Tuesday, August 7, 2012
Why we love the U.S. women's soccer team
Everybody can get into a good story. We voraciously download them on our Kindles and Nooks (or actually crack open a real book) and spend untold hours at the movies watching them unfold before our eyes. We wait anxiously for the next installment of our favorites, eagerly anticipating the twists and turns that elevate or befall our heroes and heroines.
As if on cue, there's a huge drama taking place at the London Olympics, one we've seen before, and one we hope has a slightly different ending than the last installment.
Like an old friend you've lost touch with for a while, the U.S. women's soccer team is banging on our doors again, much the same way they did a year ago, when they became the top sports story in the nation, when they reached the World Cup final against Japan. I remember staking out a stool in a jam-packed sports bar in New York to watch that game, which the "Drama Queens" ultimately lost (I highlighted the event on this very blog last July).
And like a Hollywood sequel, here we are again: Hope, Abby, Alex and the rest of our old pals are back, this time in the Olympic gold-medal game, set for Thursday, against -- wouldn't you know it -- Japan. You can hear the movie preview now:
"In a world where (doesn't every one of them start that way?) redemption leads to a second chance ..."
It might be tough to come up with an ending more dramatic than Monday's semifinal victory over Canada, when Alex (Morgan ... you mean you didn't know?) scored that amazing goal with time running out in the second overtime to secure the victory. That, after Megan (Rapinoe, but you didn't need me to tell you that) tied the game on a controversial indirect kick after the Canadian goalkeeper was called for delay of game, holding the ball too long.
Such territory is familiar for this team. And it's a place we can't wait to go to with them, to be there for the whole ride, making sure we don't miss a moment.
"I'm really happy that Alex Morgan's on my team," Abby (Wambach ... duh!) told NBC. "I think I told her I was in love with her in the dog pile we had.
"Even when they scored their third goal, there was something in me that knew that we had more, that we could give more. I don't know what that means, quite honestly. I don't know if it's just confidence until the end, but this team has a belief in itself, even when the going gets tough."
Beside the obvious drama, what makes this particularly appealing is this hard-working, driven, inspired group of young women aren't constantly in our faces, self-promoting, wondering in public why they can't sell out American stadiums for their pro soccer games -- think the opposite of Geno Auriemma. Instead, they're content to stop by every year or so and spend some quality time with us, giving us something to remember and reminisce about until their next visit, whenever that may be. We're fine with that, and so are they.
Pretty enlightening, during an Olympics that quite frankly has turned off a lot of people with a steady stream of controversies and scandals -- and no, we didn't forget our friend Hope's tweets likening the Olympic Village to a brothel. Still, you can bet these ladies won't be crashing their bikes on purpose, bribing officials or peeing in anyone's pool anytime soon.
"This is what we're about," Abby said. "This is what we've been working for since the day we lost to Japan in the World Cup final. We know it's not going to be easy. We didn't anticipate a game like this but we're willing to deal with whatever's thrown at us. We stuck it out until the end."
Which implores all of us to do the same.