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Archive for August, 2012

Hope Solo’s Book Review

Hope Solo, the outspoken goalkeeper that has been defending our goal since 2000. The journey for her has been anything but easy. In her book, Solo: A Memoir of Hope, she opens up to tell us about everything that has happened in her life, the triumphs, the tribulations, the heartache and heartbreak, every moment that has shaped and molded her into the world class and misunderstood athlete that she is.

In this book, we gain insight to where she has come from. What Hope has had to fight through to be where she is now, the countless times she could have sat down and felt sorry for herself, and no one would blame her, the times when it seemed that nothing could go right, but Hope Solo is the pure definition of a fighter. Not a lot of people would be able to get through what she has and continue on to where she is now. She isn’t perfect, she wasn’t perfect. She made mistakes, but ultimately, she never could deny the love she had for her family, no matter how difficult it was at the time.

Of course the 2007 World Cup was big news. She tells her side of the story. She spills the details on things that we were never aware of. For almost the first time, a female athlete spoke up and spoke out about her disappointment. This didn’t go unpunished. Hearts were broken, trust was shattered, wounds were formed, and Hope was ostracized. This tested Hope, it tested her teammates. The majority of people didn’t want anything to do with Hope, but there were the few, the ones who stuck by her side, the ones who refused to let her hang her head, the ones that knew she was a good person. It’s hard to tell what this team had to go through in ’07 because of how close they are now, scars have healed. It took a while, but ultimately you must forgive and forget. Set aside your differences, just like Hope and her teammates have.

If you don’t like Hope, don’t like her attitude, don’t like what she says, I encourage you to pick up this book and read it. It will change your perspective on Hope. She’s had her fair share of mistake, of troubled times and heartache, but she has a big heart. You’ll gain an understanding to why Hope says the things she says, acts the way she acts, and how truly amazing she is. I regarded her highly before, but now I regard her as one of the strongest athletes ever. Thank you Hope Solo, thank you for being the strong athlete who never gives up and never gives in. Thank you for giving us all an example of how to be strong, courageous, and to always be brave no matter how harsh life gets.

Love, that’s what this book is about. No matter how difficult times get, no matter how many obstacles will be thrown at you, it all determines how strong and how willing you are to fight. Even if you’ve had your bumps in the road with loved ones, in the end, they’re family. If you love the significant ones in your life, fighting for them won’t even be a question. Hope’s grandma once told her, “Hope is, by definition, defiant. It is only when everything is hopeless that hope begins to be a strength.” They say tough times never last, but tough people do. I think Hope Solo could attest to that, in fact, Hope Solo is the pure essence of that.

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Let’s Get the USWNT on Ellen

Dear Ellen,

July 10th, 2011. October 3rd, 2011. You might be asking yourself, “What are those dates?” Well, July 10th was the day the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team captivated the nation, the 3rd was the day US goalkeeper Hope Solo had you promise that if they won gold, you would have them on your show. A promise is a promise, not as serious as a pinky promise, but still pretty serious nonetheless.

Not only do you have the ability to meet the best female soccer players in the world, you have the power to wear all 18 of their gold medals at once. From what I’ve heard, a gold medal is pretty heavy, so maybe if you want to avoid serious neck pain the next morning, wearing them all at once might not be a good idea. Anyways, you could play soccer with them, stand in goal to see what it’s like to be a goalkeeper, the possibilities are really endless. They begin their 10-city Victory Tour with their first game on September 1st in Rochester, New York. Once it’s over, I’m sure they would be more than happy to oblige to come on your show if you offered.

In all seriousness though, what this team has done in the past year is almost unprecedented. Before the World Cup in 2011, they played their home games in front of maybe 5,000 fans. Not many people knew who Hope Solo, Megan Rapinoe, Abby Wambach, or Alex Morgan were. Now, the team has made a name for themselves, they are household names, they play in front of 18,000+ fans in each of their home games. But, what’s more impressive, more important, is the generation of kids that now have been inspired by them.

