The Day I Fell in Love With Eric Wynalda

Eric Wynalda with Dave O'Brien.

Eric Wynalda has never been shy. Never one to be afraid to shoot (his 34 goals are still tops among US men in international play) or speak his mind, Waldo has really gone and done it now. In an interview with a Fulham FC fan blog, Wynalda pulled no punches when asked about what’s wrong with soccer in this country and what can be done to fix it. The part that’s really gotten him in trouble, though, is the shot he took at avowed soccer hater and nationally syndicated radio host Jim Rome:

“You will never get a guy, in me, who is more of a believer in the American player. Jim Rome can suck my d***! And he should be very afraid, because I’m the kind of guy, if I get too many drinks in me, I will club his ass. I’ve been on with Jim Rome, and I said, ‘Let me get this straight, you’re more impressed with water polo???'”

As much as most American soccer fans probably echo the sentiment with regards to Rome and would pony up good money to watch Wynalda club him, this has obviously gotten Waldo in a bit of trouble. He had to play the apology game on ESPN’s Sportscenter last night (tough get for Sportscenter, huh? Two employees?). I’m sure there will be ramifications as Major League Soccer, though not Wynalda’s employer anymore, will obviously try to distance themselves from the comments about Rome and about those who run soccer in this country.

Now, you have to know Wynalda to understand where he’s coming from. He was a player, a tremendously gifted player. But he thinks as a player and has a disdain for those who don’t actually get their boots dirty (the “marketing guys.”) While I love his honesty and the fact that he simply can’t self-censor, he needs to understand that he’s neither 100 percent right or 100 percent wrong. Soccer in this country, specifically Major League Soccer, would fail if it was left to “soccer people” to run it. It would also fail if it was left to “the marketing guys” to run it. To steal an old line about baseball, soccer has now reached the point where it’s too much of a business to be a sport and too much of a sport to be a business. We have to find a balance between letting the soccer people do what they do and letting the businesspeople do what they do.

Love him or hate him, Wynalda is 100 percent genuine, and I adore that about him.

Kenn Tomasch

Kenn Tomasch