Well, it took me about 5 minutes but I got over the loss of the U.S. Soccer women’s team on Sunday afternoon live from Frankfurt, Germany. It sucked. They shoulda, coulda, woulda won — but in the end, it was a biblical choke by our ladies in a heartbreaking penalty kick loss to Japan.
Honestly, it was the kind of choke that if the men’s team pulled in the same fashion in the waning moments of the World Cup final that it would’ve been a devastating loss for the ages. It would’ve been the biggest patriotic disaster in the history of modern sports, really. And that’s considering that almost no one in this country pays attention to the U.S. Men’s Soccer team, either, which is probably considered our biggest national mystery to anyone who has ever been outside of America to feel the passion the rest of the world has for “the beautiful game.”
I opined moments after the loss on Facebook and Twitter that had this really have been the men’s final vs. Japan, I might’ve been suicidal at the notion of that kind of loss. Or at the very least truly heartbroken and devastated for days/weeks/months/forever- – ya know, like when the Ravens lose to the Colts or Steelers every year.
That’s REAL pain. This U.S. women’s soccer pain is almost imaginary. I’ve gotten mosquito bites where the pain has hurt more and lingered far longer. That’s not disrespect for women’s soccer. Quite the contrary- – it’s just the reality of the lack of our national passion for soccer in general and women’s sports in particular.
Women’s soccer was last significant in my life in 1999 when Brandi Chastain disrobed and I watched it then and enjoyed it as much as I did yesterday. These finals are smartly plotted for the “dead” time of the sports calendar in July, made even worse if you live in Baltimore and are a baseball fan. There was very little choice yesterday between watching the U.S.A.-Japan World Cup championship game vs. another Orioles slapdick starter giving up three runs in the first inning and chasing me to the soccer game by 2 p.m.
While I’m on the topic of women’s soccer and its lack of national significance, let me also say that it was a pleasure to watch the game of soccer played by clean athletes who weren’t diving all over the field like a bunch of pussies. I’m sick of watching the men’s game become a flop fest and a faux stretcher convention. It’s an insult to the fans, the game and themselves but in many countries and cultures around the world this is considered shrewd gamesmanship and cheating and lying are not considered “taboo” the way they are in our culture.
So, kudos to both teams for playing hard, well-executed, spirited soccer and giving us all a thrill for a few hours and days. And I hope that Abby Wambach and company regroup and come back in four years and continue to the grow the game and sport of soccer in America.
But somehow, I feel kinda bad that I don’t feel worse than I do – especially given the way they lost the game.
But I don’t.
And there’s also a little side of me that’s happy for those ladies from Japan, who showed some true “American” values in never quitting, always trying hard and never believing what the critics have to say. And the U.S. ladies were especially respectful and dignified in defeat. I think I see more tears when men lose games than the ladies.
And as nice of a “feel good” story it is for the rising star given the tsunami disaster and the subsequent fallout, I have a feeling most people in Japan weren’t even aware they were playing women’s soccer yesterday in Germany.
Someday the women’s games might overtake the consciousness of the public but we’re not there yet.
Yesterday’s loss hurt — and it will always be memorable — but no one in America is carrying it around today the way Baltimore carries around a Ravens’ loss in January.
It’s kind of odd the way we get our hearts involved in sports, don’t you think?