They want to be the next Alex Morgan or Abby Wambach. And that’s amazing. It’s great that the youth look up to this team. They are the epitome of class and sportsmanship. The message they convey to be respectful and dignified in victory or defeat is something each kid should learn. Setting all their celebrity aside, there is not a more down-to-earth, funny, real, inspiring group of athletes. They are part of the reason the next generation of female athletes have the chances they have. Thanks to this team, women’s soccer will be better off in the future.

So, I, like many others, ask you to have them on your show. There’s not a funnier, more down-to-earth talk show host so the combination there would be legendary. A year ago, this team captivated a nation. Not just kids, adults too. From 8 year old kids to grown men and women, everyone loves this team. Samuel L. Jackson, Tom Hanks, Barack Obama, Aaron Rodgers, Katy Perry, Anderson Cooper, Hillary Clinton, and Rachel Maddow are just a few of the big names that have either personally called, Tweeted, or talked to this team in support for them. It doesn’t matter if you have 2 million, 20 million, or 20 followers on Twitter, if you’re famous or you aren’t, when it comes to this team, everybody is captivated. A promise is a promise, but more importantly, did they captivate you?


Why Abby Wambach May be the Greatest Role Model, On and Off the Field

It’s not many times you’ll ever see a country be thrown into soccer frenzy after one goal. It’s also not many times it’s women’s soccer. Over the course of the year, we’ve seen exactly that. Yes people, America is in women’s soccer frenzy. After the 2011 Women’s World Cup, the USWNT has been playing in front of sell out crowds all over the US. And the “face” of women’s soccer is now none other than Abby Wambach. The list of Abby’s accomplishments goes on and on. She is co-captain of the USWNT, 2x gold medalist, a FIFA Bronze Boot and Silver Ball recipient, 3rd place for the FIFA Ballon d’Or World Female Soccer Player, US Soccer Female Athlete of the Year, oh, and her dog can ride a skateboard.

The respect she has for her teammates, the game, and even her opponents is something you don’t always see in sports. She was the first one to go over to the Japanese team after they lost to them, she shook their hands, and told them congratulations. Don’t forget this was literally minutes after their heartbreaking loss, something we all knew that she, along with the team, wanted so bad. It is the one thing that has escaped the long list of her accolades once again. But that didn’t matter because she had her eyes set on something else. Gold. She got it in a rematch against Japan. After they won, she went over to Homare Sawa, put her arm around her, and walked with her. Her competitiveness motivates her teammates on the field. She refuses to lose and will literally put her body on the line for her team. Players from all around the world respect her as an athlete and a person.

“She is not just a person of good sportsmanship, but also a really wonderful person, indeed.” -Homare Sawa (FIFA Ballon d’Or Winner, Captain of the FIFA 2011 WWC Champion team, Japan)

“If you want to stop her, you have to push and pull on her jersey before she starts to run. When she moves forward, she’s unstoppable.” -Sonia Bompastor (France Midfielder and former Washington Freedom Teammate)

“I’ve always respected her, on and off the field.” -Christine Sinclair (Captain for Canada WNT)

“Abby scores goals all kinds of ways, she doesn’t just score with her head. That’s why she’s so hard to mark, because she’s dangerous in all kinds of ways.” -Monica Gonzalez (Former Mexico Captain)

“When Abby Wambach is on her game, stopping her is like trying to defend Kobe Bryant.” -Tony Dicicco (Coach of ’99 Women’s World Cup USA Team)

“She hits the floor, she hits the ground, it doesn’t even faze us any more because she’s tough. She might be hurting, but she’s mentally tough. She has more of a lion and a passion inside that nothing will stop her, and she’ll find a way to win. It rubs off on everybody.” -Hope Solo (USWNT Goalkeeper, Golden Glove Winner)

“Abby has just become such a great leader that I respect her so much and trust her guiding me into the right path.” -Alex Morgan (USWNT Forward)

“She’s really the heart of the team. When she’s down, we notice it. When she’s playing at her best, we notice it. Her personality is so huge and important to us.” -Heather O’Reilly (USWNT Midfielder)

