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Permanent Legacy as Defined by the Ebb & Flow of Success & Failure

Winston Churchill is universally regarded as the greatest Prime Minister of Great Britain, with Margaret Thatcher in the second position. Those two Prime Ministers were significant players in defining the 20th century for the better, separated by just roughly 40 years. Simply incredible.

And while Mr. Churchill was a passionate and determined leader — who played a direct role in the Allied Forces success during World War II — his talents while off-the-clock included painting and writing literature. Perhaps he was an unanticipated Renaissance Man of his time, but he was one by definition and his wide-ranging talent.

As a matter of fact, Mr. Churchill won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1953.

As a matter of more fact, Mr. Churchill’s legacy as Great Britain’s necessary Prime Minister in the darkest hour of its existence — 1940-1945 and later in peacetime from 1950-1955 — was cemented, in part, because of his inspirational words regarding not only the hellish nature of war but also the aspirational nature of life itself.

It’s always a good time to revisit such an enduring giant of world history. Today, this flashback is a reminder of his words on a variety of worthy subjects that are inspirational in the very least and life-altering at best.

Winston Churchill certainly succeeded in historic fashion with a lasting consequence felt today, but it’s also known that he had his fair share of consequential failure (#4). And I cannot think of a better quote by Mr. Churchill that better defines Mr. Churchill, whether he was being admired in the brightest spotlight by the public while facing down the darkest evils of the world in the 1940s or whether he was merely sitting in a chair in the corner of some room pondering his next thought.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal, it is the courage to continue that counts.”
–Winston Churchill

Jamaica’s Cool Run is America’s Headache

(Fox News)

(Fox News)

Jamaica 2 – USA 1

Jamaica earned a 2-nil lead in the first half with spectacular goals by Darron Mattocks and Giles Barnes. Michael Bradley got a Donovan like-rebound a la USA-Algeria 2010 just minutes into the second half to split the worst lead in soccer. But despite a constant flurry of offensive crosses and shots through the final whistle in the 94th minute, the Jamaicans held on for a monumental upset against the Americans on American soil in the first semifinal of the 2015 Gold Cup. The United States Men’s National Team (USMNT) did not play well enough to win. Half of the blame certainly rests with them. For the other half of the equation, let’s cut to the question everyone is asking:

Should Jürgen Klinsmann be fired?

As a recruiter of young, dual-citizenship talent, absolutely not. But as a manager, that’s now 50-50.

Klinsmann has proven to be deftly insightful at putting in super subs, but his painfully cautious approach in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, breakthrough friendly victories against the Netherlands and Germany squads earlier this summer (in Europe, mind you) and the shocking and unacceptable 2015 Gold Cup semifinal loss to severe underdog Jamaica in Atlanta, Georgia and you’ve got a cloudy sky of recent results.

Looking towards the horizon for U.S. Soccer, is cloudy good enough anymore? Is this where the United States wanted to be or should be thirteen years after their impressive run in the 2002 World Cup?

Klinsmann’s contract and influence in U.S. Soccer is huge, but if his team does not win the third place Gold Cup game motivated by pride in wearing the red, white and blue and ultimately qualify for the Confederations Cup by means of a playoff this fall, then yes, he should definitely be fired. Even without these future achievements, his future as the USMNT head coach needs to be acutely examined based on results, roster selections (many on the current roster shouldn’t be on the senior team), formation choices, individual and collective success and improvements and the growing cohesiveness of his best starting 11.

While there may not be a blockbuster coach waiting in the wings at the moment, rest assured because when a top-level coach has a roster filled with athleticism and immense, impressionable potential like the United States, someone’s ego will ignite and a pen will be held by a famed manager to sign a contract to guide the USMNT.

Pep Guardiola has expressed interest in one day coaching the USMNT. In fact, reports revealed he was very interested in managing Brazil last summer. National teams are clearly on his mind as a potential challenge in the short-term. And with all the talented youth, waiting to be molded by a defining formation and style, the United States could provide a uniquely perfect situation and challenge for Pep or another big name coach.

Regarding the lineup, widespread competition is good, but part of the manager’s job description is to determine the best players and the best fit. The valuable chemistry of reacting and not thinking in high-pressure situations due to familiarity is too high a commodity to throw away just for curiosity’s sake.

The current roster and tactics are not good enough.

The back line continues to be abysmal and its goalkeeper is just not up to the task of being world-class. Tim Howard is rumored to be coming back, but he’s 36. His return would be a band aid (however helpful) on what needs surgery. Mix Diskerud and Michael Bradley work well together, except that Diskerud needs to be the creative force (and start) while Bradley hangs back in defense with the occasional and highly-effective surging run. Forward Aron Jóhannsson needs to watch Robin van Persie highlights on a loop and Wil Trapp also needs time on the pitch as a Bradley substitute and student. Attention and playing time also needs to be granted to Ethan Finlay of the Columbus Crew (teammate of Trapp’s), who is the only true outside midfielder producing results from the right flank and is the current MLS leader is assists. Julian Green, despite lack of playing time at an elite club, needs to be unleashed as another outside midfielder. He’s shown flashes of attacking prowess on the left side.

