Somewhere out there, in the far beyond reaches unknown to modern man and science, there lives a creature of infinite power. Capable of seducing young and old, men and women, children and the elderly alike, this monstrous being can destroy a life with a mere thought, or if the mood suits it, elevate a man to near godlike status. Its whims are legendary, its wrath equally so. Of course, we talk about the terrifyingly beautiful beast that strikes simply when it chooses –
The Hype Monster
Back in 2004, the Hype Monster focused its gaze upon a 14-year-old boy by the name of Fredua Koranteng Adu. People would truncate it down to an easy to pronounce, Freddy. The Hype Monster took this young child prodigy, and thrust him into the spotlight. The son of Ghanaian immigrants, his family had won the lottery once before to bring him to the shores of America – and thanks to The Hype Monster – he appeared to have won the lottery a second time. After a series of deals between the Dallas Burn and DC United, Freddy signed with the latter team a full two months before the draft even took place. Later, a dashing young gentleman by the name of Don Garber introduced Freddy Adu as the number one overall pick in the 2004 MLS Superdraft.
And the Hype Monster drooled hungrily.
Immediately, the comparisons were made. The Next Pele. The savior of MLS. The future superstar of the US Men’s National Team. World Cup Championships. Gold Cups. Olympics. The stage could not have been any larger, and for a young man not even old enough to vote, the spotlight was laser focused on his every move. The Hype Monster fed on each juicy publicity morsel like a ravenous fiend, sucking in all the articles, all the expectations, devouring scintillating buzz and juicy rumors while spitting out reason and patience like seeds – elevating Freddy higher and higher until like Icarus who flew too close to the sun, he inevitably began to tumble.
The Hype Monster moaned in gluttonous ecstasy.
A meteoric rise is not nearly as satisfying as watching a fall from grace. The questions of work ethic began. Then came perceptions of attitude. As Freddy pinwheeled limply from one tier to the next, forever downward, the Hype Monster relished every bruise to his ego, every sigh of frustration, every groan of “where is he playing now” that danced across the keyboards of sports writers on the internet. From hero, he tumbled lower and lower, farther out of the public eye and consciousness of soccer fans throughout the country. After three long years, the Hype Monster finally grew bitter and bored, slinking back into the shadows, waiting for the next victim to inadvertently wander across his path.
Freddy however, survived.
The 14-year-old boy, (now a man of 26) reached out from far away Finland, to find a familiar face. It smiled at him. He smiled back, and a reclamation of sorts began. This man who himself had once lost his way, only to find it rejuvenated by the love of the game and family, understood. He knew what it meant to rekindle passion, and in Freddy, he saw a spark of hope.
On July 14th, at 8:30pm, the Tampa Bay Rowdies reunited Fredua with his mentor, Thomas Rongen. They embraced in the terminal of Tampa International Airport like the old friends that they were. Laughter abounded. As they took the escalators downward away from the cameras, they stopped at the conveyor belts, and pick up Freddy’s baggage. Among them there were no expectations – just clothes and a few belongings.
Freddy Adu joins a team and a season already in progress. He is not being asked to save them from mediocrity, from failure, or even from despair. The leaked and unconfirmed details of his contract didn’t even rouse a snore from the Hype Monster, who slumbered through the entire evening. A brief video appeared courtesy of the team, and Freddy briefly spoke about his journey, how he came to be there at that moment, and his connection to coach Rongen. Twitter exploded in a brief flash of light and fury, but the messages were all strangely positive. Wishes of good luck, prayers of return to form, and hope – that strange and magical thing that had bitterly mocked Freddy for years, seemed to finally relent, and join him there in Tampa Bay.
This Saturday, the Rowdies take on FC Edmonton in the second home game of the Fall Season, leaving many more matches to come. There are questions that Freddy might play, but there are not huge expectations. He may dress, he may sit on the bench, or even sit in the owner’s box signing autographs and taking interviews. Already, there is something different about this pairing of coach and player. There is a sense that things will work out, and this is the beginning of something special in Al Lang stadium. Maybe, if he’s lucky, the Hype Monster will let Freddy become the player he always knew he could be. At least that’s what everyone is hoping for.