It’s been a really long time since Freddy Adu was relevant to the American soccer community, in the sense that he figured into the picture for the U.S. national team, or even your local Major League Soccer team.
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At this point, now 26 years old, Adu will probably never sniff another USMNT call-up before he calls it quits and puts to bed the ultimate “what if/where did it go wrong” sports career this country has ever seen.
Adu recently spoke at great length about his career, how he went from can’t-miss prospect to a worldwide punchline, and how he’s recently taken responsibility for his fault which led to any perceived shortcomings. In the hours after that insightful, introspective piece was published, this tweet (and the ones that followed) really made me think; yeah, Freddy Adu’s career has been a “bust”… and so what?
At the end of the day, the only person Freddy has really let down was Freddy. He never owed any of us a single thing. We, as sports fans, pundits and insufferable know-it-alls, are simply fortunate, and should be reminded of this daily, that we’re alive to witness the brilliance that is Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar and on, and on, and on. That it was a lack of dedication to his craft and an affinity for partying that kept Adu from realizing the destiny we’d chosen for him, isn’t the least bit important.
We can take great joy from our heroes’ works and celebrate their achievements, but no one can reap the rewards quite like themselves. Had Adu’s career turned out something like that, we’d have celebrated and championed the player he’d become.
As we’re all aware, it didn’t. And that’s fine. Somewhere along the line, we became more interested in the dissection and judgment part of sports than the actual enjoyment that turned us into fans in the first place. Let’s let go of this idea of what Freddy “should have” been and “could have” been. Let’s let him enjoy his career, which still has plenty of years left, the very best he knows how.
If Freddy Adu can accept his soccer career for what it is and come out the other side having learned something valuable from it, then we should all be able to do the same.