Randall). Still running on the high end of the projections — 16 medals.

⭐9 p.m.: Alpine skiing, women’s downhill. Lindsey Freaking Vonn, folks.
⭐5 a.m.: Cross-country skiing, men’s and women’s team sprint finals. Please, please let Jessie Diggins get her medal here.
⭐6:40 a.m.: Bobsled, women’s final two runs. Certainly one, maybe two.
7:52 a.m.: Speedskating, men’s and women’s team pursuit finals. No chance.

Wed/Thurs, Feb. 21-22 – Day 13. 2-4 medals (running total: 14-20) Not quite a sweep, but two medals in halfpipe and then gold in women’s hockey. So just one off the high end of the projection at 19 medals. Also, the Alpine combined and big air were moved ahead a day, but I’ll leave them with the next day for projection purposes.

⭐9:30 p.m.: Freestyle skiing, men’s halfpipe. Outstanding chance. Might even sweep.
⭐11:10 p.m.: Hockey, women’s gold medal game. All-but-certain gold or silver.
11:45 p.m.: Alpine skiing, men’s slalom. Not likely.
5:20 a.m.: Nordic combined, team relay. Not this year.
6:15 a.m.: Biathlon, women’s 4x6k relay. I wish, but no.
6:18 a.m.: Short-track speedskating, men’s 500-meter final. Slight chance.
6:30 a.m.: Short-track speedskating, women’s 1,000-meter final. Little chance.
7:03 a.m.: Short-track speedskating, men’s relay final. Didn’t qualify for A final, though if a bunch of teams are disqualified …

Thurs/Fri, Feb. 22-23 – Day 14. 1-5 medals (running total: 15-25) Already got two of these a day early thanks to rescheduling. That’s probably going to be all, so they’ll still be at 21. But five medals here was always a stretch.

⭐7:30 a.m.: Snowboarding, women’s big air. Pretty good chance.
⭐8 a.m.: Figure skating, women’s free skate. Less than 50-50, but maybe?
⭐12:30 a.m.: Alpine skiing, women’s combined. Shiffrin and Vonn could contend.
12:35 a.m.: Freestyle skiing, women’s skicross. No U.S. entries.
5 a.m.: Speedskating, men’s 1,000 meters. Only if Shani Davis turns back time.
6:15 a.m.: Biathlon, men’s 4×7.5k relay. No chance.

Fri/Sat, Feb. 23-24 – Day 15. 1-4 medals (running total: 16-29) This will be at least one thanks to the men’s curlers. So the minimum stands at 22. The Torino total of 25 depends the snowboarders and speedskaters.

⭐8 p.m.: Snowboarding, men’s big air. Possible.
9 p.m.: Alpine skiing, team event. Hard to say.
10 p.m.: Snowboarding, parallel giant slalom. Probably not, but you never know.
12 a.m.: Cross-country skiing, men’s 50k mass start. No chance.
⭐1:35 a.m.: Curling, men’s gold medal game. They’re still in it, but this might be a stretch.
⭐7:30 a.m.: Speedskating, men’s mass start. Decent chance. Joey Mantia won the 2017 world title. Maybe they can finally break through.
8 a.m.: Speedskating, women’s mass start

Sat/Sun, Feb. 24-25 – Day 16. 0 medals

7:05 p.m.: Curling, women’s gold medal game. Not likely.
7:30 p.m.: Bobsled, four-man final. Not likely based on two-man runs.
11:10 p.m.: Hockey, men’s gold medal. No Miracle here.
1:15 a.m.: Cross-country skiing, women’s 30k mass start. Not Diggins’ best event.

So the chances of matching Sochi are slim. They’ll struggle to match Torino. But 20 medals wouldn’t be so bad.

 

2018 Winter Olympics: A concise viewing guide with stars, medals and flags

Each day during the Olympics, I’ll be telling you what to watch and making a few predictions. You can also find my daily previews at Bleacher Report.

Time difference and schedule/streaming options: The Pyeongchang schedule is …

  • Eight hours ahead of a lot of Europe (Eurosport)
  • Nine hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (BBC)
  • 14 hours ahead of Eastern Time (NBCCBC)
  • 17 hours ahead of Pacific Time (NBCCBC)

Here, all times are Eastern. So if it’s Thursday morning in South Korea, it’s Wednesday night here. If it’s Thursday night in South Korea, it’s Thursday morning here. NBC is live-streaming everything, and I’ve noted network coverage where applicable.

And yes, I’m using emoji. Stars for recommended viewing, Xs are for events of interest to X Games fans, medals for medal events, U.S. flags where the USA has a good chance of getting a medal (or a couple of events you simply have to see if you’re interested in U.S. athletes). It’s slightly selective — on busy days, I don’t list every qualifying session or curling matchup.

(Update: Bleacher Report bowed to the “Day 1” naming convention, and so have I. Also, I’ve updated some of the rescheduled events.)

Wed/Thurs, Feb. 7-8 – Day before the day before Day 1

PRIME TIME

7:05 p.m.: Curling, mixed doubles, USA-“Russia.” First event of Games. Note: Each curling session throughout the Games (until tiebreakers and playoffs) will have 3-4 games at once.

OVERNIGHT

Naught (NBCSN will have more curling and some training runs.)

EARLY MORNING

6:05 a.m.: Curling, mixed doubles, USA-Canada (NBCSN)
7:30 a.m.: Ski jumping, men’s normal hill qualification (NBCSN)

Thurs/Fri, Feb. 8-9 – Day 0

PRIME TIME

6:35 p.m.: Curling, mixed doubles, USA-Switzerland
⭐8 p.m.: Figure skating, team event, men’s short program (NBC; Nathan Chen?)
8 p.m.: Freestyle skiing, women’s moguls qualification (NBC; Jaelin Kauf)
9:45 p.m.: Figure skating, team event, pairs short program (NBC)
9:45 p.m.: Freestyle skiing, men’s moguls qualification (NBC)

OVERNIGHT

11:35 p.m.: Curling, mixed doubles, USA-South Korea (NBCSN)

EARLY MORNING 

⭐6:00 a.m.: Opening Ceremony. (Live stream has “natural sound only.”)

Fri/Sat, Feb. 9-10 – Day 1

PRIME TIME

7:05 p.m.: Curling, mixed doubles, USA-China
(8 p.m.: NBC shows fully produced Opening Ceremony on 14-hour delay)
✖8 p.m.: Snowboarding, men’s slopestyle qualifying

OVERNIGHT

🥇🇺🇸2:15 a.m.: Cross-country skiing, women’s 15k skiathlon (NBCSN; Jessie Diggins; chance for U.S. women’s first-ever Nordic medal)
2:40 a.m.: Hockey, women’s, Japan-Sweden

EARLY MORNING 

🇺🇸5 a.m.: Short-track speedskating, heats in multiple events (NBCSN; Maame Biney)
🥇6 a.m.: Speedskating, women’s 3,000 meters
6:05 a.m.: Curling, mixed doubles, USA-Norway
🥇6:15 a.m.: Biathlon, women’s 7.5k sprint (Susan Dunklee)
7 a.m.: Hockey, women’s, Switzerland-South Korea (USA Network)
⭐🥇🇺🇸7:28 a.m.: Short-track speedskating, men’s 1,500-meter final (NBCSN; J.R. Celski)
🥇7:35 a.m.: Ski jumping, men’s normal hill final (NBCSN)