What impresses me the most though is her humbleness, down-to-earth attitude, and toughness. I still remember watching that video of her getting her head stapled on the field without anesthesia. Or the time in the ’07 World Cup where she had to leave the game to get her head stitched back up, and apparently started screaming not because she was in pain, but because it was taking too long. Abby Wambach is as tough as it comes, the toughest athlete I’ve ever seen. It’s too many times I see athletes roll around in “pain” after barely being touched. No, not Abby. She’ll take a hit countless times. Sometimes, it seems like she’s on the ground more in the game then she is standing up. During their send off game versus Canada she was on the ground the most out of anyone, once she was body checked into the ground in the penalty box, later she crashed into the goalpost. She just got up and jogged away. She was punched in the face against Colombia. But Abby didn’t approach the player, she didn’t yell at them or retaliate, nope, she scored a goal. That’s because no matter how many times a team thinks they can knock her down, she’ll get up and she’ll get up stronger.

Then comes her humbleness. All the individual accolades she’s won, she never takes credit for. She always says it’s because of her teammates.

“I’ve scored no goals just on my own. Every goal I’ve scored has been because of somebody else on my team: their excellence, their bravery. I’m kind of the end product of the collection of really good vibe and creativity on the field.”

And maybe that’s why so many young girls look up to Abby, and why the sports world looks to her. In her we see a drive to be the best, to not only play well and score for her team, but bring attention to women’s soccer. If that means she has to stay over an hour after a game to sign autographs, she’ll do it. If that means fly across the country for TV appearances, you bet she’s there. She plays her heart out every game, is a leader on the field, and never will shy away from giving all the credit to her teammates. During the Brazil game when they were down one goal, you could hear her over all the screaming, coming from 20,000+ fans, yelling at her teammates to keep pushing on and to keep going. At the end of that game, Brandi Chastain (scored the winning PK in the ’99 World Cup) said, “Abby Wambach was a leader on the field today, and today she led her team to victory.” In the 2012 gold medal game, the tournament where she laid it all on the line for her country and her teammates. We all knew she wanted it so badly, and she got it. We saw her in her interview, almost breaking into tears, the most emotional we have ever seen her. She got the gold medal, it was hung around her neck, and she had the biggest smile on her face. Her eyes had a little shimmer in them and the look she had on her face just read, “Finally. We did it.”

But, when she’s off the field, she always looks to keep the attention on women’s soccer, so the next generation of women’s soccer players have the chance and the same opportunity at being where she is right now. Playing the world’s game, and being the face of women’s soccer. And maybe amidst those girls, will be the next face of women’s soccer. I’m sure we all want Abby to be in Canada come 2015, where she will have one last chance at that World Cup trophy that has alluded her 3 times. We all want her to be on that podium with a gold medal hung around her neck, raising that trophy above her head, and already brilliant and astounding career closing with a fairy tale ending. But Abby Wambach will never be forgotten, her legacy will never go away. I’ve never respected an athlete more than I respect Abby Wambach. I’ve never seen an athlete pour their heart out on the field, play every game with so much spirit and so much determination, who is unselfish and will never hesitate to give up an opportunity to score if their teammate has one too, like Abby Wambach does. Through all the blood, sweat, bumps, bruises, scrapes, scratches, triumphs, and tribulations, she will never give up, she’ll never stop. And that’s why Abby Wambach may be the greatest role model ever, on and off the field. Because no one else is like her.


Extraordinary USWNT

With the end of the London Olympics, I don’t know what I will do with my life. Just kidding, kind of. I devoted most of my daytime and part of my nights to watching any and all events. While I admit this is the first time I’ve watched professional table tennis and badminton, all the events were cool to watch and it was nice to see athletes representing their country so well. Anyways, I wandered from the original topic.

I want to thank each and every member of the USWNT for one heck of a tournament. 6-0, a gold medal, I can’t think of a better team to root for. There really is not a more down to earth, real, funny, entertaining, amazing team. Each member has a great personality off the field, and on the field, they never leave anybody behind. They always win, together.

