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Celebration of the American Human Spirit

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Just few minutes after yesterday afternoon's soccer game this email from Menelaus popped up in my inbox:

[T]hat soccer game was incredible.  I was on a plane, and a good number of folks were huddling over their tiny seat back screens, cheering while everyone else wondered what the hell was going on.  We landed during the penalty kicks, and they cut the video for a couple minutes during announcements. People were freaking out, and the flight staff had no idea what they were dealing with.  It came back up, we won, and everyone cheered.  Epic.

Everyone around this country is probably feeling the same way. EPIC. As I wrote during the delirious comment thread, I think yesterday's game was perhaps the ultimate moment of this sports century so far. I don't think you have to be a soccer fan to appreciate what transpired in that game because it carried a lot of story lines that transcend sports.

Tony DiCicco, the former head coach of the U.S. women's soccer team said something during all the post game analysis on tWWL that I thought was on the point. He said during a conversation with anchor Bob Ley and Brandi Chastain (who punched in her history-making kick on the very same day, 12 years ago on the Bruins' home turf) that yesterday's heart stopping win against Brazil was essentially a "celebration of American human spirit." So allow me to riff a couple of meta thoughts based on that observation which I think relates back to what we write and talk about in our little corner of the internets.

First, let's talk about perseverance.  Abby Wambach who headed in that electrifying game tying goal also said that victory stood for what being American was all about. Again, I don't have the exact quote. She made those remarks during ESPN's post game interviews.  We all remember the dire situation. We were robbed by multiple calls that would make even SPTRs blush. After the refs gifted the Brazil with its second PK, our ladies had to play rest of the match with 1 down. 

The situation became bleaker when the refs again gifted Brazil with a second goal, which looked to have come after an off-side. Yet instead of dropping their shoulders and feeling sorry for themselves, US kept attacking. They kept attacking and kept coming in waves from all directions. They fed off the adversity and turned that into an emotional advantage. It was incredible and it reminded me of those classic Ben Ball Warriors from the early days of Ben Ball. Even if Wambach had not scored that electrifying goal, I think it is sufficient to say that those ladies would have passed the eye test. They just kept coming till the very last minute. They didn't quit. They didn't give up. I know we have talked a lot about the so called "Eye Test" here on BN this off-season. Well that was it.

Second meta thought has to do with the story of Hope Solo. I am guessing not everyone at BN is not a hard core soccer fan. So they don't the drama that transpired in 2007. From the Wiki:

2007 FIFA Women's World Cup

Solo was the starting goalkeeper for the United States in the 2007 FIFA Women's World Cup, giving up two goals in four games including consecutive shutouts of Sweden, Nigeria and England. Heading into the semifinal match against Brazil, U.S. coach Greg Ryan benched Solo in favor of 36-year-old veteran U.S. keeper Briana Scurry, who had a strong history of performance against the Brazilians but had not played a complete game in three months. The U.S. lost to Brazil 4-0, ending a 51-game (regulation time) undefeated streak, while playing much of the match with 10 players after midfielder Shannon Boxx received a second yellow card at the end of the first half.

Post-2007 World Cup fallout

In an impromptu interview following the match, a clearly upset Solo criticized Ryan's decision. "It was the wrong decision, and I think anybody that knows anything about the game knows that. There's no doubt in my mind I would have made those saves. And the fact of the matter is it's not 2004 anymore. It's not 2004. And it's 2007, and I think you have to live in the present. And you can't live by big names. You can't live in the past. It doesn't matter what somebody did in an Olympic gold medal game in the Olympics three years ago. Now is what matters, and that's what I think." Many viewed her comments as being critical of Scurry's performance, although Solo released an apologetic statement the following day saying that was not her intent. On September 29, 2007, coach Greg Ryan announced that Solo would not be with the team and would not play in the third-place match against Norway the following day. Team captain Kristine Lilly stated that the decision on Solo was made by the team as a group. The U.S. went on to win against Norway 4-1.

Solo was named to the U.S. women's national soccer team roster for the post World Cup tour, but she did not attend the first workout ahead of the first game against Mexico. Even though the players' contract with the federation stipulated that anyone on the World Cup roster had the right to play in the tour, she did not play in any of the three games against Mexico, being replaced by Briana Scurry for the first and third matches, and Nicole Barnhart for the second. The third match against Mexico, on October 20, 2007, marked the end of the U.S. women's national team's 2007 season. The team regrouped in January 2008 to begin preparations for the 2008 Summer Olympics. Ryan left the team after his contract was not renewed in December 2007.

Well we all know how the script went yesterday. The entire game was essentially a microcosm of the trajectory of Solo's career from that 2007 World Cup to yesterday's magical moment. The applicable word here is redemption.

It is redemption that makes sports so addictive. We all crave experiencing - watching those moments because it creates the kind of good vibes and feeling that are difficult to put into eloquent words (at least for me).  That brings me to the obvious. Everyone here knows about all the story lines for possible redemption involving both of our major revenue programs that there is no reason for me to rehash them all over again. That game at least reminded me in the purest way why I am such a sport-aholic and why I am so addicted to the teams I love despite often trudging through the daily grind of cynicism and despair (at least in the world of sports). We all keep coming back because deep in the back of our minds - at least in some of our minds - we know there is a genuine opportunity for redemption. When those moments happen, we are going to feel the same warm glow of Hope, except for us it will be tinged in Bruin blue and gold.