My Sportsman: Brian McBride
He has played in three World Cups and is No. 3 on the all-time list of the U.S. national team's top goal-scorers. He spent four seasons in the hard-knock English Premier League, where many of the best soccer players on earth ply their trade. More so, he was voted captain at London club Fulham FC, the rarest of accomplishments for an American playing soccer in the big leagues of Europe.
But in this era of
You could write a book on the number of times McBride could have spoken out as the drama unfolded around him. He watched as
Over and over, McBride could have criticized his coaches, slammed team management and called his teammates' commitment into question. Given the same scenario, most of us surely would have. But he never said a word. He just played the game and let the big mouths do the jawing.
This past summer, when it might have been easiest to break character as a wizened 36-year-old striker with nothing left to prove, McBride still played the good soldier. He was one of three overage players selected to the U.S. Olympic team in Beijing, marking his return to the national team jersey for the first time since the '06 World Cup. Here was one of the most accomplished players in U.S. history surrounded by kids at least 13 years younger than he was. Sure, the young Americans looked up to him, but whether they truly accepted him into their ranks was another story.
Perhaps predictably, the U.S. went three and out yet again, failing to advance past the group stage in a major tournament. McBride didn't score a single goal, and his young teammates showed little passion in the dying moments of their run. Worse, whispers began circulating that they were so cocky that they were already talking about facing eventual gold-medal winners Argentina in the quarterfinals.
What did McBride have to say about the bitter experience? Nothing. He thanked the U.S. Soccer Federation for the opportunity to represent his country one last time and went home to Arlington Heights, Ill., to finish his club career with his hometown Chicago Fire.
His reward for all this was a strong MLS playoff performance in his first year back in America's league and a step from the championship game. But if you ask him, he's just making good on a promise to his family: that he and his wife could raise their three daughters back home.
"Regardless of the good, bad or indifferent, I always have them," he recently told me. "They're the thing that drives me, and having them close by allows me to concentrate on soccer. You have to the leave problems off field to the people who are better equipped to handle them."
A family man, a good soldier and a guy who wants nothing more than to be remembered for serving his country. Sounds to me like the Sportsman of the Year.