The World Cup/Eric Wynalda is still a raving nut

Part two of “Stuff I meant to blog about this summer, but didn’t because this blog was in transition.”

Cast your mind back four years to the World Cup in 2006.  You might recall there was actually more officiating controversy then than in 2010.  I think that there will be controversy more or less every tournament because, quite simply, soccer is the most difficult game to officiate.  Why they believe one official, with some limited help from two assistants, can keep track of 22 bodies on such a massive pitch is beyond me.  But that’s a different post for a different day.

Instead, let’s go back to ’06.  The US suffered two red cards in their first-round match against Italy.  Although most of the world’s English-speaking media seemed to think the red cards were reasonable (as I discussed in my post at the time), Eric Wynalda went absolutely bonkers, taking ABC’s coverage with him.  He wound up shouting the worst anti-ref diatribe I’ve ever heard from a sportscaster:

“There are two kinds of referees: bad ones and worse ones…Players win games, coaches lose them, and referees ruin them.”

Incredibly, rather than say why he disagreed with the official’s call, Wynalda instead stated that all officials--in every sport at every level!--are terrible.  In fact, it’s our JOB simply to eff up any game, from Little League on up, and to heap misfortune on the poor, innocent players who merely want to win and lose with honesty and dignity.  Again–this is what he said about ALL officials.

You know, I couldn’t help but take that personally.

So when the US had the potential game-winning goal disallowed against Slovenia on  a call that replays didn’t seem to show (I, like the sportscasters, didn’t see it, and I haven’t seen a defense of the call from literally anyone), I braced for a similar attack.

Much to my pleasant surprise, Alexi Lalas, Wynalda’s replacement this year, was much more reasonable.  I don’t have a quote handy, but I do remember him saying something the next day to the effect of “I’ve calmed down now, and I’ve looked at the replay at least a hundred times, and I still don’t see a foul.”

To me, that’s reasonable commentary.  That’s Lalas doing his job, and it’s the job of FIFA to step up and explain the call if they can.  They didn’t.

Anyway, only when I saw Lalas’ careful commentary did I have a joyous realization:  Wynalda had lost his ABC gig!  I grinned a little grin.  It’s wonderful that he’s gone.

But where did he end up?

I found him commentating for Yahoo Sports, submitting videos from what appears to be a 14-year-old boy’s bedroom.  I found him complaining that the official needs to be investigated for favoritism.  If you look closely, you might see Wynalda’s hair mussed up from his tinfoil hat.  Leave it to Wynalda to go nuts with a conspiracy theory.

My wife’s 2006 assessment of him still stands these four years later.


About Paul Hamann
I am a basketball referee in Washington State, working mostly high school games.

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