I love sports. I love competition. I outlined much of this love affair in an earlier blog post when baseball season arrived this year. I admit to following sports accomplishments even for sports that I never played, don’t fully understand, never watch otherwise, or a combination thereof. When John Isner and Nicolas Mahut played the longest tennis match in history at the 2010 Wimbledon that spanned three days, I was enthralled and shocked at the numbers. I don’t follow tennis so I probably cannot appreciate how epic a 70-68 set tiebreaker is, but I understand sports and numbers so when I’m told that the previous record was 20-18, it seems unimaginable.
I follow baseball religiously, and (post-lockout) football is not far behind. Love these sports with an unrivaled obsession.
I’ve never been a big basketball fan, but the 1990’s Bulls, and some of the amazing talent is tough to ignore (Kobe, LeBron, Blake, Shaq, etc.). As the NHL has traveled south in the last few decade, it has also been more difficult to follow, as the spread has thinned out the talent — but I still believe it the most pure (and thus most ignored) of the four major sports in North America. I love following college sports, but I am not Mel Kiper, too many teams and with the rules, some players in certain sports only stay for a year. So, it’s fun to follow from afar.
(On a side note, for those of you that follow college sports (which in today’s vernacular means football and basketball), you are truly missing out when not following college hockey. Yes, I am from the Minnesota, where hockey was invented (don’t argue with me).; and yes, most of the great teams hail from either Minnesota, our border states, or the Midwest. But, the competition is unreal and the talent is pure. You want a watch a sport where I can tell you the Top 5 (at season’s end) and the only three teams that have a realistic shot at winning the national title, than watch NCAA fotball. If you want to watch a sport where every year the national champion might not even make the tournament, than watch college hockey. But this blog isn’t about college hockey, and I might actually get to my point soon).
I’ve tried to follow NASCAR for the last five years after only seeing it on SportsCenter. I also heard about the rabid following and how exciting it is. I tried. The marketing of the sport is fascinating. And at times either the crashes or finishes are insanely dramatic. But, overall, for 5 hours a week, it’s freeway driving. And another sport with 43 contenders every week, and 5 guys with a legit chance at winning. That’s not competition. Horrible.
I’ve gained an increasing curiousity for MMA (which is apparently almost monopolized now by the UFC) and I absolutely love the Olympics (probably the 3rd sporting obsession behind baseball and football). Everything else I follow when history is being made. Seeing that crash at the Indy 500 this year, even though I never watch or care about the IRL, might be a Top 10 sporting moment of my life when all is said is done. Which brings me to the point of this blog.
The only two sports I would say I couldn’t give an honest two shits about are golf and soccer. Yes, this means I deserve to labeled as an arrogant and shallow American. But not because of golf. Golf is awful. Golf on TV is why people throw away their TV’s and read books. I’d probably rather read a book about a golf tournament, it would be more entertaining, I’m sure. I always tried to get into the World Cup when it came around, and maybe it was because our team cannot compete with other nations where this sport dominates, or because the sport is just not conducive to ‘the American way’ of entertainment. I can appreciate it. Just can’t get into that.
Folks, I stand corrected.
There has been a pretty stark bias up until now, which if you haven’t caught, you probably still have no idea what I’m writing about right now. On the latter point, you would have a solid point. I have yet to mention a woman’s college sport, an equivalent women’s professional sport, and when talking about the USA World Cup team you would think we have one team the way I state ‘our team’ cannot compete. Please understand…this has been intentional
While I love all sports, I have been unabashedly bored and embarrassed by women’s sports throughout my lifetimes. There are too many examples of sub-par skill (Women’s Olympic Hockey), comparatively slow play (WNBA), or embarrassing dominance (Girls’ NCCA Basketball). This indictment on women’s sports should not be read that I don’t think women should play sports or that I do not support them. Quite the opposite. We need to do more to get girls interested in sports at a younger age. We need to make them feel at that younger age that it is a ‘normal’ activity and to not feel embarrassed by failure. We need to breed the confidence of athletic performance in our girls. While Title IX has had an unintended consequence of penalizing and eliminating popular men’s programs, we need to fund more athletic programs for girls and women; not just in college, but in high school, for adolescents, children, and even adults. It is important not just as a societal and community norm, but to get people (in this case, women, obviously) more active. This blog post is not about that.
This blog post is about one of the most impressive displays of athletic performance, sheer grit, perseverance, and determination I have ever seen on a field.
If you are a sports fan and you are not paying attention (by now) to the 2011 Women’s USA World Cup team, then…I guess I don’t exactly know how to put this…then what the fuck?
I want to take you through the history, but I’ll spare you more ranting from me. It’s worth the read. It’s been quite the trip. On a personal level, it has not just been the way they have won these games to stay in the tournament. It has been the overall quality of the sport. Everything from the footwork to passing, crossing to goalkeeping, are on the same level or even exceeding the men’s game.
Hope Solo has made saving penalty kicks looks like someone Jill ‘Six Pack’ could do. She has been remarkable throughout the tournament, proving that her comments in 2007 were spot on. The USA would probably be defending their title, rather than being in the finale for the first time since 1999.
Abby Wambach has a head of magic steel. If someone would tell me I would see a US Soccer player score a better, more magical, goal than Landon Donovan did last year to save the men’s chances in their World Cup, I would tell you…well, that you probably watch too much soccer. Both goals saved the team’s hopes.
Landon’s goal (91′) broke a tie, against an inferior team, to take the lead and get them into the Round of 16.
Abby’s goal (122′) tied the game, against an equal opponent, to advance from the quarters, with no garbage time left.
There is no reason not to tune in to watch the finale on Sunday. It is quality sports entertainment, from people who are average Americans. None of these women are making millions playing their sport for the Los Angeles Galaxy.
They play because they love the game.
I swear, I learned that somewhere…
(Ok, I had an 800 word introduction, to make a 400 word argument. I’m wordy.)