I'll admit it; I like athletes with chips on their shoulders. I can empathize with the pressure they must feel, the natural reaction being one of hurt feelings, raw nerves, and an desire to "prove people wrong".
It doesn't even really matter if there are too many of those "people", or if the athlete is erecting a straw man with the help of their own over-sensitivity. Sometimes, people under the microscope don't always respond the way they should. They're human, after all.
So I'm giving Oguchi Onyewu a pass on the chip he's cultivating during the run up to the World Cup. He seems to be feeding it indiscriminately, tweeting about "haters", bristling when the press questions his fitness, and just generally giving off an angry vibe. Everyone doubts him. No one believes he'll be fit. Hell, some were saying that leaving the big guy off the team might be a good idea.
Not the sane ones, but whatever.
I'm giving our man Gooch a pass not because I think his reaction is justified, but because I think it is truly motivating him that there is any doubt at all that he can be ready for England on June 12th. As a fan, this is all I care about; I get the media reacting in shock horror when they ask what is a reasonable question and Onyewu fires back with vitriol, but that doesn't affect me. If Gooch needs a chip to push himself, I'm all for it.
It's not like Onyewu is the only guy harboring a me-against-the-world grudge. Clint Dempsey's comments, specifically when asked about his inconsistent performances when wearing the U.S. jersey, were intriguing to say the least. Deuce seems like a guy with an internal fire constantly burning, one stoked by the fuel of external criticism, and it's hard to argue that it hasn't helped him. Dempsey got defensive, and probably rightfully so; American fans put a lot on the Texan's shoulders, and he considerable talents only serve to bring him harsh assessments when he doesn't seem to live up to them. Again, if this is what he need to spur him along, I say stoke away.
Athletes are human beings (in case you didn't know), susceptible to all of the same insecurities and personal demons we all face. There's a line they must be careful not to cross, but a hearty desire to "prove everyone wrong" can be beneficial. The motivation each player drums up to push them to new heights on the field is extremely personal, and varies from man to man. Donovan dealt with scathing criticism for years, internalized his processing of it, and claims it now has made him a better player. Dempsey seethes, and has only become an integral part of both his club and national team. Onyewu is new to this, with his recovering knee sowing seeds of doubt, giving both fans and media reason to question his ability to play on an high level in two weeks time.
If it pushes him, means he works just that much harder in training, or is able to push beyond the natural reluctance he might have to land on the knee (see Tuesday's non-jump), then it won't matter to me if he gets a little testy.
Oguchi Onyewu has haters? I hope he proves them all wrong.