If you keep encountering women and men today who seem miserable, let me offer a probable explanation: They are fans of the United States men's soccer team, and they watched their favorite team lose to Trinidad and Tobago last night, 2-1, and they know the U.S. will miss the World Cup for the first time since 1986 and they are bewildered and infuriated.
There is no way to explain the loss.
Try to get your head around this comparison:
The population of Trinidad and Tobago is slightly less than 1.4 million, which is less than half the population of Metro Denver.
The population of the United States is more than 325 million.
There is no excuse for the loss. There is no sense to it.
For decades, soccer fans in America have savored watching the home team play in the world's ultimate team sports competition, and the Americans have competed with poise and precision.
When I attended the 2004 Olympics in Athens, I talked with dozens of international sports writers who were all devoted soccer fans. (Just about everyone in the world, once you depart America, is a devoted soccer fan.)
Over and over, I heard the same message. The age of American soccer had arrived, and America would soon rule the soccer world. This message was not a happy one for nearly all of the international sports writers, but it did seem inevitable. America had a young, hungry team, led by a potential world superstar (Landon Donovan) who was barely out of his teens. America had come achingly close to making the semis of the 2002 World Cup.
The age of American soccer never arrived. And after Tuesday night's debacle, it starting to look as if it never will arrive
America must fire coach Bruce Arena, who never should have been asked to return as head coach. America must take a hard look at its development process.
Meanwhile, American soccer fans - and there are tens of millions of us - must prepare to watch a World Cup that will not feature a team wearing red, white and blue.
That's depressing. No way around it.
Please, be gentle today when you encounter the bewildered hordes still struggling to understand a loss that never will make sense.