Redemption Song, But I Do Not Sing Along
Yes, I am trying to fit in as many business trips as I can before the resumption of the season, which has put me out of the writing business for a bit. Now, I do not flatter myself as the greatest soccer polemicist of our time, but I do find it interesting that as soon as this site goes momentarily silent, United brings Santino Quaranta into camp.
I know that the high road for Tino's return would be let the past be the past, let bygones be bygones, and wish him well. If all he does is score goals, that should be enough, right? We should all forgive, forget, and celebrate that young Santino has decided to put his game and life back together here in DC. Certainly the voices at UnitedMania are talking up the idea of giving him another chance:
...if it does come around for Tino, and I'm talking all the way around, this could be another in a long line of fantastic under the radar type of moves that United and their front office have been pulling off for a number of years now.
BDR likewise tells the Story of How One Player Found Moral Redemption By Scoring Goals for United:
If - if if if - Quaranta understands this may be his last chance to avoid a lifetime of working the pit of a Jiffy Lube, this could be the steal of the year for United.
So allow me to be the bastardly curmudgeon who ruins everyone patting themselves on the back for being such good forgiving people. I'll say it simply: Santino Quaranta has dug himself a hole that will take the entire season for him to climb out of. Make a hole with a gun perpendicular to the name of DC on a desktop globe, and the exit wound is closer to Tino's current depth. (Ha! That's plagarism, that is.) Even these comments (from Goff's story) do not atone:
He made a strong impression for the Galaxy, scoring three goals in 12 league games. He also infuriated some United supporters when, in his return to RFK, he exchanged gestures and taunts. "I really owe them an apology," he said yesterday...Quaranta said that although he has firm offers from other MLS clubs, he wants to prove himself here..."I owe these fans," he said. "I cheated a lot of people in the process, and most of all, myself."
Correct, but the key word here is "owe" and it is a debt that Tino has not yet begun to repay. I have no problem with players going to other clubs and being proud of those clubs when they join them. I expect that, and that's fine with me. And when players are with other teams, I expect them to want to come back and beat D.C. United. Alecko? Facundo? Brandon? Christian? Yeah, I expect them all to want to come back and kick our ass. But when, and if, they do put the ball behind our keeper and into the net, that is the ultimate revenge. And they should take pride in that. It is also contingent that they be the ones to get the ball by us.
When Santino "exchanged gestures and taunts" it wasn't even Santino that had scored the goals. Santino's name is not on the scoresheet of the Free Beer Day debacle. Santino didn't even earn the spot kick that allowed Landon to put one in the goal (that would be, um, hey, Quavas Kirk. Nice to see ya pal.) And yet Tino felt compelled to run over and taunt the fans. Could I have forgiven that if he scored the goal? Probably, but as it was it was not nearly a celebration of revenge, but simply putting the boot in. It had no class. The problem wasn't the gestures, the problem was that he didn't earn it, and simply wanted to stick his fingers in the eyes for the sheer satisfaction of doing it.
Some will say that that once he starts playing, and playing well for United, that all will be forgiven. Not for me. Last year United marketed itself with the word "TRADITION" That word is even now interwoven in our jerseys. When we stole Luciano Emilio from Olimpia, and he rained goals upon them in the 2007 CONCACAF Champions Cup match, he didn't go mad with celebration. His celebration was restrained, dignified, and respectful. He understood that the past is not merely prologue, it is an inherent part of the tapestry that defines our personality. To dishonor his history with Olimpia would have also dishonored his new club United. That was classy. And Santino did not understand that when he behaved as he did.
I can forgive the injuries, the lack of work ethic, and the occasionally combative personality. But I do not forgive easily a lack of respect for not just your old club, but for yourself. Maybe Santino really has put it all back together. And saying he's going to atone is the right thing to do. But I reserve the right to see if he's still got the new attitude in the oppressive heat of August and not just the pre-season practices.
I may be alone in refusing to meet Tino halfway, and that's fine. Everyone else can move on. I certainly would hope his teammates would. But as a fan, I can not. Not yet. Talk to me in September.