Without goalkeeper Tim Howard, the United States could have lost by five or 10 goals to Belgium instead of 2-1 in extra time Tuesday afternoon in the World Cup Round of 16.
The 35-year-old from New Jersey put on one of the greatest individual performances in a team sport, and in nearly every sports bar and restaurant from de Veres Irish Pub in downtown Sacramento to McGreevys in Boston, Americans of every ethnicity pulled for Howard as if he were their son or brother.
Howard was a one-man Steel Curtain, blocking a barrage of 16 shots taken by Belgium the most in a World Cup game since 1966. He slid to his left, dove to the right, tipped a number of balls over the crossbar behind him. His superhero efforts seemed so unreal at times, youd have thought at some point he was going to break out the red cape and rip open his jersey to reveal the block letter S.
With every block made and minute passed in the elimination game that meant so much to U.S. soccer fans, there were more prayers being recited than on Sunday mornings.
And the cheers continued to grow louder throughout American living rooms and workplaces, where the bosses could no longer keep their employees from watching. An estimated 21.6 million people watched the match, including big-league baseball players who stopped to marvel at Howards efforts in the middle of taking batting and infield practice.
It would have been no surprise if mothers and fathers of newborn babies waited for the games outcome before deciding to name their sons Timothy Howard (insert last name).
And, of course, Twitter nation went through the roof. According to @TwitterData, Tim Howards name was mentioned 1.8 million times during the 120-minute match. Sports celebrities and entertainment stars joined the rest of the nation in lauding Howards performance in 140 characters or less. Many tweets made biblical references regarding Howards ability to save goals: Jesus wears Tim Howard Saves shirts.
In the end, Howard could not save his team, his nation from defeat.
But for more than two hours Howard did what no other superstar athlete could ever do: He united a nation and made it proud.
How long will you remember Tim Howards 16 blocked shots ?
• Until next World Cup
• Until NFL season
• Tim Howard, who?
Vote above, or go to sacbee.com/sports
What will Tim Lincecum accomplish next?
• Win a third Cy Young Award: 3%
• Throw third no-hitter: 28%
• Win 20 games: 9%
• None of the above: 60%
Total votes: 187
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