The Future Starts on Saturday

Saturday is a very big day in American sports. It could go down as one of the most crucial in American sports history. The Final Four? No. Freddy Adu’s first game of professional soccer.
The expectations on this kid are incredible; he’s only 14 years old, but already the burden on him is beyond what all but a few athletes have ever felt. The only recent athletes with comparable expectations are Tiger Woods and Lebron James, who both lived up to the hype (for Lebron it’s still early, but he’s on track). In many ways, the potential for Adu is much greater than either Tiger or Lebron. Lebron isn’t going to boost or save basketball. It’s already at or very near the top of the world pyramid. Tiger changed much about golf, taking it to first-tier major sport status and greatly boosting its appeal to minorities, but there was never really any doubt about golf’s long-term viability.
For Adu though, many think he is the golden child of soccer in America. We are the world’s most prosperous country and we produce by far the most world-class athletes. We dominate every sport that we decide we are interested in. Soccer is the world’s most popular sport and although millions of Americans play soccer, it’s still just barely a blip on the national consciousness. What American soccer needs is a hero – someone whose talents are obvious to all who watch. Americans really only like sports that we’re good at. If Freddy Adu makes the US good at soccer, Americans will watch. If Freddy Adu makes soccer cool, America could take over world soccer.
But then, he’s only 14 and tomorrow is only one game. If he doesn’t shine tomorrow, it doesn’t mean he won’t succeed. Lebron didn’t drop 40 in his first game and Tiger didn’t win his first tournament. But, you better believe I’ll be watching, just in case.
Hoops Notes
I can’t just ignore the Final Four! I’ll give you some quick hitters.
Since 1990, ACC teams have appeared in 21 regional finals. Those teams have won 17 times for a winning percentage of .810.
In that same span, the ACC is only 7-8 in Final Four games.
Since 1990, the Big East has had 14 teams in regional finals, but won only 4 of those games. Of the three that won in previous years, all three moved on to the Finals and two won the title.
The Big 8/12 has gone 8-6 in regional finals since 1990. Of the seven teams to make the Final Four before this year, only two went on to the finals where both lost.
Since 1990, only seven of the fifteen teams ranked #1 in the final AP poll have made the Final Four. Only three of those teams (including Duke twice) won the title.
That’s it. As for the two games, my head says that Oklahoma State and Connecticut will win. I don’t feel too strongly about either game though. No matter what happens, there won’t be a true upset, as there are no true underdogs. They should be good games.
Have fun watching (and don’t forget that soccer game at 4)!

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