Sat/Sun, Feb. 10-11 – Day 2

PRIME TIME

7:05 p.m.: Curling, mixed doubles, USA-Finland (final round-robin game)
✖🥇8 p.m.: Snowboarding, men’s slopestyle final (NBCSN)
⭐8 p.m.: Figure skating, team event, ice dance short program (NBC; Shib Sibs?)
⭐🥇9 p.m.: Alpine skiing, men’s downhill (NBC)
⭐9:45 p.m.: Figure skating, team event, women’s short program (NBC)
✖11:30 p.m.: Snowboarding, women’s slopestyle qualifying (NBCSN)
11:40 p.m.: Figure skating, team event, pairs free skate (NBC)

OVERNIGHT

🥇1:15 a.m.: Cross-country skiing, men’s 30k skiathlon
🥇2 a.m.: Speedskating, men’s 5,000 meters (Brian Hansen)
2:40 a.m.: Hockey, women’s, USA-Finland (NBCSN)

EARLY MORNING 

🥇6 a.m.: Luge, men’s, final two runs
6:05 a.m.: Curling, mixed doubles, tiebreaker (if necessary)
🥇6:15 a.m.: Biathlon, men’s 10k sprint (NBCSN; Lowell Bailey)
🥇🇺🇸7 a.m.: Freestyle skiing, women’s moguls final (Jaelin Kauf)
7 a.m.: Hockey, women’s, Canada-“Russia” (USA Network)

Sun/Mon, Feb. 11-12 – Day 3

PRIME TIME

7:05 p.m.: Curling, mixed doubles semifinal 1
✖🥇🇺🇸8 p.m.: Snowboarding, women’s slopestyle final (NBCSN; Jamie Anderson)
8 p.m.: Figure skating, team event, men’s free skate (NBC; Nathan Chen)
⭐8:15 p.m.: Alpine skiing, women’s giant slalom, first run (NBC; Mikaela Shiffrin)
9:10 p.m.: Figure skating, team event, women’s free skate (NBC)
⭐🥇🇺🇸10:20 p.m.: Figure skating, team event, free dance (NBC; Shib Sibs)
⭐✖11:30 p.m.: Snowboarding, women’s halfpipe qualifying (Chloe Kim)
⭐🥇🇺🇸11:45 p.m.: Alpine skiing, women’s giant slalom, second run (NBC; Mikaela Shiffrin)

OVERNIGHT

2:40 a.m.: Hockey, women’s, Switzerland-Japan (NBCSN)

EARLY MORNING 

🥇5:10 a.m.: Biathlon, women’s 10k pursuit (NBCSN; Susan Dunklee)
6:05 p.m.: Curling, mixed doubles semifinal 2
🥇7 a.m.: Biathlon, men’s 12.5k pursuit (Lowell Bailey)
🥇7 a.m.: Freestyle skiing, men’s moguls final
⭐🥇🇺🇸🇺🇸7:30 a.m.: Speedskating, women’s 1,500 meters (Heather Bergsma, Brittany Bowe)
🥇7:50 a.m.: Ski jumping, women’s final (Sarah Hendrickson)

Mon/Tues, Feb. 12-13 – Day 4

PRIME TIME

7:05 p.m.: Curling, mixed doubles, bronze medal game
⭐⭐✖🥇🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸8 p.m.: Snowboarding, women’s halfpipe final (NBC; Chloe Kim)
9:30 p.m.: Alpine skiing, men’s combined, downhill (NBC)
✖11 p.m.: Snowboarding, men’s halfpipe qualifying (NBC; Shaun White)

OVERNIGHT

🥇1 a.m.: Alpine skiing, men’s combined, slalom (NBC)
2:40 a.m.: Hockey, women’s, Canada-Finland (NBCSN)
3:30 a.m.: Cross-country skiing, men’s and women’s sprint qualifying (Jessie Diggins, Kikkan Randall)

EARLY MORNING 

5 a.m.: Short-track speedskating, heats in women’s 500 meters, men’s 1,000 meters and men’s relay
🥇🇺🇸5:30 a.m.: Luge, women’s final two runs (Summer Britcher, Erin Hamlin)
6 a.m.: Cross-country skiing, men’s and women’s sprint heats (NBCSN)
⭐🥇🇺🇸6 a.m.: Speedskating, men’s 1,500 meters (Shani Davis)
🥇6:05 a.m.: Curling, mixed doubles gold medal game
🇺🇸7:10 a.m.: Hockey, women’s, USA-“Russia” (NBCSN)
🥇7:11 a.m.: Short-track speedskating, women’s 500-meter final
⭐🥇🇺🇸7:25 a.m.: Cross-country skiing, women’s sprint final (Diggins, Randall)
🥇7:34 a.m.: Cross-country skiing, men’s sprint final

Tues/Wed, Feb. 13-14 – Day 5

PRIME TIME

7:05 p.m.: Curling, men’s, USA-South Korea (first game)
8 p.m.: Figure skating, pairs short program (NBC/NBCSN)
8:15 p.m.: Alpine skiing, women’s slalom, run 1 (NBC; Mikaela Shiffrin)
⭐✖🥇🇺🇸8:30 p.m.: Snowboarding, men’s halfpipe final (NBC; Shaun White)
⭐⭐🥇🇺🇸🇺🇸11:45 p.m.: Alpine skiing, women’s slalom, run 2 (NBC; Mikaela Shiffrin)

OVERNIGHT

🇺🇸12:05 a.m.: Curling, women’s, USA-Japan (first game)
1 a.m.: Nordic combined, normal hill ski jump
2:40 a.m.: Hockey, women’s, Japan-South Korea (USA Network)
🥇3:45 a.m.: Nordic combined, normal hill 10k race (NBCSN)

EARLY MORNING 

⭐🥇🇺🇸🇺🇸5 a.m.: Speedskating, women’s 1,000 meters (NBCSN; Heather Bergsma, Brittany Bowe)
🥇6:05 a.m.: Biathlon, women’s 15k individual (Susan Dunklee)
🥇6:20 a.m.: Luge, doubles
⭐🇺🇸7:10 a.m.: Hockey, men’s, USA-Slovenia (NBCSN; debut for non-NHL team)

Wed/Thurs, Feb. 14-15 – Day 6

PRIME TIME

7:05 p.m.: Curling, women’s, USA-Britain
🥇8:30 p.m.: Figure skating, pairs free skate (NBC/NBCSN)
🥇9 p.m.: Alpine skiing, men’s super-G (NBC; Andrew Weibrecht)
⭐⭐🇺🇸10:10 p.m.: Hockey, women’s, USA-Canada (NBCSN)
✖11:30 p.m.: Snowboarding, men’s snowboardcross, heats

OVERNIGHT

12:05 a.m.: Curling, men’s, USA-Italy
✖🥇12:45 a.m.: Snowboarding, men’s snowboardcross, final (NBC)
🥇🇺🇸1:30 a.m.: Cross-country skiing, women’s 10k individual (Jessie Diggins)
2:40 a.m.: Hockey, one men’s and one women’s game (NBCSN/USA Network)

EARLY MORNING 

🥇6 a.m.: Biathlon, men’s 20k individual (Lowell Bailey)
🥇6 a.m.: Speedskating, men’s 10,000 meters (no USA)
6:05 a.m.: Curling, women’s, USA-Switzerland
7:10 a.m.: Hockey, two men’s games (NBCSN/USA Network)
🥇7:30 a.m.: Luge, team relay

Thurs/Fri, Feb. 15-16 – Day 7

PRIME TIME

7:05 p.m.: Curling, men’s, USA-Sweden
🥇7:30 p.m.: Skeleton, men’s final two runs (NBC; Matt Antoine)
8 p.m.: Figure skating, men’s short program (NBC/NBCSN; Nathan Chen)
10:10 p.m.: Hockey, men’s, USA-Slovakia (CNBC)
✖🥇🇺🇸10:15 p.m.: Snowboarding, women’s snowboardcross, heats and final (NBC; Lindsey Jacobellis)

