Food for thought: If soccer is the most popular sport in the world (which it is, by a longshot) and the FIFA World Cup is the biggest sporting event on Earth (sorry, Olympics, it's true), then the most famous Native American athlete in the world is, conceivably, U.S. Men's Soccer Team forward Chris Wondolowski, Kiowa.
We're projecting a little bit, but consider this: If Wondolowski scores a game-winning goal in the 2014 World Cup, it will be seen on television screens in damn near every country on every continent on Earth. You can't say the same of a Shoni Schimmel buzzer-beating 3-pointer or a Jacoby Ellsbury grand slam. You can't even say the same of a TJ Oshie Goal or Carey Price save. You just can't.
(And Wondolowski scores a lot of game-winning goals. In the 2013 Major League Soccer season, he had eight, most in the league.)
Soccer has never been the U.S.'s favorite sport (nor its second-favorite, nor third…), so we'll cut it out with the hyperbole. Some Native Americans plan on watching some World Cup matches, but many others do not.
(FYI: The tourney kicks off today, June 12, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, with a match between the host nation and Croatia at 4 PM Eastern. The U.S. Men's National Team is currently 13th in the FIFA world rankings, and UK bookmakers Skybet and Ladbrokes both give the team 1/250 odds of winning the tournament.)
If you do tune in, watch for Wondo — he's an incredible talent who can change the course of a game. Here's a crash course on the Kiowa footy phenom, courtesy ussoccer.com. Click the image for a larger view:
Here's some additional information, from the 2014 Men's National Team Media Guide:
Wondolowski found the scoring touch in his third international campaign with the U.S. MNT, tying for third on the team with six goals in only 365 minutes played in 2013. In Major League Soccer play, Wondolowski scored 11 goals in 29 games for the San Jose Earthquakes, becoming the 11th player in league history to boast double-digit goal totals in four consecutive seasons.
• Scored the first six goals of his international career in nine appearances in 2013, tying for third on the team
• Tied Landon Donovan with five goals during the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup, scoring three times in the USA’s 6-1 victory against Belize on July 9 to become the third U.S. player to record a hat trick in a Gold Cup match
U.S. National Team – 2013: Wondolowski notched his first six international goals in nine games and only 365 minutes to tie for third on the team … Became the third U.S. player to record a hat trick in Gold Cup play with three goals against Belize during a 6-1 victory on July 9 in Portland, Ore. …
Club Soccer – 2013: Tallied 11 goals and three assists in 29 MLS games, becoming the 11th player in league history to record double-digit goals in four consecutive seasons … Led MLS with eight game-winning goals … In CONCACAF Champions League action, scored the game-winning goal during the San Jose Earthquakes’ 1-0 victory against CD Heredia on Oct. 23 to advance to the tournament quarterfinals …
Personal: Married Lindsay prior to the 2009 season … Father, John Wondolowski, is San Ramon Valley High School assistant soccer coach … Younger brother, Stephen, was a reserve on the Dynamo’s MLS Cup championship team in 2007 and was also a teammate in 2008 … He is half Native American and is a member of the Kiowa Tribe – His tribal name is Bau Daigh (pronounced Bowe Dye), which means: Warrior coming over