Teal Bunbury's Change of Heart

Thursday, November 04, 2010 | View Comments
KANSAS CITY, KS - OCTOBER 09: Teal Bunbury  of the Kansas City Wizards controls the ball during a match against the Seattle Sounders at Community America Ballpark in Kansas City, Kansas on October 9, 2010. The Sounders won 2-1. (Photo by Josh Umphrey/Getty Images)

Kansas City Wizards striker and 2009 Hermann Award winner Teal Bunbury appeared on It's Called Football last night (interview starts about 14:30). Hosts Ben Rycroft and Duane Rollins asked the Canadian-American about his rookie season, his goals for next year, and his international intentions. Bunbury's answer about whether he plans to play for Canada was intriguing; not just because it indicates he's perhaps leaning towards the US, but because he clearly identified it as a career decision rather than a simple choice of loyalty.

Intellectually, it's easy to understand why Bunbury might be torn. Suiting up for the United States would be higher profile, but playing time could be harder to come by. Canada's matters less on the international stage, and will struggle to make a World Cup during Bunbury's career, but offers a better chance to play. As a way to get Bunbury to Europe, or improve his earning power, it's not hard to understand why he might choose the US over Canada.

Bunbury's ties to Canada are strong, and on the same podcast earlier this year he said he "feels Canadian." He's 20 years-old, and after a year adjusting the professional game, has a bright future; from an American standpoint, we should rightly hope he chooses to play for the United States. Bunbury isn't ready yet, but there's a reasonable chance he would eventually be a contributor. People on both sides of the border are emotional invested in his choice.

Too often, we as fans transfer our ethical view of the world onto athletes. Most of us will never have to face a decision as difficult, or as public, as choosing which country to represent in international soccer. Nationalistic feelings cloud our appreciation of just how hard the choice really is; we cannot imagine ourselves growing up in the United States then choosing to represent another country, so we find it distasteful or appalling when it happens. It's disingenuous for Giuseppe Rossi to "act American" after opting to play for Italy, for example, and his "betrayal" offends our sense of loyalty.

But what if doesn't really come down to loyalty at all?

Bunbury is a talented young player with a difficult choice in front of him. No matter what he decides, he'll be letting people down. Since he "feels Canadian" but was born in, lives in, and plays in the United States, he probably isn't too comfortable with that fact. It has to be done, but it won't be pleasant.

At the same time, Bunbury knows that international soccer could be a serious boon to his career. He told Rycroft and Rollins that he'll sit down with his family, especially his father who played internationally for Canada, and his agent to decide what is best. Those words bely the truth of the matter; while "feeling" and loyalty in whatever measures Bunbury may have them play a role, the bit of weight that could ultimately tip the scales one way or the other comes down to which country will best benefit Bunbury's career. The decision won't be made coldly, but it might be practical concerns that matter most.

Teal Bunbury gets one career. He has one opportunity to maximize the return his natural talent and the work he's done to become a professional player. As fans, American or Canadian in this case, we don't want it to come down to matters of money or prestige. Unfortunately, just as with high school prospect that chooses the bigger program over his hometown team, those issues generally win out.

Listening to Ben and Duane process Bunbury's comments in the aftermath of the interview has me feeling for Canadian fans. While I would understand bitterness on their part if Bunbury does choose to play for the US (though, as Rollins noted, Bunbury could have an eye on the US Olympic team, which, should he play in London in 2012, wouldn't preclude him from eventually ending up playing for Canada), I hope they can somehow put themselves in the young striker's shoes and considering what they might do in his situation. I've done it with Rossi, which is why I have no ill will for him. I get that not everyone can make the leap.

Of course, Rossi's father wasn't an American soccer star.

Alex Bunbury

Check out Duane's take on Bunbury's flip.

blog comments powered by Disqus
    KKTC Bahis Siteleri, Online Bahis



    Privacy Policy