OVERNIGHT

🥇1 a.m.: Cross-country skiing, men’s 15k individual (NBCSN)
2:40 a.m.: Hockey, men’s, “Russia”-Slovenia (NBCSN)

EARLY MORNING 

✖🥇6 a.m.: Freestyle skiing, women’s aerials
🥇6 a.m.: Speedskating, women’s 5,000 meters
6:05 a.m.: Curling, men’s, USA-Denmark
7:10 a.m.: Hockey, two men’s games (NBCSN/USA Network)

Fri/Sat, Feb. 16-17 – Day 8

PRIME TIME

7:05 p.m.: Curling, women’s, USA-“Russia”
🥇🇺🇸🇺🇸8 p.m.: Figure skating, men’s free skate (NBC/NBCSN; Nathan Chen)
🥇9 p.m.: Alpine skiing, women’s super-G (NBC; Lindsey Freaking Vonn)
10 p.m.: Hockey, women’s, quarterfinal 1 (CNBC)
✖🥇🇺🇸11 p.m.: Freestyle skiing, women’s slopestyle final (NBC; Maggie Voisin)

OVERNIGHT

2:40 a.m.: Hockey, women’s, quarterfinal 2 (USA Network)
2:40 a.m.: Hockey, men’s, South Korea-Switzerland (NBCSN)
🥇4:30 a.m.: Cross-country skiing, women’s 4x5k relay
5 a.m.: Short-track speedskating, women’s 1,500-meter and men’s 1,000-meter heats

EARLY MORNING 

6:05 a.m.: Curling, women’s, USA-Canada
🥇6:15 a.m.: Biathlon, women’s 12k mass start (Susan Dunklee)
🥇6:20 a.m.: Skeleton, women’s final two runs
⭐⭐🇺🇸7:10 a.m.: Hockey, men’s, USA-“Russia” (NBCSN; last group-stage game)
🥇7:11 a.m.: Short-track speedskating, women’s 1,500-meter final
🥇7:26 a.m.: Short-track speedskating, men’s 1,000-meter final
🥇7:30 a.m.: Ski jumping, men’s large hill final

Sat/Sun, Feb. 17-18 – Day 9

PRIME TIME

7:05 p.m.: Curling, men’s, USA-Japan
8 p.m.: Alpine skiing, men’s giant slalom, run 1 (NBC)
✖8 p.m.: Freestyle skiing, men’s slopestyle qualifying (NBCSN)
✖🥇11:15 p.m.: Freestyle skiing, men’s slopestyle final (NBC)

OVERNIGHT

🥇11:45 p.m.: Alpine skiing, men’s giant slalom, run 2 (NBC; Ted Ligety)
🥇1:15 a.m.: Cross-country skiing, men’s 4x10k relay
2:40 a.m.: Hockey, men’s, Czech Republic-Switzerland (NBCSN)

EARLY MORNING 

✖🥇6 a.m.: Freestyle skiing, men’s aerials final
⭐6:05 a.m.: Curling, men’s, USA-Norway (fancy pants)
🥇6:15 a.m.: Biathlon, men’s 15k mass start (Lowell Bailey)
🥇6:56 a.m.: Speedskating, women’s 500 meters (Erin Jackson)
7:10 a.m.: Hockey, two men’s games (NBCSN, USA Network)

Sun/Mon, Feb. 18-19 – Day 10

PRIME TIME

7:05 p.m.: Curling, women’s, USA-Denmark
✖7:30 p.m.: Snowboarding, women’s big air qualifying
8 p.m.: Figure skating, ice dance short program (NBC/NBCSN; Shib Sibs)
✖8 p.m.: Freestyle skiing, women’s halfpipe qualifying (NBC; Maddie Bowman, 2 more contenders)

OVERNIGHT

⭐11:10 p.m.: Hockey, women’s semifinal 1 (NBCSN)
12:05 a.m.: Curling, men’s, USA-Canada

EARLY MORNING 

6:05 a.m.: Curling, women’s, USA-China
🥇6:15 a.m.: Bobsled, two-man final two runs (in memory of Steven Holcomb)
🥇6:53 a.m.: Speedskating, men’s 500 meters
⭐7:10 a.m.: Hockey, women’s semifinal 2 (NBCSN)
🥇7:30 a.m.: Ski jumping, men’s team

Mon/Tues, Feb. 19-20 – Day 11

PRIME TIME

7:05 p.m.: Curling, men’s, four games (no USA)
⭐🥇🇺🇸🇺🇸8 p.m: Figure skating, ice dance free dance (NBC/NBCSN; Shib Sibs)
✖🥇🇺🇸🇺🇸8:30 p.m.: Freestyle skiing, women’s halfpipe final (NBCSN; Maddie Bowman, more)
10:10 p.m.: Hockey, men’s playoff 1 (NBCSN)
✖11 p.m.: Freestyle skiing, men’s halfpipe qualifying (NBC)

OVERNIGHT

12:05 a.m.: Curling, women’s, USA-South Korea
2:40 a.m.: Hockey, men’s playoff 2 (NBCSN)
5 a.m.: Short-track speedskating, men’s 500 meters and women’s 1,000 meters heats
5 a.m.: Nordic combined, large hill ski jump

EARLY MORNING 

6:05 a.m.: Curling: men’s, USA-Switzerland
🥇6:15 a.m.: Biathlon, mixed relay
🥇6:33 a.m.: Short-track speedskating, women’s relay final (no USA)
7:10 a.m.: Hockey, men’s playoff 3 and 4 (NBCSN / USA Network)
🥇7:45 a.m.: Nordic combined, large hill 10k race

Tues/Wed, Feb. 20-21 – Day 12

PRIME TIME

7:05 p.m.: Curling, women’s, four games (no USA)
✖7:30 p.m.: Snowboarding, men’s big air qualifying (NBC)
8 p.m.: Figure skating, women’s short program (NBC/NBCSN; Mirai Nagasu)
⭐⭐🥇🇺🇸🇺🇸9 p.m.: Alpine skiing, women’s downhill (NBC; Lindsey Freaking Vonn)
10 p.m.: Hockey, men’s quarterfinal 1 (CNBC)
✖11:15 p.m.: Freestyle skiing, men’s skicross heats

OVERNIGHT

12:05 a.m.: Curling, men’s, USA-Britain
✖🥇12:35 a.m.: Freestyle skiing, men’s skicross final
2:40 a.m.: Hockey, women’s bronze medal game (USA Network)
2:40 a.m.: Hockey, men’s quarterfinal 2 (NBCSN)
3 a.m.: Cross-country skiing, men’s and women’s team sprint semifinals

EARLY MORNING 

⭐🥇🥇🇺🇸5 a.m.: Cross-country skiing, men’s and women’s team sprint finals (Diggins/Stephen)
6:05 a.m.: Curling, women’s, USA-Sweden
⭐🥇6:40 a.m.: Bobsled, women’s final two runs (Elana Meyers Taylor)
7:10 a.m.: Hockey, men’s quarterfinal 3 and 4 (NBCSN / USA Network)
🥇🥇7:52 a.m.: Speedskating, men’s and women’s team pursuit finals

Wed/Thurs, Feb. 21-22 – Day 13

PRIME TIME

7:05 p.m.: Curling, men’s and women’s tiebreakers
8:15 p.m.: Alpine skiing, men’s slalom run 1 (NBC)
✖🥇9:30 p.m.: Freestyle skiing, men’s halfpipe final (NBC; possible U.S. sweep)
⭐⭐⭐🥇🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸11:10 p.m.: Hockey, women’s gold medal game (NBCSN)

OVERNIGHT

🥇11:45 p.m.: Alpine skiing, men’s slalom run 2 (Marcel Hirscher)
2:30 a.m.: Nordic combined, team ski jump (NBCSN)

EARLY MORNING 

5 a.m.: Short-track speedskating, men’s 500-meter and women’s 1,000-meter heats
🥇5:20 a.m.: Nordic combined, team relay (NBCSN)
6:05 a.m.: Curling, men’s semifinals
🥇6:15 a.m.: Biathlon, women’s 4x6k relay (NBCSN)
🥇6:18 a.m.: Short-track speedskating, men’s 500-meter final
🥇6:30 a.m.: Short-track speedskating, women’s 1,000-meter final
🥇7:03 a.m.: Short-track speedskating, men’s relay final

Thurs/Fri, Feb. 22-23 – Day 14

PRIME TIME

✖🥇7:30 a.m.: Snowboarding, women’s big air final (NBC)
⭐🥇8 a.m.: Figure skating, women’s free skate (NBC/NBCSN; Mirai Nagasu)
9 a.m.: Alpine skiing, women’s combined downhill run (NBC; Mikaela Shiffrin, Lindsey Freaking Vonn)
✖11:15 p.m.: Freestyle skiing, women’s skicross heats

OVERNIGHT

⭐🥇🇺🇸🇺🇸12:30 a.m.: Alpine skiing, women’s combined slalom run (NBC; Mikaela Shiffrin, Lindsey Freaking Vonn)
✖🥇12:35 a.m.: Freestyle skiing, women’s skicross final (NBC)
1:35 a.m.: Curling, men’s bronze medal match
⭐2:40 a.m.: Hockey, men’s semifinal 1 (NBCSN)

EARLY MORNING 

🥇5 a.m.: Speedskating, men’s 1,000 meters (NBCSN; Shani Davis)
6:05 a.m.: Curling, women’s semifinals
🥇6:15 a.m.: Biathlon, men’s 4×7.5k relay
⭐7:10 a.m.: Hockey, men’s semifinal 2 (NBCSN)

Fri/Sat, Feb. 23-24 – Day 15

PRIME TIME

✖🥇8 p.m.: Snowboarding, men’s big air final (NBC)
🥇🇺🇸9 p.m.: Alpine skiing, team event (NBC; Olympic debut)
🥇🥇10 p.m.: Snowboarding, parallel giant slalom heats and final (NBC)

OVERNIGHT

🥇12 a.m.: Cross-country skiing, men’s 50k mass start (NBCSN)
⭐🥇1:35 a.m.: Curling, men’s gold medal game

EARLY MORNING 

6:05 a.m.: Curling, women’s bronze medal game
7:10 a.m.: Hockey, men’s bronze medal game (NBCSN)
🥇7:30 a.m.: Speedskating, men’s mass start
🥇8 a.m.: Speedskating, women’s mass start

Sat/Sun, Feb. 24-25 – Day 16

PRIME TIME

⭐🥇7:05 p.m.: Curling, women’s gold medal game (NBCSN)
7:30 p.m.: Figure skating, exhibition gala (NBC)
⭐🥇7:30 p.m.: Bobsled, four-man final two runs (NBC; in memory of Steven Holcomb)
⭐⭐🥇11:10 p.m.: Hockey, men’s gold medal game (NBCSN)

OVERNIGHT

🥇1:15 a.m.: Cross-country skiing, women’s 30k mass start (NBCSN; joined in progress?)

EARLY MORNING 

6 a.m.: Closing Ceremony (natural sound only)

(NBC will show the Closing Ceremony with full commentary at 8 p.m., wrapping up their coverage.)

On Twitter, advocacy, hostility and objectivity

My Dad was an intellectually rigorous man. He majored in philosophy, racing through college so he could lead a platoon in Korea, then returned from the war to get his doctorate in the emerging field of biochemistry. He remained in the Marine Reserves, rising to the rank of colonel, and was a stern but beloved faculty member at the University of Georgia for more than 40 years.

At one family holiday gathering, he demanded to know everyone’s views on abortion. The answers ranged from the biological (we had one doctor in the room) to the theological (one Episcopal priest) to the anecdotal. For the most part, he was impressed.

So what was his position? “Oh, I still don’t know,” he said.

Dad was certainly opinionated about some things. In other cases (abortion, Israel, etc.), he saw a difficult balance of legitimate views. The common thread was the process.

The point of the story: I was raised to believe in the Socratic method of asking questions, sometimes taking it to the extreme. Journalism was therefore a logical (but frustrating) career choice.

It’s also a misunderstood career, especially these days.

Granted, objective journalism isn’t really in vogue these days. In sports, more journalists are embracing homerism. In journalism at large, Jay Rosen has raised pointed questions about the legitimacy of the “view from nowhere,” which is unrealistic. In my experience, blind adherence to airing “both sides” is ripe for abuse. Sometimes, one “side” is telling the truth and the other is lying, and it’s a journalist’s job to say so.

In my own work, I’ve certainly felt emboldened to be a little more opinionated in the last seven years or so. One reason: I think we’re in danger of losing the war on bullshit, so we need to be a bit more aggressive in challenging the liars. Another reason: I left USA TODAY, where the management of the time wanted to rock the boat as little as possible, and I found freelance clients (bless you, The Guardian and FourFourTwo) who offered a bit more freedom. And getting older gives everyone a bit more freedom to speak up.

But at heart, I’m still someone who likes to get to the truth. That sometimes means challenging people with whom I’d usually agree. I questioned the women’s soccer national team in their labor dispute over a few misrepresentations and lack of clarity — their lawyer refused to say anything beyond “equal pay for equal play” in comparison with the men’s team, even though the men don’t draw salaries and play different competitions.

A lot of people don’t get that. Anyone who asks questions must be the enemy. Scorn them. Mock them. Attack their credibility.

And, of course, some people are just jerks.

My default on Twitter is to engage. I do learn a lot from the discussions, and they help me get my thoughts in order, like an ongoing rough draft.

But I’ve spent too much time in the past year engaging with jerks. Or people who just don’t get it.

https://twitter.com/DanLoney36/status/943600245434404865

I’m actually going to do the opposite. I’m going to declare a Christmas amnesty and unblock a lot of people. Not all. I blocked an “Infowars” guy, and I’m not going down that road again.

We’ll see how long it lasts. If I had eternal patience, I’d run for a soccer board position.

Upcoming coverage/career plans

Mid-major announcement to start with: Ranting Soccer Dad now has its own site. I’m not married to the design yet, but it should stabilize in the next few days. This site and podcast will be my top work priority for some time to come. I’m even planning a related book. Stay tuned.

Ranting Soccer Dad deals primarily with youth soccer, but it ties into everything in the soccer world — U.S. Soccer politics, the national teams, the pro leagues (men and women), etc. Even if you think you’re not interested in youth soccer, check it out. You’ll find some interesting guests.

I’ll still be freelancing on occasion for The Guardian and Four Four Two, and I’m open to other suggestions. You may be a little less likely to get random pitches from me for the foreseeable future.

What about women’s soccer? 

These days, there’s less of a place for me in terms of NWSL and WNT coverage. Part of that is simply where my reporting has carried me (huge stories elsewhere), part of it is the ongoing decline of the news media (it’s nice to get paid every once in a while).

