Landon Donovan's Fairytale Ending Deserved More CoverageThe coverage Landon Donovan received after his MLS Cup title win shows how far soccer is from ESPN's scope of sports
by Herb Scribner | Tuesday, December 09, 2014
The whistle blew. The crowd erupted. And Landon Donovan, his shirt drenched in sweat from 12o minutes of soccer, stretched his arms out wide and shouted wildly. It was part jubilation, part excitement and part relief. Donovan’s career was over. He finished his final soccer match. He retired a champion.
Donovan’s legacy speaks for itself. The highlights: He has the most goals and assists in MLS history and United States Men’s National Team history. His goal in the 2010 World Cup is still the most iconic goal in the USA history. His name is synonymous with American soccer. If there’s one player casual sports fans know from soccer, it’s Landon Donovan. If there’s one American player internationals know from MLS, it’s Landon Donovan. If there’s one person who represents everything American soccer is about, it’s Landon Donovan.
Landon Donovan did something few athletes do. He finished his career by lifting his league's top trophy, on his home turf. You can't ask for a more fairytale ending than that.
And yet a few days removed, you would never know it happened.
Think back a few months ago when Derek Jeter retired from the league. Jeter was one of the most well respected and successful players in modern baseball. But his retirement almost came too late. He battled injuries in the later stages of his career. And in his last season, the New York Yankees didn’t come close to the playoffs. Jeter more or less limped out of baseball. His last few years showed very little success, which was a clear sign he needed to retire from the game. And remember, Jeter hardly stacks up next to other Yankees legends of the past, like Babe Ruth, Lou Gerigh or Mickey Mantle.
But SportsCenter fed his story to sports fans everyday. Commercials ran rampant every night about #RE2PECT and the shortstop’s legacy. When Jeter smacked a game-winning hit in one of his final at bats, it made front page news everywhere. There were TV specials, long celebrations and post-game interviews aplenty for Jeter. Going into the MLB playoffs and World Series, Jeter’s legacy was still a talking point.
Donovan, meanwhile, didn’t receive the same attention, despite his influence on American soccer.
Let’s rewind to the end of MLS Cup. Donovan did a quick interview. The trophy was handed to the LA Galaxy. The celebrations continued for a few minutes, and then nothing. The screen cut away and suddenly MLS’ biggest match of the year — maybe even ever given Donovan retired — was over. There were no post-game talks, no highlight show, no Donovan career video package. It was just over. Like it was any other event. Like Donovan was any other player.
But like a lot of us already know, Donovan isn’t any other player. He’s the best to play the game. He’s the most influential American soccer star this country has seen. Donovan has broken all records, he’s helped build MLS into what it is today and did much more than Jeter ever did for the New York Yankees or the MLB.
Of course this isn’t Jeter vs. Donovan. You can’t compare the two since they’re from different sports. But they can be measured by how they were talked about by the media in their final seasons. The different levels show how far removed soccer still is from ESPN’s scope. ESPN is still in a four major sports town, when really the rest of the country has evolved into a five-sports city.
Donovan retired a champion and the greatest American ever. But he deserved more from the national media than he received. He deserved to be commended and honored like Derek Jeter, Michael Jordan and John Elway all were. Instead, we got something less, something disrespectful to what he did for soccer in America.
For soccer fans, Donovan’s legacy will stand the test of time. But for the rest of this sports-obsessed country, Donovan’s legacy will last less than 10 seconds.