Bob Bradley is out as coach of the U.S. men’s national soccer team. I guess that should come as no surprise.

I wrote after the U.S.’s round of 16 showing at the 2010 World Cup that the poohbas should let Bradley stay on. I figured that the program had made progress under his watch. Bradley was given a contract extension to keep coaching the team through 2014.

Things changed.

No disrespect to the Panamanian team, but the U.S.’s 2-1 loss to Panama in the Gold Cup this year was a shock. The United States proceeded to fall 4-2 to Mexico in the Gold Cup Final.

At first glance a loss to Mexico, a respected squad on the world soccer stage, wouldn’t seem humbling to the U.S. squad. However, the WAY the defeat happened was. The U.S. coughed up a 2-0 lead.

All of this signals that all the progress I thought the team was making under Bradley has ceased.

U.S. soccer powers-that-be need to look past Bradley, though. This time it’s too easy to put all the blame on the coach.

Soccer here already has a big handicap — it’s not the national sport. Also, soccer in this country is simply not democratic enough. Football in the U.S. is the sport of everyman. Footbol here is not, at least not always. It’s often not the sport of everywoman, either, and I think the cost is a big reason why.

More’s the pity because studies have shown that girls in low-income areas can particularly benefit from sports.

Here in the U.S., starting at a very young age in many places, if you pay enough you compete at the highest club level. If you can’t, you don’t, and maybe you don’t play at all. There may be scholarships available in some cases, but I still think the cost of playing club soccer keeps many kids on the sidelines.

The system here may be very lucrative for some who run it, but is the country really taking the best approach when it comes to cultivating soccer talent? I don’t think it is.

 For starters, I think more work needs to be done in the inner cities. That’s where most of the people are, so it figures that’s where most of the natural talent lies.

It just needs to be nurtured.

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Wood is good: At least that seems to be the sentiment of more and more people in the wooden bats vs. aluminum bats debate.

Erika Niedowski of the Associated Press wrote a lengthy article recently about that very subject.

Baseball officials in Rhode Island have become believers when it comes to the wood bats. Rhode Island teams in the American Legion Baseball League are playing with wooden bats after using aluminum ones for years.

“Best thing we ever did,” Florida American Legion state chairman Les Rarrieck told Niedowskii about his state’s teams – all 69 of them — switching to wooden bats.

A common thread among the wooden bats supporters in the article was the return of the game back to its roots, thanks to the wooden bats. Another common thread was that the games were simply better with the wooden bats — no cheap hits and an emphasis on pitching and defense.

There was mention of the cost and safety factors but, although I thought the article was good, I couldn’t draw any conclusion that wooden bats were safer or less expensive in the long run than metal ones — the article did point out that wooden bats at least start cheaper, sometimes much cheaper, than metal ones — or vice versa.

The article mentioned that Major League Baseball set new maple-bat standards and says they helped cut the shard rate. However, no data was presented that showed wooden or aluminum bats were ultimately less expensive and which, if any, bat was safer.  

Anyone have any ideas on the cost and safety factors in the wooden bats vs. metal bats debate? I’d be interested to read them.

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