Thank you EvanCeg…
SI was probably planning on featuring the women’s WC team on their cover this week, hoping that they would take care of business. Now it looks as if Darren Clarke will have that honour…or Alex Rodriguez or Joba Chamberlain or some other overrated Yankee du jour (see Derek Jeter story on last week’s cover).
I’m not going to argue for or against women’s professional sports, but I agree that there is not enough $$$ support for women’s leagues in this country. But that still doesn’t mean that we can’t honor their achievements the right way.
The women’s World Cup team is truly a special case in this country, for outside of the Olympics, it really is the one female team that this whole country can rally around. And for anyone who has ever come into contact with women professional athletes, you can truly become a fan instantly. For they represent your everyday girl down the block for the most part. They are moms, sisters, wives and girlfriends.
I had the pleasure of contributing to a womens soccer book about nine years ago (my has it been that long) where I got to interview many of the sports stars in Portland, Oregon during the 2002 WUSA All-Star game. Among them were both Abby Wambach and Homare Sawa. I knew a little about Abby at the time, as she was the new star on the block to follow in the footsteps of the great Mia Hamm as a budding striker for the US national team. But I did not know all that much about Homare, even though she starred for my local Atlanta Beat club.
There wasn’t one bit of entitlement to any of their personalities during the twenty or so interviews that I did that week. It was a refreshing change to having interviewed current NBA and NFL stars. And what I did notice was a real sense of excitement, even from the greats (Mia, Julie, Brandi, Briana) talking about their achievements in the game and in helping the next generation of soccer stars.
As for Abby, I remember how confident she was in the interview (she went on to score twice in that All-Star game) as she gave you the confidence that she was going to lead her team to victory. For Homare, after apologizing to me about her English not being up to par with the other ladies, she nonetheless gave me a wonderful interview in her best broken English.
I spin forward nine years later and while sitting on my couch watching this most incredible of final games, I found myself not so much feeling bad for Abby and her US team, as I was amazed at the resiliency of the Japanese team, led by the littlest of stars who, nine years ago, sat opposite me and tried her hardest at answering my questions.
Having a sister that competed on the International stage as well, I’m always reminded that athletes and great athletic moments and achievements come in all shapes and sizes and from both men and women. And while the women’s professional game may never find a place on national television or in the mainstream media of this or any other country, the great accomplishments of women (such as this) should never take a backseat to anything that the men accomplish.
I hope that both the US and Japan team members realize that they have just spawned yet another generation of not only great soccer players for their respective nations, but a whole generation of young girls who now believe that they too can accomplish great things in whatever sport they so chose to play, even if it will be in the shadows of their football, basketball or baseball playing brothers.