The New York Times put Iraq's shocking wins over Korea in the semi-finals of the Asia Cup, then 1-0 over Saudi Arabia in the final yesterday, on its front pages. But not the sports section. ESPN -- ever fond of piano-soundtracked sappy stories and playing up forced story lines that hover over the pitches of sport -- largely snubbed Iraq's unlikely win. Simply showing the winning header in the 72nd minute and finishing with 'the captain had some criticism for the USA after the game though.' ESPN went on to its Top 10 list of best plays of the week. After devoting much of their 90-minute show to questioning whether Barry Bonds deserves praise for the upcoming home-run record, they put his latest home run at #1. The Iraq win wasn't mentioned.
Iraq is playing with a collection of players scattered across the region. The winning save against Korea was made by their Shiite goalie, the winning goal against Saudi Arabia came from a corner by a Kurd to the Sunni captain. Fans in Baghdad talked about how the players should 'be our politicians' -- that they'd done more for uniting the country than parliament. C'mon ESPN! Get out the piano for this one!
For a nation in a very ugly war, it's nice to see some excitement, positive energy. That the captain called for the USA to leave Iraq -- perhaps remembering George W Bush's touting of the unlikely team's Olympic appearance a few years ago -- does nothing to soften the moment.
The FBO bans ESPN for four days.
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