When they’re in a different country playing, I don’t know if they truly know how captivating they are. For the final, against Japan, they set a new record for most views of a NBC broadcast. It’s because they truly are the “girls next door”. I know, that’s an extremely cliche term, but they are just like you and I. They don’t act like they are better than everyone else. They aren’t multi-million dollar megastars that need their PA to pick them up a double espresso shot soy latte with half 1% milk and half skim milk that’s 102 degrees and is exactly 10.3 ounces. Is that a real drink? I don’t think so, I don’t drink coffee so I have no idea. Once again, straying from the topic. They have the opportunity that very few get, they’re representing their country. They do it with class, grace, and humbleness.

What this team does best is never give up. They always fight until the end and that’s something I hope every young athlete sees. They are the best example of why you should never hold your head down, to keep going and keep trying until you hear the ending whistle, that when things get hard those are the moments that make or break a great athlete, to always be gracious in defeat or in victory. No is not an answer for this team, stubbornness, whatever you want to call it, this is one of the rare circumstances of if they’re down by a goal and down time on the clock, to keep believing and somehow, someway, they will pull through.

I can’t say it enough. I can’t say how lucky we are to have them representing us, inspiring the next generation of athletes to be where they are, to better women’s sports, to set a good example, to be who they are and not who anyone wants them to be. This team will have it’s critics, the ones who will question and doubt every thing they do. They prove them wrong every time they step on the field. Us, the fans, feel like we’re part of the team. We feel happy when they’re happy, sad when they’re sad, they let us into their lives on the road whether it’s through social networking or through videos (I’m referencing the Party in the USA video by the way) and we’ve got their backs just like they have ours.

The most important thing they do however is have fun. Life isn’t too serious for any of them. They know that playing soccer won’t last forever, so they enjoy it while they have the opportunity. They live life to the fullest, not every person has the opportunity to do what they love while traveling the country with 18 or 20 other people who end up being your family away from your family. That is life of a professional athlete, but unlike some, they enjoy every minute of it with each other.

We laugh with this team, we cry with this team, we get up at 4 am to watch them play, we stay up until 3am watching re-runs of their games. That says something. It says that this team is special. You could say that they are ordinary people who do something extraordinary. But they’re not ordinary people. They are extraordinary people doing something unbelievable. Captivating a nation and the world with their fight on the field and personalities off the field. So forget the double espresso soy latte at exactly 10.3 ounces and 102 degrees, they’ve got a gold medal and millions of people behind them every game. That’s definitely not ordinary, that’s extraordinary.

 


We Did It

We did it. 3 simple words. They don’t quite describe what went on these past 2 and a half weeks, but some how they best encapsulate what happened. This team made a statement before the games started. They made it clear that this is redemption. As much as Pia said she didn’t want it to be only about that, she had to know it was fueling the fire. The road to gold hasn’t been easy by any means. This team has a way of making this heart pounding and emotional, almost as if they’re testing their fans abilities to stick it out and stay positive. Each player at one point in time was the reason the team was still in the tournament. They had their heroics, no matter how tired the were, no matter how much their body told them no more, they just kept going on.

Abby Wambach proved herself this tournament, even if she didn’t have to. She made it her responsibility to make sure she and her teammates were on the top of the podium. At times she carried her team, down 1-0, 2-0, 3-2, she refused to let them lay down, she pushed them to keep going, she leads by example. I hope that every single kid watches a game and one of her interviews. She is the prime example of how to carry yourself on and off the field. Scoring in 5 consecutive games, inching closer and closer to the record, she is the heart and soul of the team, she shows why they need her.

Megan Rapinoe had her best tournament ever. She was dangerous, she was crafty, if the world didn’t know it already, she’s world class. Often overshadowed by Alex Morgan or Hope solo, she broke out, knew the spotlight was on her, and most importantly, shined under it. She was the reason we won the game against Canada, twice pulling the USWNT out of the depths of defeat. We could go on and on about her, she left no doubt on the field, ever.

