The U.S. team lost 2-1 to Belgium yesterday and were booted from the World Cup. Bummer, right? Heartbroken fans will surely point to a number of missed opportunities that could have swung the game in America’s favor, but know this: if not for Tim Howard’s legendary, once-in-a-generation performance, the Stars and Stripes easily could have lost this game 5-1.
Words like “epic,” “incredible,” and “jaw-dropping” are horribly overused when talking about sports performances. LeBron James dropping 40 points in a game is not incredible – he does it several times a year. Miguel Cabrera hitting three home runs in a game is not epic for the same reason. We dilute these words by using them so frequently, and it’s a pity when we recycle them to describe a truly great performance like Howard’s.
Howard was a machine yesterday. His 16 saves were the most in a World Cup game since FIFA started tracking save statistics in 1966. Belgium's Romelo Lukaku, Kevin De Bruyne and co peppered the goal with quality shots all game, only to have their attempts rejected by Howard’s perfectly timed reactions. ESPN commentator Ian Darke was almost at a loss for words as Howard’s save count reached well into the teens. We were seeing a transcendent performance, and everyone knew it.
Of course, no great performance is complete until the internet has its way with it, and people around the web did just that yesterday. First, there was the Wikipedia update.
Introducing Tim Howard, the new United States Secretary of Defense:
Then, Howard was promoted from Secretary of Defense to, well, the entire Department of Defense:
Next came the twitterverse. Within hours after yesterday’s match, #ThingsTimHowardCoudSave was trending. Here’s a sampling of some of the best submissions:
Perhaps no one summed up how Howard should be revered in the States going forward better than twitter user @mattufford: