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Want a win, America? Play Botswana in football

Beating the Aussies for the America's Cup was nice, but victory on the water just doesn't seem to wash, does it? The way I see it, the U.S. is in desperate need of a solid triumph on land. Not a small one, mind you, not a pitchers' duel of a win, but a good old-fashioned rout. A landslide.

Yeah, that's the ticket. A massacre. And NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle is the one man who could arrange it. Pete, drop everything on your agenda—the labor dispute, TV ratings, the Brian Bosworth p.r. snafus—and get busy arranging a series of football games against foreign countries: Giants vs. Guyana; Bears vs. Bangladesh; Raiders vs. Libya in a battle of the bad boys, with SMU taking on Iran in the prelim.

The series would be played in the U.S. under the banner of goodwill, with brunches at the White House for the foreign dignitaries. But after that it would be all business and bruises, baby. "Here's a halftime score from RFK Stadium, Brent. Redskins 87, Republic of Botswana zero."

Folks, you don't have to be a Red-baiting, flag-waving xenophobe to notice that the ol' U.S. of A. isn't exactly cleaning up in the wide world of sports. The situation has gotten so dire that even politicians are sticking fingers in the dike; witness Senator Lowell Weicker's bill to confer hurry-up U.S. citizenship on Ivan Lendl. Not incidentally, Weicker is from Connecticut, Lendl's adopted state and the site of America's Davis Cup flop against West Germany in July.

Now I, for one, would be pleased to have Lendl as a fellow citizen (though I'm not crazy about his guard dogs), but shouldn't we be just a tad embarrassed that after jeering him in Davis Cup matches, we're suddenly willing to claim him as our own? Beyond that, the simple fact is, Lendl the tennis player won't be America's own, whatever his passport may say. And though no one deserves her U.S. citizenship more than Martina Navratilova, we must remember that she didn't emerge, pig-tailed, from Nick Bollettieri's Tennis Academy. And neither did Steffi, who, like Boris, Mats, Stefan and Pat, doesn't even want to be an American citizen.

And, oh, how we would love to claim Greg Norman, too—that big blond macho golfer with the Florida home and the American wife—but he remains an Aussie through and through. Remember when Arnie and Jack, last names unnecessary, teed off on the rest of the golfing world? Now it's Greg and Seve. And Bernard Langer to add a third.

In soccer, at least, the U.S. hasn't fallen off. It was never on. The last time I watched a soccer game on public TV, a German club named Borussia Mönchengladbach was in action. I don't want to watch Borussia Mönchengladbach. I want to watch a team with a name I can pronounce. What has happened to the American soccer boom we all have been waiting for? Hello? Are you out there? The U.S. is the fourth-largest country on earth, and Costa Rica, a nation that could be fully carpeted in a matter of hours, beat America in its last World Cup outing.

The folks who run U.S. hockey turned absolutely giddy a couple of weeks ago when Team USA won two games in the qualifying round of the Canada Cup. However, the Soviets quickly brought them back to earth, which, in international hockey, is exactly where Americans belong—on earth, off skates. The videotape of the Miracle at Lake Placid is getting a little worn, no?

The U.S. had its moments in the recent World Track and Field Championships—but not enough of them. The sprints used to be dominated by American flyboys. This year Carl Lewis lost the 100 to a human cannonball named Ben Johnson, who is from not one but two foreign countries—Jamaica, where he was born, and Canada, where he now lives. It's true that the 1,500-meter world champion competed for a U.S. college last spring, but somehow Abdi Bile of George Mason doesn't have the same heartland ring as, say, Jim Ryun of Kansas. Bile is from Somalia.

The Pan Am Games really hurt. The U.S. boxing team turned in a miserable performance against Cuba. And who can erase the memory of some Brazilian basketball player going for 46 points against the U.S.? They hold the Pan Ams in Indiana, and the U.S. doesn't win hoops? Or baseball? And how can we overlook those Far East kids who keep punishing American lads in the Little League World Series (this year's championship game was a mere 21-1, Taiwan over Irvine, Calif.).

Pete, you can do something about it now. Stop sending your NFL teams to London to beat each other's brains in. Instead, bring in some foreign teams and beat their brains in. Think about it. New England vs. New Caledonia. Denver vs. Denmark. Seattle vs. Sudan. And let's see what that juggernaut from Costa Rica can do with those 49ers, huh?