I want to say congratulations to Japan for an amazing, dignified tournament. They player their hearts out. They are true athletes of class. I remember when Abby got fouled by the middle of the filed. Homare Sawa, who didn’t even commit the foul, ran over from their 18 yard box and helped Abby up, then ran back. It wasn’t easty to see their tears at the end, but they should hold their heads up knowing they gave us a great match. These two teams have so much respect for each other. Before the game when they shake hands, they don’t just say good luck and shake hands like they normally do with any other team, they smile and even hug each other. That’s not something you see everyday.

What lies in the future is unknown. As gut wrenching as it is, this could be the last time we see some of these players on the field together. Heather Mitts has made it no secret she is ready to hang up the cleats. Pia’s contract is up and she may go back to Sweden. There is talk of a new pro league in 2013. It’s weird to think the next big tournament is in 2015. By then there will be new faces, maybe a new coach. While players like Alex Morgan, Sydney Leroux, Lauren Cheney, and Tobin Heath are by all means ready to lead the team, it will take some getting used to when the veterans retire.

There will be the Algarve Cup and with the rise of popularity in women’s soccer probably more little tournaments like the Kirin Cup in Japan. But there will be 2 years of little international play. Maybe that’s a good thing. These players need a break. They need to be with their families, loved ones, and friends at home. It’s been a roller coaster of a 2011-2012. The physical demand, the emotional and mental toll an almost full year of being on the road can’t be easy for them or their loved ones. They need to be normal people for a while, live life at their own homes with their families.

I commend each and every one of you USWNT fans. I believe we are the strongest group of sports fans in the world. We never give up, we never lose faith, we never give in. We always stay positive and believe because we know we are rooting for a team that can fight through anything. The USWNT is the classiest, most sportsman-like, honorable group of players. That’s why it’s so easy to have their backs.

Going into the gold medal match, the game was going to be a remarkable night regardless of who won. I’m glad we could come out on top. Abby said she was going to leave her entire being in London. On the fields of Old Trafford, Newcastle, Wembley, and Hampden Park, lies a little bit of each player. Their sweat, tears, passion, heart. They left everything they had on the fields of UK. All for something that alluded them last year, a gold medal. This time, they’re leaving with a big smile and a gold medal around their neck. They’re no longer 2011 Women’s World Cup Runner-Ups, they’re 2012 London Olympic Gold Medalists.


Give Up or Fight Like Hell

Lance Armstrong once said, “We have two options in life physically and emotionally, give up or fight like hell.” Twists and turns happen. That’s the thing about sports. If the call goes your team’s way, you’ll take the advantage, anybody would. If the call is against you, you’ll be upset about it, anyone would be. But that’s sports. It’s always difficult to tell what could happen or what wouldn’t happen if things were different. We could look back years and years ago, and if one play, one goal, one basket, one shot, one run never happened, things could be completely different.

Controversy will happen in any sport. As a player, you have two options: move on with it, or stay upset about it. I know about 99.9% of all the professional athletes in the world will move on. Moving on is one thing, fighting like hell is another. They can either take their grudge out and their frustration out on opposing players, or they can forget about what just happened and play with a little bit more fire in their eyes. That comes with being a professional athlete, your ability to take the ups and downs, the trials and tribulations; it’s all what makes sports so much better. We can look at the athletes who play for us and say, “Yeah, I’m proud they’re representing me, I’m proud that they’ll fight through anything.”

When the game doesn’t go your way, all you can do is hold your head up and know your team did everything they could to change the result. We’re frustrated when calls don’t go our way, we’re happy when they do. With all the emotions we pour into each game of our favorite teams, you’d think we’d just want one game where nothing happens. With most every sports game, there will be controversy, there will be questionable decisions, and that’s just how it goes. Let’s face it, if games were never controversial, nobody would ever watch.

“Sportsmanship for me is when someone walks off the field and you really can’t tell whether they won or lost, when they carry themselves with pride either way.”