Ah, everyone in time needs the same thing: vacation
Now that the World Cup is over I officially declare my vacation…
Naturally a ton of things have happened with women’s soccer throughout the world within the past two months, and per usual, as the arrogant American it is my job to primarily focus on just that…America.
To an extent of course.
Today I’m aiming at three things:
- A quick recap of the World Cup in the eyes of the US Women’s National Team [or at least through my eyes, through their eyes, through the TV, through…]
- Reactions gathered by many American’s throughout the digital and social world with remarks to the media and the US Women’s National Team
- What this has done, and can continue to do for the upcoming 2012 Summer Games in London, and the future of Women’s Professional Soccer
Let us begin…
Dear Hollywood: I have a script idea
As goes all things World Cup, 2011 did not fail to impress the masses who tuned in. Without looking into too many files, records, and numbers, Germany was on track and I do believe surpassed the best ticket season [tickets sold] of any WWC. Granted the ’99 WWC still holds some records, but ’11 was a whole new monster. With the media mogul ESPN covering every…single…game [except when ESPN3 crashed…again…] behind the wheel, with their mastery style of cameras [why can’t we get the good cameras more often], in many ways ’11 was comparable to the waking of the giant that the ’10 MWC was, except for one thing:
Unlike the men’s game, where Spain, Germany, Brazil, and even the Dutch have a tendency of being great for years on end, the WWC was full of surprises. Germany getting knocked out by Japan. Brazil being toasted in the VERY END by the US. The US not winning their pool for the first time ever thanks to Sweden, who beat a surprisingly good, young Australian team in the quarterfinals, that would eventually lose to Japan.
Please point me to one person that could write a script like that?
While that was going on, let us not forget the back stories that captured the heart of the US, AND THE MORE IMPORTANT STORY THAT SHOOK THE WORLD!
It’s easy for me to discuss how important it was for the USWNT to do well, making it to the finals, after a shocking quarterfinal game truly set the tone, but what many American’s forgot was the fact that this time, the WWC was not about us.
It had been about Japan the entire time. In the eyes of the world Japan was the fairy tale creating it’s storybook ending. People love to root for underdogs, but we are even more driven to cheer for those who emerge like a Phoenix, out of the rubble, brush off the dust, and challenge themselves. A good chunk of Japan was destroyed by the mixture of a potent earthquake and following tsunami earlier this year. Japan national players were displaced, many of the fields were taken away to be converted into camps for relocated individuals, their world was literally turned upside down. Yet, in the middle of this chaos unforeseen by anyone, they chose to rise above. It was the shocker against Germany that set the stage, then they knocked out Sweden [realize those were previously two top five teams in the world, Japan also being one], and then in the most dramatic fashion, knocked out the US [very similar fashion to the final Summer Olympic Softball Gold Medal Match].
It wasn’t just the defeats, it was the style in which they went about it. Japan played a beautiful game, they were tactical, accurate, and most of all…patient. In many ways the United States played their best game…ever in the championship against Japan, but it was Japan’s patience that paid off in the end. Truly the match was going to be lost by the one team who created that ‘one mistake’, and that error came with Japan’s first goal off poor communication inside the US box. Recall that happened in the second half, after the US had dominated the shots in the first half…
Those who tuned into the game throughout the world didn’t get the blow out, didn’t get the 1-0 win, didn’t even get the extra time win. They didn’t get the PK Shootout from a 0-0 stalemate. They got it by absolute drama, each team looked to have locked up the win, and then something…somehow…somewhere would allow the other back in. That’s drama, that’s what brings in ratings, revenue, and a general public growth.
Mad props to Japan, well earned, well deserved, and in the politics of the world…you captured the hearts of everyone.
Can losers win?
I’ll be the first, second, or third to admit that after the championship game I turned off Twitter, Facebook, and all forms of media that could direct me back to the idea of losing the WWC. As an American, frankly, I was devastated. I hate losing, and this one was such a raw feeling.
Then realizations started to sit in:
Japan rocked it, that’s just a fact.
The USA lost in a form that is rarely seen [last worn by China in the ’99 WWC]
There was no ‘blowout’
The team executed a near perfect game
Livestrong Sporting Park was packed inside with fans watching the game
There was a boy sitting next to me, wearing a USMNT jersey, he had placed duct tape over the name Donovan on the back, and in marker wrote “Wambach”
The country was alive with Women’s World Cup Fever
Suddenly, Algeria wasn’t that big of a deal
While the women’s of the US still tend to their wounds from a few weeks ago, the nation remained captivated by the results of the WWC. Hope Solo and Abby Wambach appeared on late night television, Alex Morgan opened up Sportscenter, in many ways these women were hero’s to the US. Though they didn’t win, results like that against Brazil reinforced a sense of American pride, that stubborn arrogance that gets us places, and nasty looks in the same. For a split second this summer, across the US, it was cool to be proud of your roots. Trust me, in this type of culture, that’s a hard thing to accomplish.
