GREEN BAY – Soccer-loving Packer fans, you have a like-minded friend in Tim Masthay.
The Packers' punter, who’s coming off his best game of the season, said Wednesday that his ultimate sports ambition – as a fan, of course – is to see the U.S. men’s national team win a World Cup.
"Obviously as a player, I want badly to get back to a Super Bowl and win a Super Bowl," Masthay said in front of his locker. "But just from a fan perspective, to see the USA win the World Cup in my lifetime, that would be the pinnacle."
Masthay was one of the most decorated overall athletes in Kentucky high school sports, an all-state soccer and football player (he was a punter, placekicker, kick returner and wide receiver) who was also all-region in baseball and a four-time letterman in basketball. On the soccer pitch, he was a four-year varsity center midfielder who was second-team all-state as a junior and named to the first-team as a senior.
Masthay loved each sport and certainly earns a very nice living as a football player – he’s making $1.34 million this season and is signed for $1.54 million in 2016, as long as he’s still with the Packers – but said the U.S. men’s and women's national teams and the English Premier League side Tottenham are his dearest fan darlings.
"I bet I’m one of the only people that owns a DeAndre Yedlin Tottenham jersey," Masthay said of the young, electric American winger who joined Hotspur in January but made just one appearance for them before being loaned in September to Sunderland, another EPL squad. "As soon as (Tottenham) signed him, I got a Yedlin jersey."
Masthay said he started following Hotspur because the club was sponsored by Under Armour, with whom he has an apparel and shoe deal. "That’s what piqued my interest originally, and then it’s just gone from there, so I’m a big fan," Masthay said.
When asked if he agreed with the belief among some American soccer fans that the dynamically athletic Yedlin could have played in the NFL, perhaps as a cornerback or running back, Masthay laughed and half-concurred, saying, "He’s a speedster, yeah."
In the win over the Cowboys on Sunday, Masthay punted six times for a net average of 44.7 yards, which was his best performance of a season that, like his team’s, has been inconsistent.
Before the Cowboys game, Masthay and the Packers beat the Lions in Detroit on the Motown Miracle, a game-ending Hail Mary touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers to Richard Rodgers. The wild finish elicited an ecstatic response among players and fans that, at least to one soccer-versed reporter, called to mind Landon Donovan’s last-minute goal for the U.S. against Algeria in the 2010 World Cup, which allowed the Americans to advance out of the group stage and into the knockout round.
"I remember that goal – slammed it upper-90, near-post," Masthay said. It resulted in a reaction, like the Packers’ and their fans against the Lions, of "total elation," he said.
As a soccer fan, Masthay plays the popular video game "FIFA" and is looking forward to watching the U.S. team’s 2018 World Cup qualifying matches next year. Despite their disappointing performances down the stretch in 2015 – three losses, one win and a draw in their final five matches – he’s confident in the Americans.
"I am an eternal optimist when it comes to the USA national team," Masthay said.
But is he also a fan of increasingly divisive head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, whom he met last summer before a friendly against Guatemala in Nashville?
"He seemed like a great dude, and I’m a fan of whoever’s the coach," Masthay said. "I think he’s doing a good job, but I tend to just be a supporter of whoever are the players and the coaches at the time. I’m a big fan. I hope they do big things."
Until soccer season next spring, the Packers hope Masthay keeps doing big things, himself, specifically with his leg and a football, as the team makes its push toward the playoffs.
Born in Milwaukee but a product of Shorewood High School (go ‘Hounds!) and Northwestern University (go ‘Cats!), Jimmy never knew the schoolboy bliss of cheering for a winning football, basketball or baseball team. So he ditched being a fan in order to cover sports professionally - occasionally objectively, always passionately. He's lived in Chicago, New York and Dallas, but now resides again in his beloved Brew City and is an ardent attacker of the notorious Milwaukee Inferiority Complex.
After interning at print publications like Birds and Blooms (official motto: "America's #1 backyard birding and gardening magazine!"), Sports Illustrated (unofficial motto: "Subscribe and save up to 90% off the cover price!") and The Dallas Morning News (a newspaper!), Jimmy worked for web outlets like CBSSports.com, where he was a Packers beat reporter, and FOX Sports Wisconsin, where he managed digital content. He's a proponent and frequent user of em dashes, parenthetical asides, descriptive appositives and, really, anything that makes his sentences longer and more needlessly complex.
Jimmy appreciates references to late '90s Brewers and Bucks players and is the curator of the unofficial John Jaha Hall of Fame. He also enjoys running, biking and soccer, but isn't too annoying about them. He writes about sports - both mainstream and unconventional - and non-sports, including history, music, food, art and even golf (just kidding!), and welcomes reader suggestions for off-the-beaten-path story ideas.