Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Mia Hamm Era

"Failure happens all the time. It happens everyday in practice. What makes you better is how you react to it." ~ Mia Hamm

Oh the many years I spent admiring Mia Hamm. I was an active soccer player from the age of five and was obviously on the Mia Hamm band wagon. She was quick, inspiring and total girl power (kind of like the Spice Girls but I was able to relate to it a lot more, yes even more than Sporty Spice). Not to mention she had great teammates like the awesome Brandi Chastain who of course caused great controversy when she took her shirt off after scoring the winning penalty kick at the 1999 World Cup finals in California. That for me was a great moment for women and for soccer players, and made me realize you could play professionally and I wanted to. Of course that dream ended when I hit puberty and was not as fast as I thought I was; not to mention the bizillion injuries but that is beside the point. Women had someone to look up to in the sports arena which was rare and even more it was in the sport of soccer, something not very popular in the states.

I look at the sports world today and it is again dominated by men. I don't mean this post to be a feminist one but naturally I am a girl and of course support women in sports. Think about it, Mia Hamm and the other famous four (Chastain, Kristine Lilly, Julie Foudy and Joy Fawcett) were kind of the last five women in sports that were looked up to. We have tennis pros like the William sisters or Maria Sharapova, but can you think of anyone who has a more significant influence other than those five soccer players. Sure you may have the occasional gymnast or figure skater that makes the spotlight during the Olympics but what impact do they have for a long period of time? Some of them don't even make it to a second Olympic. These five soccer players were around for a decade, getting girls involved and giving them a dream of having a future in soccer.

I got the honor of seeing the USA Women's Soccer Team play twice with those five players (who are featured in a HBO documentary that I totally recommend called Dare to Dream). The first time I saw them was against Nigeria in the round robin section of the 1999 World Cup. The USA defeated them 7-1 at Soldier field, it was awesome (I was 8 at the time and inspired). The second time was on Mia and three others farewell tour of games in 2004, which was magical because it was just around the time I was questioning whether to continue playing soccer and this was a huge influence on me to continue through high school.

The reason I bring all this up is because of the disappointing 2-1 loss the USA gave up against Sweden at the World Cup today. I will admit that since I have stopped playing soccer I have lost my touch in the world of the USA team, especially after Mia and the others left. They are still fun to watch and of course are known for their excellent play in the World Cup. Women's soccer is very different than men's in that the men's is looked at as a joke and the women are actually respected.

Unfortunately today represented the first time the U.S. lost in group play at the World Cup. As disappointing as that is, I bring up the quote I posted at the beginning of this post by Mia Hamm. It should be quite interesting to see how the U.S. reacts to this loss and how they do when they face Brazil in the Quarterfinals, which is not an easy contest I assure you. I hope the women on the team look to the past for a spark, like how they haven't won a World Cup title since 1999. I hope they can find some inspiration looking at old tapes and how well the 1999 team worked together, like a running machine. They knew where each player was on the field. I hope they see the  unbelievable trust they had in each other and loyalty to each other. It was so much more than just playing a silly game with a round ball. It was getting 10 year old girls off the couch and on the field and giving hope that this is something women can do. Something women should do.

Before all the guys yell at me for being a feminist who loves women's soccer which is supposedly boring I give you some lovely side notes.
1. Can we talk about how annoying it is that once again the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox dominate the All-Star roster for the American league? That's right only 3 players on the starting lineup are from a different team. Can't the Yankees just go away already?
2. I say hell yeah to all these lockouts! We have the NFL, the NBA and now the Joffrey Ballet? Hmm odd and yet interesting. Of course I'm pulling for the NFL to make an agreement because I don't know what I'll do on Sunday's otherwise. Although, I can honestly say I don't really mind if the NBA sits out a season and it's certainly looking like they are going to go the NHL route and skip next season.
3. Even though this happened on Sunday, I have to give a shout out to Djokovic who is the first person other than Federer to beat Nadal in a Grand Slam Final. Congrats to you, sir, a very well deserved win.

With that I say... Live long and prosper

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