Granted, it should be noted that truly in the athletic world of the US, the perfect storm had been set up for the Women’s World Cup. The NFL had gone into strike mode [no media coverage], the NBA went into strike mode [no media coverage], NASCAR was just that…NASCAR, and MLB is into the dog days of long, hot, scoreless games. ESPN needed something to cover, and the USWNT delivered with the story. In fact, these games became such a big deal that they wound up in the ESPY’s.
Allow me to digress on the ESPY’s: An awards banquet highlighting the highlights of the past sports year [best male athlete, team, etc…]. The final award given out is the best play of the year. The WWC was such a big deal, that ESPN added Abby Wambach’s header into the finalist of the best play, a day before the ESPY’s were aired.
They won the award…
THEY WON IT OVER THE NFL, MLS, AND SHOCKINGLY WAYNE ROONEY!
Oh That Hangover…
Finally, the question that everyone tends to be asking, “What’s next?”
Japan came home to a party. The US came home to celebrity status [they even got ‘verified’ on Twitter…all of them]. In many ways the pouring of support was unreal. Unfortunately, like all things, both sides must be viewed on pros and cons of the events of the past few weeks.
- Boys will be boys. Within the past weeks, a new breed of male has taken over [ok maybe not that new] inside the States. “Marry me Solo!” “Alex is so hot!” Now, allow me to exclaim that I too agree that these women are quite attractive, but there is still the age old fear of living in the United States and professional athletes: “Sex sells”. The biggest fear is that people, like those part of the USWNT, will be treated more towards their physical appearance than their actual on field ability. Maybe that is a conservative approach to things, or perhaps even semi-feminist, but I think the point is made. There is never a reason why a team would post nude in a calendar like Australia did years back, just to gain attention. By the way, if you’re wanting to hook up with Solo…you’re a lost cause brotha.
- Along with those frequent comments, came this one as well, “Chokers!” These folks are a bit easier to defuse then those above. It goes something like this; “YOU FREAKED OUT WHEN THE USA BEAT ALGERIA IN ’10! ALGERIA!!!!! TO WIN THE POOL!” I enjoy the USMNT like any other patriot, but folks, you’ve got to know when a team is good, and when a team is growing. Good=USWNT. Growing=USMNT. This is not rocket science. When the USMNT wins the World Cup in ’14, you can rag on the ladies all you want, but until then. Remember, this was the third time they’ve been in the finals, and the only time of those three they didn’t win. Just thought it’s worth point out…YOU BLOKES!
- Most importantly, media coverage. Not just the fact that ESPN covered the entire WWC, but the fact that local news agencies spoke of the games, CNN discussed the games, it was everywhere…by Sunday the entire nation knew what was going on. Consider this; Livestrong Sporting Park is a brand new stadium for the Major League Soccer team Sporting KC in Kansas City, Ks. The KC area has no women’s team at all, no WPS, WPSL, or USL W-League. However, when the championship game hit on Sunday, Livestrong opened their doors for free to public and packed their entire members lounge [trust me, it’s huge], and even opened up the seating outside for people to come and watch the match on their…what, twenty some televisions. That’s a MLS stadium stopping and saying, “Yes, the USWNT is that important to us”. Monumental.
- WPS: Leading up until the day of the WWC, the question on so many minds was what the cup could do for the financially struggling Women’s Professional Soccer league. Over 14,000 people at the Western New York Flash game can tell you that it has helped sales, to an extent. Many of the ‘hero’s’ of the USWNT [Wambach, Solo, Morgan, and company] were on the teams of the Flash and MagicJack [played each other], so the turnout would be insane. In fact Atlanta was a sellout as well against MagicJack. What it all means is this; we’ve gotten a taste of what the WPS can be like. The fact of that matter is that there is potential. For the past two years it was unknown what the league would and wouldn’t be able to do. This much we do know, now, given the right ingredients, people will come to the WPS.
- Sportscenter: This is a random, but fun story. If you are on Sportscenter on ESPN, you’ve done something well. If you’re on the Top 10 plays from the day before on SC, you’re doing something great. If you’re on the Top 10 plays from the weekend on SC, you’re doing something amazing. Here is how the Top 10 usually work, clips 1-9 tend to be baseball, basketball, football, and a few times golf [hole in one], and clip 10 is for the sports not always seen [soccer, dart throwing, and a spelling bee]. That’s just how it works most of the time. Most of the time. That was the case until I watched SC yesterday. While cruising through the numbers I saw amazing catches, throws, and other random things…until I got to #2 on their weekend Top 10 list. That’s when I saw a BRIGHT PINK JERSEY, recognized it as a WPS outfit and was mistified to see none other than Alex Morgan put in one of the nastiest outside left foot shots I’ve ever seen, both male and female. That was #2, the WPS was #2 on SC. Yes world, we have arrived.
Frankly, you couldn’t complain about the WWC [except for Canada, who has now lost their coach after flaming out of the tournament]. You had your drama, your hero, your villain, your team, and your future all wrapped up in a few weeks.
I know it isn’t ‘as big’ as the WC, but my mind is already starting to float towards London…
P.S. Per usual, my insanity can be found at Twitter [@CoachDaugherty], my more fascinating and strange life can be found here, the best information from the US leagues can found over here…and right…here!