But I’ll still want to have a lot of female guests on the podcast, and we’ll certainly talk about every level of the women’s game. When I see youth soccer leagues in our area, I see a lot more boys than girls, and that concerns me. Farther up the ladder, I frankly was not impressed with the quality of play in the NWSL this year, and I’m not sure whether that’s a coaching preference for a “physical” style of play or a lack of quality coaching in clubs and college. (Probably a bit of both.) We’re going to address that at Ranting Soccer Dad, and I’d love to talk with a lot of people who can diagnose the problem better than I can.

I’m also going to be a bit of an agitator for more and better coverage. Equalizer Soccer is a great resource, and SB Nation’s various blogs are generally great at giving the women their due. Elsewhere, coverage is lacking, and I’m not just talking about the News & Observer‘s inexplicable decision to ignore an NWSL semifinal that took place in its backyard. ESPNW ramped up a bit for the NWSL playoffs, but I wouldn’t say they were a vital WoSo news source throughout the year. Other large sports sites give irregular coverage.

On all the politics around WoSo — I had good advice yesterday to “amplify” good reporting and analysis. I think I can do that. I’m going to avoid rehashing old debates. In the past 18 months or so, I’ve dealt with three primary groups of people — people who’ve made good points and engaged in actual discussion, people who may mean well but come across as condescending know-it-alls who don’t listen, and people who are simply reprehensible. If the last group takes over WoSo fandom without challenge, the sport will suffer.

But I’ve learned a lot from the discussion, and I intend to keep learning without being as active a participant as I have been. This is a starting point:

And yes, learning is a lifelong process. Even if most of us think we know everything at age 21. (Hey, I did too!)

So I’m not quite giving up WoSo. But I can’t really justify taking up a season credential at Spirit games and coming home to write about it without a significant outlet, and I’m not really shopping myself around to find a significant outlet. You’re probably more likely to find me on Spirit Hill next season than in the pressbox.

I’m very happy with what I’ve done in WoSo — everything from covering W-League games in the mid-2000s with maybe 200 people in the stands to the 2008 Olympic final and the 2011 Women’s World Cup opener. I’ve covered labor disputes and the WPS implosion, and I’ve covered a lot of good soccer and good soccer players. I hope someone coming out of college today gets to have all those experiences. (Maybe not the WPS implosion.)

What about MMA? 

I enjoyed writing for Bloody Elbow this year, and I really should finish my Cageside memoir at some point. There’s just too much going on in soccer right now.

What about Olympic sports?

I’ll update the Perpetual Medal Count at some point, and I’ll do one for winter sports as well. And I’ll do the occasional post. Most likely on curling.

What about music?

Once a month at Popdose and occasionally at Mostly Modern Media, where I’ll also periodically skewer political bullshit in all forms. And economists.

What about everything?

Good song to end this:

The best post-T&T pro-promotion/relegation argument

Predictably, Soccerocalypse has brought out the usual arguments from the promotion/relegation crowd:

  1. Youth development will be so much better!
  2. Players will be under constant pressure!

If anyone could turn their attention away from Twitter long enough to read something longer than 280 characters at a time, they would have seen this addressed in the pro/rel series — both pros (and alleged pros) and cons.

The short versions:

Youth development: European clubs that have good academies have them so they can sell players (and yes, solidarity payments/training compensation is a legitimate issue with legal potholes I can’t fully comprehend). Chelsea’s inability to develop a first-team player from within is legendary, just one example of a “broken” academy system in the birthplace of soccer.

MLS has actually made progress in youth development because its clubs know they can avoid the boom and bust of pro/rel. They feel confident spending millions to create what wasn’t there before. Then they have a pathway, via their oft-derided relationship with USL, to send promising 17-year-old players to the first team via the USL bridge.

And then MLS teams can play their youngsters because they know they’re not going to be relegated. That’s one reason why MLS has developed so many players who turn around and beat the USA in CONCACAF. (I have heard arguments that MLS needs to impose stricter limits on international players. Then I’ve heard arguments saying MLS needs to spend more on international players to raise the level so that any U.S. players who make that first team will be more appropriately challenged.)

Pressure: Yes, we know. Someone in a German locker room threw a shoe at Eric Wynalda.

shoe

First of all, the idea that you’re “playing for your job” at every training session in Europe but not in MLS is inflated. European clubs aren’t going to cut people mid-contract. You can lose a starting spot, sure, and then you can regain it the next week. That’s not unique. If you want to see job insecurity, watch the NFL, where a kicker can miss once or twice on Sunday and be unemployed on Monday.

Second: Bobby Warshaw tells a different story of playing for a relegation-threatened team. His teammates in Scandinavia all just wanted to wash their hands of it and be gone.

And it’s not as if pressure always makes diamonds. Sometimes, it makes dust. In this clip, Woody Harrelson is Trinidad and Tobago. Wesley Snipes is the USA.

The USA didn’t lose because the media and supporters are too nice to them. They played tense. Cautious. Trinidad and Tobago did not.

After Prince died, Saturday Night Live ran a tribute. Jimmy Fallon told a story of being at a party where he was on stage wondering if he could get Prince to come up and play. Then he saw the crowd parting and Prince basically floating to the stage. Prince came up to Fallon and gave him a look that said, “Yeah, I got this.”

That’s what the USA needed. Not overconfidence. But that sweet spot between confidence and complacency in which they say, “I got this.” Only Christian Pulisic, who’s too young to have been through the same CONCACAF wars (or relegation battles — see Altidore, Jozy) as his teammates, played with that attitude.

But let’s say there’s a benefit to playing in a league that’s more intense than MLS — though, if you were ever in a locker room with Taylor Twellman or Dom Kinnear after a game, you know things can get pretty intense. Why is Germany more intense than the USA? Why is Germany more intense than Scandinavia?

It’s because Germany has a deeper soccer culture.

Same reason Mexico and the big Euro leagues are more intense than MLS or Scandinavia. For all the progress made in the USA since Paul Caligiuri took a wild shot in Trinidad in 1989, this country is still a good bit behind everyone else. Youth soccer participation plateaued and then started dropping, and while a lot of those kids turn up wearing Messi or Rooney jerseys, a lot more never watch soccer on TV or in person.

So if you want to make a good argument for promotion/relegation, try this:

Pro/rel will help deepen the soccer culture in this country.

And I believe that. Most of what I’m saying here on pro/rel is the same stuff I’ve been saying for 15 years, no matter how much it’s been misrepresented by the PRZ on Twitter. But this is an argument that I can’t remember hearing before. Maybe some people made it, but it was drowned out in all the “PRO/REL WILL OBVIOUSLY MAKE EVERYTHING BETTER BUT MLS/SUM/USSF/STEVE BANNON ARE CONSPIRING TO KEEP THE NFL BIG” nonsense.

This is your argument. This is something you can present to people who have money on the table — not the Monopoly money Silva and company threw at MLS so they could create the narrative that MLS turned down a gazillion bucks to institute pro/rel now.

Is it enough? I don’t know. The other realities still exist. We have a Division I soccer league now where we didn’t in 1992, and it’s because people were enticed to invest in a scheme that reduced the risk from “might as well burn your money” to “there’s a small chance this might work.” If you’d told people in 1992 we’d have a soccer league that consistently drew 40,000 people in Atlanta and Seattle, people would’ve laughed at you. (Especially Atlanta. I grew up in Georgia, and I’m astounded.)

But if the pro/rel crowd is willing to drop the nonsense, along with the conspiracy talk and nonsensical legal actions, maybe there’s a chance to win the argument.

