Thursday, September 02, 2010

The Second Embarrassment of Bob Bradley

(Photo: AP)

Even before the United States was eliminated from South Africa three months ago, many arguments have arisen as to whether Bob Bradley deserves to stay on board as Men's National Team manager for another four years. And that's a perfectly worthwhile topic for debate.

However, what isn't debatable is the way in which Bradley has been treated by Sunil Gulati and the United States Soccer Federation during his tenure. While the oft-criticized Bradley has been second guessed - at times, justifably so - moreso than any other American manager in the Federation's history, he has always aquitted himself with an admirable sense of integrity in the face of it all. Sadly, the same cannot be said for U.S. Soccer.

No, it cannot be said for the Federation because when the debate has boiled and the times have toughened, it has refused stand unconditionally by their man.

The genesis of this disturbing attitude the Federation has shown towards one of its best Men's Team managers in history started when he was initially given the reigns - temporarily, of course - back in 2007.

For five long months in the first part of that year, Bradley guided the program without reservation, all the while the very organization that had just handed him the job was looking for his replacement behind his back. And everyone knew it. The fans, the media, everyone. He knew it, too. But he refused to let it distract him.

Instead, he faced the situation with grace and integrity, and shortly after U.S. Soccer had exhausted its energies trying to corral the wildly-popular Jurgen Klinsmann, he forced the Federation to finally remove the "interim" albatross.

Ironically, the Federation's decision to keep Bradley on board during that summer of '07 proved to be a serendipitous godsend. The Princeton grad guided his charges to a Gold Cup Championship, and earned them a spot at the 2009 Conderations Cup a couple of years later.

Meanwhile, a crop of talented young players - players like Jozy Altidore, Stuart Holden, Maurice Edu, and even his own son, Michael -emerged under his tenure. Bradley had cultivated an impressive group of guys that quickly restored the country's footballing image after a nightmarish 2006 World Cup.

There were still whispers, though. There were some who still felt that the wrong man had been hired. It should have been Klinsmann. Pekerman. Eriksson. Rongen. Some of those names were even echoed inside the USSF offices. Bradley, ever so stoic, must have privately thought what it would take to actually acquire some job security.

But he remained focused on the task at hand. By mid-cycle, it was clear that the Federation simply had to let things be. Any changes or sudden movements would surely spell disaster for the Nats in South Africa.

Interestingly, when Bradley succeeded at the Confederations Cup, who was there to slap his back in approval? The Federation, of course. It was they who had the wisdom to make such a shrewd choice. It was they who had stuck by their man. And it was surely they who had provided Bradley with the platform to succeed.

Before long, it was time to head back to South Africa for the World Cup and see what Bradley could really do. His squad engineered a trifecta of heart-pounding performances in the Group stage, and in the process, earned enough points to claim king of hill in Group C, besting England to boot.

Then, the Best of 16 arrived. Pitted against Ghana, Bradley made curious move to start Ricardo Clark over Maurice Edu in the central midfield. It was all downhill from there. Clark was awarded a yellow within 20 minutes, was subbed off for Edu, and the U.S. lost in overtime. All the more painful was the fact that had the Nats won, it faced a relatively easy path to a possible semi-final berth. But that was not to be.

With their World Cup over, it was obvious that U.S. Soccer had a decision to make. Should it keep the successful Bradley, or bring in a new hire in the hopes of catapulting its success further in four years?

Regardless of what conclusion it would reach, it was important that one be made quickly. Brazil, France, and Italy all expedited the interview process and secured their new hires shortly after the Cup. Not the U.S., though. No, it wanted time to mull its deicison. And so it did.

They mulled throughout the entire month of July. They mulled in the days leading up to the U.S.-Brazil friendly, the first action the Nats had seen since their defeat to Ghana. And all of sudden, it was deja vu all over again.

To make matters worse, Brazil pummeled Bradley's boys on home soil, which only served to make the voices of doubt scream louder. Naturally, the Federation did what it does best: stayed noncommittal. Privately, Bradley must have seethed.

Finally, with the knowledge that FIFA would be arriving soon to consider the Federation's bid on the 2018/22 World Cup, they scurried to find their man. It was not Bob Bradley. No, it was Jurgen Klinsmann, the man they originally tried to lure before and during those first 100 days of Bob Bradley's tenure.

Whether the reasons were political, personal, or professional, the Federation failed to catch Klinsmann. So, with their only other option in-house, they backtracked and announced long after the nightly news and game shows that Bradley would be their man. Again.

It doesn't matter whether you like him or not because Bob Bradley, if anything else besides a legitimate national team manager, is a man of dignity. A man of respect. A man who had every reason to falter under the enormous doubt that fell on his shoulders. A man who achieved much, but clearly lacked the respect of his superiors.

Over the past three-plus years, the Federation embarrassed one of its brightest men. And because of it, many of the doubters are now doubting someone else: Sunil Gulati.

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Because of various region, territory or country cultural specific reasons, a video game, already released in some places and that looks completely acceptable in one territory could be rejected as the devil incarnate once released in a new territory. This is a good reason to thin that localization - as opposed to just straight translation - is extremely important for games.

But these facts raise an important questions: when does localization go so far that it becomes censorship? And is that something one should accept?

I will show you a simple example, Yakuza 3 on PS3 shows well how thin the frontier between censorship and localization can be. A lot of gamers complained because some scenes and important elements of the games where changed when the game made it to US.

Now the question is: do all of these elements actually required to be changed? Isn't that just based on a stereotype that American gamers tend to be more religious and concerned about nudity and violence? I assume that someone purchasing the third installment in a game series would normally have a pretty good idea as to what kind of content they were getting into, especially with a series such as Yakuza, which is relatively well-known. The games even receive ratings similar to films, giving the consumer an even better idea of what the game in question contains.

Now if you look at it, most gamers actually are adult and will absolutely not care to find certain elements. In fact, their absence may come as a huge disappointment for them and alter their gaming experience. So should developers think a little more about what public they are targetting, or just assume anyone may buy the game by accident, and thus edit it?.

Game localization is not censorship and should be adapted to players in a certain territory.