By Andrea Canales
Love is a crazy thing. Whenever emotions are stirred up, logic goes out the window. The racing heartbeat, the sweaty palms, the deliciously tense uncertainty of wondering how another person feels are all part and parcel of the experience.
In between bouts of anxiety about unrequited feelings, there are momentary highs of imagining the perfection of a positive outcome. How nice things would be, if everything went according to the ideal scenario. These fantasies are then interrupted by the reality of the insecure and unstable situation, leaving the longing party feeling more bereft than ever.
So it might be that a few devout U.S. National Team fans, who love the sport and their team, would feel a bit of relief that Neven Subotic has acceded to his father's wishes and declared his playing allegiance to Serbia. It's at least over - the continuing uncertainty, the mounting anticipation. It's done. He's gone.
Few are objective enough about what they are passionate about, however, to be that philosophic. Rejection stings whenever it is inflicted. It's likely, in fact, that a lot of U.S. fans are somewhere in the grieving process.
Stage one, of course, is denial.
"No way! He can't go to Serbia. He's played with us, remember? He's worn the shield - he's been like a brother to his U.S. teammates. Our U17 program discovered him, developed him. Noooooooo! I mean, he can't really mean it, can he? He hasn't actually played for Serbia yet, has he? We can get him back."
Denial is powerful, but after a while, after text messages and emails come pouring in about the topic and enough quotes are read about the U.S. Soccer Federation president wishing Subotic well with Serbia, that the fact of the matter starts to sink in.
Stage two then begins. That's anger.
"Ungrateful chump. What a jerk."
Sometimes negative feelings can focus on different targets, however.
"It's Rongen's fault! That idiot, how could he say that about Neven? This all went wrong all because of him. If it wasn't for him, Neven would be happy to play for the United States."
Or . . .
"It's his dad! That mind-controlling authority figure has Neven all confused. How is he supposed to go against his dad's wishes? That's what ruined Rossi, too."
Eventually, the red mist fades and things clear up a bit. Then the realization arrives that assigning blame changes nothing about the final outcome.
That's when stage three starts - bargaining.
"Please don't play for Serbia, Neven. We'll be nice, we'll be good! We'll treat you just as well as we do another U.S. national team star, Landon Donovan. Uh, well, scratch that. We'll treat you like a young star, like Freddy - uh, we'll treat you like we do other players who pass up countries they could have played for - like Michael Orozco. That is, we'll treat you like we did him before his red card at the Olympics."
The bargaining stage eventually wears itself out, though, because of a lack of feedback. That's when the slide to the worst stage begins. Depression settles in.
"Maybe the run in 2002 was just a fluke. Maybe the crowds of American fans in 2006 will never come back. I'll bet Neven got tired of playing all those youth games in the U.S. feeling like the away team. It's so lonely being a U.S. soccer fan sometimes."
Things are definitely bleak at that point in the process. But the darkest hour is just before the dawn of the final end stage of the grieving process - acceptance.
"Cory Gibbs is finally getting healthy. I think he and Gooch will make a nice pair in the middle. I wonder if Chad Marshall will get another look soon. I guess the U.S. team is going to be ok. We want the guys who really want to play for us."
After all, that's the bottom line. Broken hearts and doubt aside, that's what it really comes down to in any relationship where affection and loyalty is offered. If it's turned down, it wasn't meant to be. All the reasons and the rationalizations of what might have turned Subotic off are pointless. If he really wanted to play for the U.S., that's exactly what he would be doing.
He doesn't really want to, so he's not. It's perfectly logical, so it probably has absolutely nothing to do with love.
As corny as it may sound, that's what the ideal is really about. Players play for the country they love. They wear the crest over their heart and they hear the anthem and that matters to them. That's part of what bonds them to the fans that cheer for them - the love of homeland and the pride in representing it.
So really, the U.S. is better off without Subotic. It may be hard for fans to believe, especially those still in the early stages of grieving his loss, but no one benefits if a player fakes a connection he doesn't really feel. In almost any context, it's important to keep it real.
Andrea Canales is Chief Editor of Goal.com USA