It's refreshing to read a quote by an American athlete that's so unlike anything you're accustomed to reading.
Clint Dempsey, the United States' best soccer player, did just that. In an excellent profile written by ESPN's Leander Schaerlaeckens, Dempsey opened up about his tough road to fame overseas playing for Fulham F.C. of the English Premier League. Before you judge the quote below, keep in mind that Dempsey has had to prove himself to four different managers in his four-plus seasons with the Cottagers. Check out what he said about his journey:
"When I was growing up, it was just about winning and that was cool," he says. "As I've become a professional, I just feel more pressure to produce, to score goals and get assists. I know I'm a good player, but it gives evidence of how good you are if you're able to look at how many passes you've made in a game or how many chances you create. It's in the books. It's become more about stats as I've become a professional."
Wow. Dempsey didn't exactly re-work the spelling of T-E-A-M and throw an "I" in there. But, he did put stats above winning, which made me cringe, then made me think.
The quote resonated with me because I distinctly remember some of his quotes last summer leading up to the World Cup. When asked about his season at Fulham, he was quick to recite his statistics with as much accuracy as his right foot. He did this more than once in the times I was able to hold a recorder in front of his face. I never forgot that -- and to be honest, I was a little turned off by it.
But after reading about what he's endured at Fulham, I get what he's saying. With the revolving door of managers he's had to deal with and the countless times he's been demoted to the team's "12th man" role, it's easy to understand why he feels such an incredible burden to hit the net. He's done it 33 times in EPL games -- including 12 this year -- and has set the club record.
When Dempsey has the ball for the U.S., I think there's a sense of calm that American fans feel they get from no other player. They know he'll do the right thing 95 percent of the time. They know he'll probably run at his defender 50 percent of the time and succeed 75 percent of the time. And, if they knew their stats, they know he'll score 27.4 percent of the time.
Dempsey could probably tell you that, too.