I have been fortunate enough to watch all the games played by the wonderful women of the USA football team. Missing the first half, I was in time to watch the second half of the game against Brazil. The game was replayed later on that day, so I tuned in to watch the first half and was so riveted to the action that I watched the second half again! It was hard to believe my eyes the first time, so I was compelled to watch again.
After hearing the story of Megan Rapinoe, I fell in love. For those who do not know the story, Megan lost her starting position before the first game of the World Cup. She took her demotion like a woman and has become a super-sub! I was dissapointed when I did not see her on the field during the first half in the next game against France. I was even more disappointed when I did not see her start the second half. France was all over the exhausted USA squad to begin the second half, but when the coach inserted Megan at the 65 minute mark, her energy gave the team the lift it needed. "Megan came off the bench and changed the game," Coach Pia Sundhage said. A good coach must know exactly what a player is capable of and put them in the right spot to succeed. One article mentioned Megan's "surgically repaired knees." It could be that Coach Pia understands that Megan is better at coming off of the bench than going the distance.
Only one time during my time playing baseball did I not start a game. It was my last year of high school ball and Coach Jackson came to me before the game to inform me that he had decided to insert Jack Nunn into my position. "Now Bacon, you can go to the bench and sulk, or you can lead the chearing section. The team will be looking to you, so decide what kinda man who want to be." I cannot tell you how much it hurt to not start that game. I had to admit that I was in a slump, so I became the most vocal of the benchwarmers. All season the subs had been quite and docile, but now they had a leader. We were behind by a run in the last inning and I put on the 'rally cap' and the team got into it. We got a runner on first and Jack was up. "Bacon," the coach yelled, "grab a bat." Did I! But then I paused... This was a terrible thing for Jack, but I followed the coach's command, realizing the situation called for a bunt and I was the best bunter on the team. The slump did not matter if all I had to do was bunt. Up at the plate I got the sign from coach Jackson. When I read the sign, it was a special play; the swinging bunt! I was to square around as if to bunt while the runner took off for second base, and then draw the bat back and hit the ball into the hole vacated by the enemy second baseman. For a moment I thought I had better call time and ask the coach if I had read his sign right, but thinking that would give the play away, I got in the batter's box. I did exactly as we had practiced and the play worked so perfectly that the ball died before it could get to the rightfielder and the runner on first made third and I wound up on second. A single drove us both in and I scored the winning run. I was mobbed by my teammates, with Jack the first to hug me. After the season was over the team voted for the player that most typlified the '105' spirit, what we all chattered all year, meaning you give that extra effort, 105%. I won the trophy with only one vote not for me, as I had voted for another player. Because it was given to me my my teammates, I will treasure the thought as long as I live.
I have gotten into world cup football so much in the past few decades that I have even read books on the game, the last one being, Chasing the Game: America and the Quest for the World Cup by Filip Bondy. I actually like the women's game better than the men's. As I read the article, Routine Ruse in Men’s Soccer Tumbles Into Women’s World Cup, in the NY Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/12/sports/soccer/at-the-womens-world-cup-drama-without-all-the-dramatics.html?scp=3&sq=womens%20world%20cup&st=cse) I realized why. The women are more honest than the men!
What we Americans call 'soccer' is called 'football' in the rest of the world, showing how out of step our violent prone society is with everyone else in on this planet. International football is a beautiful game. It is closer to chess, or Go, than the game we call football, which really should be called 'maimball'. We are a violent society and it is reflected in our most popular sport, 'maimball'. I read an article some years ago in which the author posited that there has been a direct correlation between the increasing popularity of 'maimball' and violent crime in our country. If you tune into HLN you will find a countdown clock counting down the hours, minutes, and seconds, until some young woman, who was found not guilty of murdering her daughter, is released from jail. We would have a much better country if the people responsible for that kind of thing would instead insert a countdown clock until the start of the World Cup Championship game between Japan and the USA. I know I'm counting down. How about you?