If I were elected USSF president (no, I’m not running — there’s a reason a lot of sane, qualified people from Peter Wilt to Julie Foudy aren’t interested), I’d do the following:

  1. Divisions 2 and 3 go pro/rel next year. I’m torn on whether the USL brand name should stay. The NASL brand name should not. It has a history of incompetence, and even the glory days of the late 70s were built on non-traditional glitzy Americanized soccer. Besides, given the existence of Mexico, the “North American” part of the brand name never rang true. Keep the clubs — to start, put the clubs on the soundest financial foundation in D2 and the others in D3.
  2. Division 4 becomes the top amateur division (semipro clubs are allowed to compete, but it’ll be mostly amateur, as these leagues are now) for the top tiers of the major amateur leagues — PDL, NPSL, UPSL, Cosmopolitan, GCPL, other USASA Elite Amateur Leagues. Clubs that finish in the top three of these leagues can apply for D3 status — for the foreseeable future, only a few clubs will do that. (At this point, I don’t think we can or should relegate clubs from pro D3 to amateur D4. If D3 gets too big, start a pro D4, more or less mimicking what England has recently done with its fifth tier.) Have a D4 national championship if it’s feasible, replacing some of the existing and sort of redundant national amateur cups.

Two reasons to this. First, it’ll make the lower divisions much more interesting.

And it just might demonstrate to the powers- and purseholders-that-be that there’s a benefit to expanding the pyramid and building a soccer culture.

Or, you know, just yell and scream and sue. That’s working so far, right? And competition between uncooperative leagues worked so well that we’re about to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the ASL, right?

 

Here’s what WON’T help U.S. Soccer

snake-oil“That’s right, folks! Step right up and get your miracle elixir! Cures everything from chronic flatulence to an inability to qualify for the World Cup or Olympics from CONCACAF!”

Doesn’t work that way. The problems have deeper roots. A dash of snake oil isn’t going to make the U.S. men’s team (or women’s, which has some similar issues and some very different) magically better.

Among the pet programs that won’t make the USA follow France’s path from qualifying failure to World Cup champion in four years:

Ramping up “pressure”: Consider how Trinidad and Tobago played in their cozy, bumpy stadium with the soothing hum of generators or pumps or whatever created what little “atmosphere” existed last night. They were loose. They were having fun. Only Christian Pulisic, who’s too young to have been through the battles of his teammates, played with any flair to match what the home side brought to the marshland of Ato Boldon Stadium.

If anything, the U.S. players seemed too tightly wound. Michael Bradley, the captain, was raised in a family that lives for competitive pressure. Jozy Altidore has dealt with the wrath of the global soccer media in the midst of a relegation fight, and yet he was probably a lot better before all that, back in the 2009 Confederations Cup and World Cup qualifying that year.

Which brings us to this …

Promotion/relegation: I dealt with this in the pro/rel series. Pro/rel doesn’t magically turn every club into Barcelona. It doesn’t make clubs run awesome academies — in fact, you might end up with some major gaps as major cities’ clubs lose Division 1 status and have to cut funding.

And can we cut the nonsense that players in MLS clubs aren’t playing for their jobs? North America is littered with MLS washouts. (Some of whom turn around and score against the USA in CONCACAF play.)

Dismantling MLS: The league needs improvement, sure. But it’s worth noting that the goals that eliminated the USA — from Panama and Honduras — came from guys with plenty of MLS experience.

Costa Rica is going back to the World Cup. MLS players scored 11 of their 14 goals in the Hexagonal.

And the oft-derided MLS-USL partnership has created an alternate pathway to the oft-derided college game. Go to an MLS academy. If you’re ready to go pro at age 17 or 18 but not quite ready for the first team, play for the reserves in USL. Then up to MLS.

Clubs have made these investments because they’re financially secure. They feel confident that they’ll be in the top division for the foreseeable future. Any change to that structure needs to be made very carefully.

Let’s put it this way: If you dismantle MLS, you’re also dismantling most of the free academies that exist in this country. How is that supposed to help?

Having the “passion” to hurl rotten fruit at players when they return: Sure, let’s make the notion of being a professional and international soccer player less attractive in a country that has a ton of sports options. That’ll work.

Along those lines …

Telling people how to live their lives: Remember when everyone was telling Landon Donovan to abandon his family and move to Europe for our own satisfaction?

Two issues with that:

  1. That’s not going to inspire future athletes to devote themselves to soccer and international play.
  2. Couldn’t the U.S. men have used a Landon Donovan last night, no matter how many years he spent in MLS instead of the Bundesliga?

Hiring a savior: One guy isn’t going to turn around the men’s national team, let alone change the entire culture in this country. Jurgen Klinsmann had no idea how to change youth soccer other than the vague imposition of things he knew as a child in Germany.

The people working to change the culture are working at the U.S. Soccer Foundation (different from the federation) and other organizations trying to make the sport more accessible.

Turning the sport into a job for which only the elites may apply: Eastern Europe in the Cold War had a bunch of sports machines that culled the top sports talent at an early age and herded them into camps. Brazil and other countries thrive on street soccer. Which group has had more success?

Reading too much into one World Cup, either 2002 or 2018: Was Bruce Arena a genius in 2002? Somewhat, but it helped that Portugal collapsed and the ref didn’t notice John O’Brien’s handball against Mexico. Was he suddenly an idiot in 2018? Somewhat, but it helped that Panama scored a phantom goal and Honduras (and T&T) got a couple of flukes.

Wins amplify good decisions. Losses amplify bad ones.

* * * *

Here’s what WILL help:

“Incremental changes at multiple levels”:

Reducing the “travel” in travel soccer: Even if you have tons of scholarship money, explain to me how a kid with two working parents who don’t control their own schedule are going to get that kid to every practice and game all over a five-state region?

Related to that …

Ending the turf wars: We have an arms race. Club A is in the Development Academy, so Club B has to be in the ECNL. Then Club C has to travel to multiple showcases everywhere from Disney World to that massive soccerplex in Indiana that’s hosting everything these days.

Remembering that we’re still competing for players and fans: Quit telling 9-year-olds that the stuff they’re doing now will pay off when they’re 16-year-old pros. Quit pretending we can drive people out of the sport as children and expect them to be paying customers when they grow up.

If soccer was so deeply ingrained in the USA that we would put up with all this, fine. The truth is that we’re still fighting attitudes like this:

And that is a Democratic Congressman. His voters surely include a lot of immigrants and a lot of soccer fans. And yet he feels secure in bashing soccer. In 2017.

Education: I’ve had the chance to see more than 100 paid coaches at the U9-U12 level. Maybe 20 of them are people I’d be happy to have coaching my kids. Another 20 or so seemed OK. The rest are screamers, joystick coaches and assorted cretins.

I’ve also worked with about 100 parent coaches. Some of them are trying to learn what they can and apply what they’ve learned. Some can’t be bothered to do the two-hour online F license.

Listen: Everyone’s talking and no one’s listening. Not just on Twitter. Also in Chicago, where the most basic questions about the Development Academy or anything else get brushed off and ridiculed.

The USA has a lot of smart people. Not just one, not just a small group. And as Steve Gans found on his “listening tour” before declaring his candidacy for the U.S. Soccer presidency, they’re not being heard.

Maybe we should all do a listening tour.

And then keep some perspective. No one died here. That’s happening in Puerto Rico, Las Vegas and California. We’re talking about a sport, one in which the better team doesn’t always win. The USA probably wasn’t one of the top eight teams in 2002, and they probably aren’t outside the top 32 right now.

Let’s not set up an East German-style sports machine. Let’s not take the fun out of this sport and assume good athletes are going to want to play anyway.

Embrace diversity — in all senses. Embrace accessibility. Calm down and think.

And then we can do the same thing next year when the women don’t qualify for France 2019.

RSD 14: The next U.S. Soccer president?

