May 2010

Clint Dempsey: Looking Forward And Looking Back

[EDITOR’S NOTE]: Our good friend, Eric Beard of A Football Report, had the opportunity to chat with USMNT star Clint Dempsey on Monday after practice. Beard, a rising junior at Emory University, has interviewed countless star athletes over the course of his burgeoning journalism career — yet none left him so affected as his time spent with the man known simply as “Deuce.” As the act of merely watching the video footage of the encounter between the two men would leave the viewer perplexed by Beard’s unsteady camera work, the accompanying words below shed light on the gamut of emotions running through the young journalist’s mind in the presence of his boyhood idol. If but for a fleeting moment in time, fandom successfully eschewed the conundrum of journalistic professionalism in such a way that can only be described as utterly refreshing.

By Eric Beard, writing from Boston

I was fortunate enough to be part of two interviews with one of my role models and best local product I grew up around: Clint Dempsey. One is an interview done alongside Frank Dell’apa of The Boston Globe, and one means much more to me. Perhaps that’s why I had trouble keeping the camera still. I gave Dempsey a proper handshake and then talked to him about Boston, what he has learned from the past year, making it to two cup finals and his thoughts on favorites for the upcoming World Cup. I know Deuce loved Maradona growing up, but he wouldn’t tell me how he felt about him as a manager. He did say, “I don’t like to comment on him as a player, but I wish him all the best because that team has a lot of quality.” Indeed, Argentina won 5-nil in their friendly yesterday against Canada. And that was without Lionel Messi.

I’ve interviewed other professional athletes, so I rarely get star-struck by the process. But there’s just something about Dempsey. He’s not the first world-class footballer I had watched growing up, that honor has to go to the great Carlos Valderama in his final days with the Miami Fusion. I don’t think I’m in awe of Deuce, rather, I think I’m just proud of the player and man he has become. As my brother and I quote in normal conversation, “Haters want to hate, but man I’m feeling great.” That is, of course, from one of Clint’s early freestyle rapping videos captured by Nike Soccer. As I mentioned before, it’s nice to see how this man has matured.

But despite growing up in Boston, I have to admit that I never really cared much about Major League Soccer. After all, it doesn’t take a genius to see that time is better spent watching Champions League and Premiership football if you’re trying to learn the game from the best. But Deuce, for me, was an anomaly. His skill, his drive, and his swagger were something I had never seen from an American. One of my favorites sayings in football is “Form is temporary, Class is permanent,” and Dempsey became almost a cult figure in my household because his class was simply so apparent.

In my time training with AS Ascoli’s academy in Italy, I learned that as an athlete you have to be arrogant. Arrogance, in football, is equivalent to trust and self-belief. Arrogance shouldn’t be prevalent throughout your entire life, but on the field it is invaluable. Clint Dempsey had so much arrogance in MLS because he tried things that were unheard of in that league, but only because he knew he could pull them off.

This swagger was so bold and so apparent that it reminded me of Ronaldinho in his early years with Grêmio. I’m not saying that Clint is Ronaldinho, as he is clearly a different player. But his approach to the game is very similar. I didn’t grow up in Lisbon like fellow AFR writer Dominic Vieira, who gets to see the likes of Angel Di Maria and David Luiz become superstars, so, in a way, the fact that I have supported Dempsey from day one means a lot to me. Dempsey said that Bob Bradley (United States manager) and Roy Hodgson (Fulham manager), “Bring a lot of confidence to the team by preparing [the players] the best they can for games… You know what to expect, you know what is expected of you.” I can’t begin to imagine what Dempsey expects from himself.

Over the years, I have convinced dozens of people that the kid from Nacogdoches, Texas is class. There will be some, even after Dempsey’s chip against Juventus or his 35-yard volley against Stoke City that will refuse to accept Clint as world-class. But that’s okay. Clint knows they’re wrong.

You can watch my one-on-one interview with Clint below. Or you can see the more formal interview with the rest of the media even further below. I would love to hear your thoughts on them!

Eric Beard

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  • Amy

    Class as an athlete, class as a person. Glad you got the opportunity to do this.

    As a big fan of him, on and off the pitch, I especially love how he met his wife @ Furman and they were friends first. That’s the way to conduct that portion of your life, in my opinion– and it is awesome they ended up together. We should all be so lucky to have a moment with a hero.

    Good for you, and thanks for sharing this here, Eric.