Jürgen Klinsmann does a great job of identifying American talent in Europe, but he needs to start watching (and respecting) MLS more to find the players who are the best fit. Sometimes they show up in stats, sometimes they don’t. The best coaches find these players, design and share a vision for success and inspire his team to produce results in exciting, dynamic fashion.

That team hasn’t arrived yet. Will it?

Coach Klinsmann has put himself in an awkward position of not necessarily confirming that he should be fired immediately, but he also hasn’t proven that he should continue as leader of the USMNT before the 2018 World Cup qualifications begin.

You could say he’s been given a yellow card with a stern warning by America’s soccer fans.

A Super Future

First and foremost, my Captain America had a successful open-heart surgical procedure yesterday and this person is resting comfortably!

One certainty from this experience (though a lengthy recovery awaits) is that, from what I was told, this person was brave throughout the whole process. This individual combined a scary reality with the universe that stars Captain America to remain calm for the major surgery.

Quite a super mindset, wouldn’t you say?

For the foreseeable future, Marvel and DC Comics will be relentlessly writing and producing summer blockbusters that feature its best superheroes. It’s true. Though the most recent “Age of Superhero Movies” started several years ago, the imagination and intriguing dynamics from all of these films is unmistakable. It’s increasingly weaving itself into mainstream culture with t-shirts worn by virtually every type of person these days, more energized conferences, relevancy to real world events and dilemmas, along with the admiration of the cinematic quality from top-shelf directors and cinematographers. Also, note the popularity of The Big Bang Theory.

What does this mean?

In an era where institutions and its leaders are continually (and sadly predictably) letting us down, there is an empty vacuum to be filled for over-arching societal guidance. It’s becoming more and more apparent that characteristics of famed-superheroes are being adopted and relied upon by us to help react to the chaotic events of our personal lives and the world around us. Instead of looking up for leadership, we’re looking next to us at our fellow men, women and children. The varying exercise of the power of the individual in our highly publicized, social media-driven culture is generating a collective pulse of inspiration (remember Batkid?) that all of us can admire and reach to for our own struggles.

Maybe, just maybe, we’re building the foundation for a super population and culture in the 21st century.

“A hero can be anyone. Even a man doing something as simple and reassuring as putting a coat around a young boy’s shoulders to let him know that the world hadn’t ended.”
–Batman

If 2008 Was a Song

When the music stops, in terms of liquidity, things will be complicated. But as long as the music is playing, you’ve got to get up and dance. We’re still dancing.
–Chuck Prince, former CEO of Citigroup

Relating the financial sector to the popular children’s birthday game of musical chairs. That’s definitely one way to look at it.

One movie that continues to replay in my mind is, “Margin Call.” The cast consists of Kevin Spacey, Stanley Tucci, Zachary Quinto, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, Demi Moore and Simon Baker. Not bad. The film takes place in real time during the course of 24 hours and explores a “fictional” New York investment firm that discovers its books are overwhelmed with volatile, and therefore, unsustainable assets.

Everything is about to hit the fan.

Would you like to wager a guess as to when it takes place?

All the warnings signs in the film were willfully ignored and the mountain they now had to climb was higher and more treacherous than anything the executives responsible could begin to imagine in his or her worst nightmare.

Oddly enough, it’s not just the movie that continues to remain in the back of my mind, but equally so is the music. If you go the website, “margincallmovie.com,” a song will play on repeat. The music contains zero lyrics and is downright foreboding.

There’s only so much of it I can listen to an one time until I need to hear something upbeat and fun. Still, I continue to return on occasion.

My peculiar and reluctant addiction to this song could partly be drawn from reflecting on how surreal 2008 really was, as well as the general uneasiness that’s been felt around the country for the past five years. We all know what happened in 2008. We’ve all felt the devastating effects in our lives in some way. And yet, this specific soundtrack continues to play. Nobody has stopped this music. And not just pertaining to Wall Street, but all the fiscal problems that have accumulated over time and are quickly (and obviously) reaching the boiling point with regard to government spending, debt, entitlements, etc.

There is not a universal feeling that we’ve left 2008 in the past, nor that the government is taking the necessary steps to reach solvency in the future or to implement policies to spark a people-based comeback in the now. For too many, this song and its ripple effects have not yielded. This chapter keeps adding pages, read by weary and exhausted eyes.

What’s next?

Any real discussion to curb the country’s enormous debt, deficit and entitlements is not being seriously addressed by those with the power to ultimately change the unbelievably predictable equations riddled with unsustainable constants and variables.

Incredibly, the beat goes on.

It’s not enough to believe that time alone will raise the United States from the ashes like the phoenix. Instead, this situation demands prudent fiscal policy. It will require very tough decisions. It will require sincere leadership. Like a can being kicked, the mute button won’t hide or bury the soundtrack from 2008, but alternatively needs a completely new orchestral arrangement…and conductor.

Have you ever had a song stuck in your head for a week? It’s annoying.

Imagine five years and counting.

People don’t want the music to stop, they just want to hear something different. They want to hear something optimistic and assuring, complemented with inspiring lyrics. They want a song or collection of songs written and performed for a new era in America.

All I can say is musical chairs used to be fun.