The problems in U.S. Soccer run deeper than the water that flooded Ato Boldon Stadium in Trinidad and Tobago before the U.S. men’s anemic performance and shocking exit from the World Cup on Tuesday night.

There’s an arrogance throughout the federation. There’s chaos in youth soccer, where the costs keep spiraling upward with no tangible results.

My guest on Ranting Soccer Dad: Episode 14 is out to change that. He’s Steven Gans, and he’s challenging Sunil Gulati for the presidency of U.S. Soccer. The election will be at the federation’s Annual General Meeting, Feb. 8-11 in Orlando.

He believes he can get better results from the country’s national teams. But he wants to devote a lot of effort at the bottom — youth soccer and the various volunteers he sees as being neglected and ignored today.

The interview took place Monday, when the U.S. men’s qualification campaign seemed to be in good shape.

Women in U.S. Soccer leadership

No, it’s not a blank post.

The Guardian recently posed the question of whether a woman could be elected U.S. Soccer president, focusing on one of the more likely candidates (we think) — Julie Foudy. The response from Foudy? “It’s not realistic.”

But it’s not because a good female candidate couldn’t win.

Foudy also says that most women are unable to even consider running for the position because it is an unpaid role with a high workload.

“How much work does Sunil do for a volunteer position?” Foudy says. “There’s no pay for the president so what woman who needs an income or is raising kids is going to say, ‘Oh yeah, I’ll be able to volunteer 30 or 40 hours a week that take me away from family and my real job’. It’s not realistic. The position itself needs restructuring if you are going to get more women engaged in it.”

That might also explain why we don’t see many women heavily involved on the U.S. Soccer board. Here’s a quick history:

In the mid-2000s, U.S. Soccer followed the lead of other sports federations and reduced the size of its board from 40 to 15 voting members (plus two non-voting — the immediate past president and the CEO/Secretary General, the top paid USSF employee). The bylaw was approved in 2006, the same year Sunil Gulati was elected president for the first time. Let’s look at who has occupied each seat since then:

President, vice president: Sunil Gulati, Carlos Cordeiro. Gulati was unopposed in 2006, 2010 and 2014. Not in 2018. Cordeiro, formerly an independent director (we’ll get to it) won the vice presidency in 2016, ousting incumbent Mike Edwards (who replaced Gulati as VP in 2006). (Yeah, I’ve already written about this.)

In short — no women here as far back as I can trace.

Athlete representatives: Chris Ahrens, Carlos Bocanegra, Angela Hucles. USSF is required to give athletes at least 20 percent of the vote, which means three out of 15 in this case. There’s no official rule saying the reps must be one Paralympian, one MNT veteran and one WNT veteran, but that’s how it’s worked out since Jon McCullough joined the board in 2008. The 2012 Paralympic torch-bearer passed away in 2014, and Ahrens took his place on the board.

Linda Hamilton was on the board after the 2006 re-org. Her seat has since gone to Amanda Cromwell, Danielle Fotopoulos, Danielle Slaton, Cindy Parlow Cone and now Hucles.

Pro Council: Don Garber, Steve Malik. Bylaws say these seats are for the Pro Council chairperson and an elected rep. MLS commissioner Garber has been on the board for the whole century so far. WPS commissioner Tonya Antonucci had the other seat for a year or so. Malik, who runs North Carolina FC (and the NWSL finalist Courage), replaced USL CEO Alec Papadakis, who replaced another MLS/NWSL owner in Merritt Paulson.

So that’s one woman, briefly (bad timing for her departure).

Adult Council: Richard Moeller, John Motta. As on the Pro Council, these seats are for the chairperson and a rep. Motta defeated Gulati in a close race for vice president in 1998, but Gulati won a rematch in 2000. Motta is exploring a bid for the presidency. I can’t find any women who’ve held these seats since the 2006 re-org.

Youth Council: Jesse Harrell, Tim Turney. Also chairperson and a rep. Evelyn Gill was on the board for four years.

At-Large Representative: John Collins. The election process for this spot is insanely complicated. Read Bylaw 413, section 3. In any case, no women, at least since 2006.

Independent Directors: Donna Shalala, Val Ackerman. These positions were added to the board in the 2006 re-org. They’re officially elected, but in practical terms, the board seeks out people with some clout in the worlds of sports business, general business and politics. The board also has used these spots to find people other than white men — Cordeiro, Fabian Núñez, Shalala and Ackerman. Shalala recently made news as the alleged independent director who fell asleep during the presentation of Rocco Commisso on behalf of the NASL’s Division II sanctioning application, which Commisso thinks is an indication of the board’s prejudice but more likely an indication that Shalala might not be young enough to sit through an NASL presentation.

So as it stands now, is the best path for a woman to the USSF presidency might be through the independent director seats? Let’s compare it to the other pathway — through the various constituencies …

Adult Council (basically U.S. Adult Soccer): The one woman out of eight here is Shonna Schroedl, who has run for the Council’s elected spot on the board. (Note to self: Interview Shonna Schroedl.)

Youth Council: This is a little more complicated. Four organizations are represented — U.S. Youth Soccer, U.S. Club Soccer, AYSO and SAY Soccer. How many women are on their boards?

Pro Council: If the NWSL ever names a commissioner, maybe they’ll have some female representation?

Actually, the organization with the most women in leadership is the Organization Formerly Known As NSCAA. That would be United Soccer Coaches, where Amanda Vandervort just wrapped up a one-year term as president and Lynn Berling-Manuel is the CEO. Including the ex officio members such as Berling-Manuel, five of 11 board members are female.

U.S. Soccer also has committees and task forces that have a few women involved. The giant Appeals Committee includes Kate Markgraf (also one of two women on the Rules Committee), Shannon Boxx, Lauren Holiday, Lori Lindsey, Heather O’Reilly, Christie Rampone, Becky Sauerbrunn, Lindsay Tarpley and several more women. Siri Mullinix pops up on the small Credentials Committee. Gill, Schroedl and Lauren Gregg are on the Disability Soccer Committee. Mary Harvey is on the Life Member Task Force. Sandra Hunt is among the women on the Referee Committee. Finally, the Technical Committee is a 50-50 split that includes WNT coach Jill Ellis, April Heinrichs and Carin Gabarra.

(Lydia Wahlke, listed as a staff liaison on several of these committees, is a U.S. Soccer general counsel.)

Here’s the one that aggravates the Ranting Soccer Dad in me: The 12-member Task Force on Youth Issues has ONE woman — Hucles.

So would U.S. Soccer have some viable presidential candidates here? Perhaps.

Would it help to get more women involved on these task forces and then perhaps on the board? Definitely, and not just because that’ll increase the likelihood of having a female president one of these years.

Promotion/relegation propaganda/reality, Part 5: Cons

You’ve read about the pro/rel pros, the history of the U.S./Canada debate, and the major players in the U.S. (including U.S. Soccer).

Now it’s time to read about why promotion/relegation can be a bad idea.

Yes, promotion/relegation has pros and cons. That’s heresy in some quarters.

But what doesn’t have pros and cons? The U.S. sports system has pros and cons. Capitalism has pros and cons. Representative democracy has pros and cons. Going outside has pros and cons. We simply have to weigh them and decide what’s best.

Pretending that pro/rel makes everything better is simply dishonest. If you read all this and decide pro/rel is the best system in Europe (probable), the best system for U.S. amateur leagues (also probable), the best system for U.S. lower divisions (quite plausible) and the best system for the entire U.S. pyramid (more problematic, but not easily dismissed), that’s your prerogative.

So let’s take a look …

PRO/REL CONS: GLOBAL

Con #1: Can’t count on division status when planning long-term investment.

