A good part of the past generation has been spent covering events, Surf the favorite, and with disappointing the loyalists this is a public admission college team sport is probably the least favorite. When a little luck enters the equation an event can exceed expectations as in the summer of 2011. Football or soccer depending on where the game entered your life was an element through high school and a constant awareness but by no means would the term loyalist be mentioned in conversation. There have been the touchstones from “Soccer made in Germany” on PBS http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zOTchs7zDGI to the San Diego Sockers raising a banner or two to a MLS campaign to the World Cup in South Africa, yet there was not any preparation for how the women of the 2011 World Cup would impress and shape the year.
The assignment arrived via an old fashion telephone conversation and it was off to shoot with nearly 50 athletes from two-thirds or the sixteen teams. That is where this really begins, as this is not a statement on the level of play. This is a statement on the level dedication. Without exception! … this group was confident, honest, competitive, physically fit, mentally tough, a tremendous group to work with, human stories of the four years of pent-up desire and the readiness to play on this stage.
It was tough to cheer for one team over the next, and a fan’s investment rarely if ever truly contributes to the outcome of an event, yet somehow though the ebb and flow of tournament play it would have been tough to produce a finer final.
As an American who had spent a bit of time with the team it was tough not to privately don red, white and blue while Japan has always had a place in the heart for art and culture, fold in the natural triggered disaster it was impossible to cheer against a team from that land. Wow. A final that did not separate enthusiasts … it united them. After time stopped ticking, PK’s would determinate a World Champion. Yes, the game won. Just as it did in 1999 with Mia and company, the sport inserted itself back into pop culture and flowed into conversation freely.
Every weekend fields in the US of A are filled with the game, yet the world’s game just does not stick here. Landon is a household name, but just as the ’99 team were role models let Hope, Abby, Alex and company inspire the enthusiasm towards the game, and more importantly inspire the aura of human pureness that is not as common as it used to be among elite athletes.
Expectations happily exceeded. Thank you to sixteen teams for the reminder the glass remains half full.