See Reading, which will expand … or not … well, maybe … if they can win their way into the Premier League.

“But smaller clubs will invest in their academies to produce players to compete,” we hear. Wrong. And if you’ve read Raphael Honigstein’s Das Reboot: How German Soccer Reinvented Itself and Conquered the World, you know the federation had to force the 36 Bundesliga clubs (well, not all of them, but they felt compelled to impose the rule) to run academies. They weren’t all happy about it.

* * * *

Con #2: “Pure” pro/rel based on “sporting merit” usually takes a back seat to “other criteria,” anyway.

England is the birthplace of soccer and the birthplace of pro/rel. So take a look at what they’re doing with their women’s leagues: Top tier will go pro-only, second tier for semipros. And that’s perfectly legal under FIFA Statutes, Article 9, which a lot of PRZ (Pro/Rel Zealots) incorrectly cite as proof that the U.S. system violates FIFA’s holy word.

This isn’t something new. Consider how England did pro/rel between its amateur (“non-League”) and professional leagues for generations. The last-place team in the last League division stood for re-election against everyone who wanted in. Usually, that last-place team stayed in.

Then there’s the Netherlands. If someone can explain the contortions they’ve gone through in the last few years to try to institute pro/rel between the amateurs and pros better than Wikipedia has, please tell me.

And if you want to go back a ways, join Dan Loney for a deep dive into the erratic history of pro/rel in Brazil, which rather thoroughly refutes the Deloitte claim that no country with a “closed league” has won the World Cup. I’ll add one thing: Before you complain that Dan focused only on the state leagues, bear in mind that Brazil’s national league didn’t start until 1959.

* * * *

Con #3: People who have nothing to do with the soccer side of the business can lose their jobs.

Farewell, Aston Villa employees. Goodbye, Newcastle backroom staff. Have fun collecting unemployment, locals who sell food, merchandise, tickets, etc.

Sometimes it’s years of mismanagement than lead to relegation. Sometimes it’s a couple of injuries and one bad bounce. The flip side of that wonderful moment when the ball fell to the foot of Carlisle United goalkeeper Jimmy Glass is that Scarborough went out of the League, which in those days was a horrifying drop.

“But that’s capitalism,” the PRZ have argued over the years. Sure. And it’s why capitalism is regulated and constantly reformed. Look, we all went through our libertarian phase in high school or college, but at some point, you have to grow up and realize we aren’t in ancient Rome giving thumbs-ups and thumbs-downs for our morbid entertainment.

* * * *

Con #4: Pressure creates ugly soccer.

How do you make someone miss a shot in basketball? You ramp up the pressure. Even Woody Harrelson knows that …

What do you think of when you think of do-or-die situations in knockout tournaments and relegation battles? Beautiful plays? Or “grit”?

The latter. And yet the PRZ tell us over and over that the USA will suddenly learn how to play with skill and verve.

* * * *

Con #5: Clubs make “survival” their only goal.

Self-explanatory.

* * * *

Con #6: Clubs in relegation danger have little incentive to give young players a chance.

Again, the PRZ insist that pro/rel is the key factor in player development. But in which country are you more likely to see young players thrown into the fray and given a chance? England, where clubs live in constant fear of relegation? Or in the USA, where clubs near the bottom of the table can start building for next year?

* * * *

PRO/REL CONS: SPECIFIC TO THE USA/CANADA

Con #1: Lawsuits, lawsuits, lawsuits!

You think MLS owners who’ve made nine-figure investments (add up expansion fees for newer owners, capital calls for older owners, stadiums, academies, etc.) are going to go quietly if they’re told their investments are going to be at risk of being devalued?

* * * *

Con #2: The PRZ have poisoned the well.

Take a look, if you happen to be unfamiliar with the last 15 years or so of public discourse on the topic.

* * * *

Con #3: The USA and Canada have unique challenges with soccer fans spread over a giant land mass.

I’ll wholeheartedly agree with one thing in the NASL lawsuit — the notion that a second division has to be in three time zones is ridiculous. (The way they’ve argued it is hilarious — gee, you mean England doesn’t require teams in three time zones? — but that’s another rant.)

The USA was hostile to soccer for generations. Read … well, anything — David Wangerin’s booksOffside: Soccer and American ExceptionalismSoccer Against the Enemy, etc.

In some ways, it might be easier to build up pro leagues if we built them around pockets of soccer fans — Cascadia, California, the mid-Atlantic, etc. But then those leagues would struggle to get TV deals, and we’d leave nothing for fans in the rest of the country. If Kansas City can fill its stadium for MLS games, then Kansas City should have a danged team.

Pro/rel would put us in danger of removing a major market from the top division — Chicago, Los Angeles, Portland, Washington, etc. That’s not the case in England, where it’s virtually impossible to be more than 150 miles from a Premier League club unless you’re in Cornwall or unless you’re at the very fringe of East Anglia during a down period for Norwich and Ipswich.

* * * *

CONCLUSION

So do the pros outweigh the cons?

I’m on record as saying yes, with a whole lot of asterisks. I’m disappointed when MLS commissioner Don Garber — who is surely speaking for a strong majority of MLS owners — brushes it aside.

But any good system is going to have to account for as many of these issues as possible. Figure out a way to mitigate the financial risks, not just for unsympathetic oligarchs (not all of whom are horrible people) but also for people who work in MLS club offices. Come up with a format that adds excitement without leaving us with a bunch of grim, grinding soccer games.

Piece of cake, right? Especially when we’re having such rational discussions about it.

Alex Morgan’s ejection from Epcot: Not a big deal, not not newsworthy

Let’s first get rid of the notion that male athletes or public figures would not make the news if they were tossed from a bar — let alone tossed from Epcot Center, where hundreds of people may have seen the incident — or some similar things:

Ric Flair tossed out of bar (pro wrestler)

Deshaun Watson kicked out of bar (football player)

Something about a hat (also football)

Something about paying with bubble gum (also football)

Noooo! Harry Potter himself tossed from bar! (male actor)

Underage college drinking (football)

Underage college drinking (basketball)

More college drinking (football)

Remember Freddy Adu? (soccer)

Jimmy Buffett tossed from NBA game (laid-back rock)

Politician pees on himself (Kenya)

In fact, see how this story was reported in the UK, which might not know Alex Morgan as well as Americans do and instead focused on “Ex Derby County star Giles Barnes.”

You may note that a couple of the players listed above were arrested. I’d suggest reading the stories and asking if a white woman would be arrested for the same crimes. (Yes, Giles Barnes, who was escorted from Epcot along with Morgan and Donny Toia, is Jamaican/English. Just a hunch, and I do have a relative who works elsewhere in the Disney megaplex, but I think Epcot security might be a little less arrest-happy than a lot of police officers in this country.)

Notice one other thing from this NFL arrest database: Many players arrested on DUI charges were immediately released. Not so in women’s soccer, where we have seen a couple of players arrested and quickly forgiven.

So is Alex Morgan’s ejection from Epcot newsworthy, bearing in mind the precedent in other sports? Yes.

Would a male soccer player of note — say, Michael Bradley or Jozy Altidore — get the same sort of treatment? Probably. The fact that Morgan is also a published children’s author might make her a little more noteworthy than Bradley or Altidore, as might the fact that Morgan has won international championships. Maybe we should be comparing with Neymar or someone, and I think it’s fair to say Neymar would make headlines if he got tossed out of Epcot.

Is Morgan’s offense worthy of suspension? No. Other internal punishment? Meh.

Would I expect Portland fans to bring it up this weekend, just as college sports fans would pounce all over a player who got in a mild bit of trouble? Yes.