July 12, 2011

WHY IT MATTERS: Women's World Cup

Yep, it’s time to dust off the old blog. My goal is to make this like woot.com, only with less-than-regular updates and with more crap. Topics will probably trend towards sports / nerd culture with my spin on things (and yes, I am the only person on Earth that actually thinks the BCS is good for college football). At least, that’s how I’m hoping it will go for a few months, after which time it will be oohing and aahing over a new daughter and complaining about lack of sleep. We’ll see how things go.

You may have heard about a soccer match that took place this weekend – in fact, you probably did, so I won’t bore you with too many details. The gist of it is this: Women’s World Cup quarterfinals, United States v. Brazil; US forced to play a player short for the last thirty minutes of regulation right before Brazil ties the match at 1-1; match goes to extra time (US still a player short); Brazil scores within two minutes, proceeds to stall with injuries throughout the remaining 28 minutes; that stalling leads to 3 minutes of injury time being added to the end of extra time, during which Abby Wambach heads in a tying goal; US advances to the semifinals thanks to penalty kicks.

Not my best bit of sportswriting, I know, but that was the match in a nutshell – if you didn’t get a chance to see it, find it. It’s available on ESPN3, and it was as good as soccer game as I’ve ever seen, and probably one of the best in World Cup (men’s or women’s) history.

I’m not here to comment on the game, though. The game itself has been beaten to death, and will be for some time to come. I want to comment on the reasons why that game, that result, and the way it happened matter.

Nostalgia. All throughout the day, everyone in ESPN’s coverage made sure to mention that the game was occurring 12 years to the day after the 1999 Women’s World Cup Final at the Rose Bowl (you remember – US v. China, penalty kicks, Scurry’s save, Chastain’s sports bra, etc., etc.). They should have – it was a defining moment in women’s sports for the United States and for the sport of women’s soccer.

Not only that, but it reminded us of a time when Americans were bonded together after a positive event, something that has been rare since 9/11. It brought back memories of time when both sides of the aisle recognized that we were a strong nation rather than railing at each other as they do since the economic situation and the 24-hour cycles affords them to opportunity to do so. This runs right into my next point, actually….

American pride. No one positive thing bonds Americans quite like sports. I have friends that roll their eyes at the people that bedeck themselves in as much flag-wear as possibly on a daily basis, but would be among the first to paint their faces in the stars and stripes if they had the opportunity to see these women on the pitch. With the state of our nation – the anxiety over the economy, the barbs cast back and forth between politician and pundit alike, the fact that we are becoming a more divided country each day – we need a rallying cry. We need a flag-bearer with no agenda, with no bias (perceived or otherwise), with no reason to succeed other than representing his or her country.

There is nowhere that is more pure than in sport, and more specifically international competition. Now, I’m not saying that Abby Wambach and Hope Solo are going to come home from Germany and balance the budget, but they reminded us of what the American spirit is. Fighting through adversity, tackling the biggest opponents against steep odds and finding a way to come out on top, being there when it matters most, and the most recent cliché – winning.

Even the home crowd Germans got caught up in it. Thanks to some questionable calls (though fewer than most are letting on) combined with poor sportsmanship from the Samba Queens (at one point they carried off a woman on a stretcher after she fell over with no one around her only to have her pop back up and immediately re-enter the game), the German crowd started to swing in favor of the Americans. Read that again – the German crowd started to swing in favor of the Americans. These days it’s not often you hear of any other nation rooting for US interests, but the Germans? Really?

If that’s not a testament to the power of sport, I don’t know what is.

Soccer outreach. We saw US interest in soccer rekindling a few years ago with the men’s success in Gold Cup and then watched it really pick up steam during the World Cup with some amazing finishes in the qualifying rounds. With this result, even after a loss in qualifying, the women have taken up that banner from the men and raised it again, potentially to the point we saw in ’99.

This bleeds into the whole national pride point again, but it’s good to see us - as one of the world’s superpowers in so many other sports – starting to make it big in an internationally beloved sport. I’m not suggesting that all of us will immediately take to the sport in a sports culture that’s already fairly well inundated, but perhaps with basketball presumably being locked out for the next decade or so, people can start to warm up to the sport, and some of the youth of this country can keep looking up to these athletes - which brings me to the reason that matters most.

Role Models. There aren’t a lot of American female athletes that our girls can look up to. No, that’s not right – let me rephrase that. There aren’t enough American women in sports who are given the spotlight on a regular basis. Granted, part of that is attributed to the lack of success we’ve seen – tennis, golf, and other sports American women were accustomed to dominating are now ruled by the international community and therefore outside of America’s increasingly-shorter attention span.

But a large part of it is a lack of coverage of women’s sports. It’s no secret that women’s college basketball and the WNBA take a back seat to the men’s league – actually, the dirty little secret there is that in recent years the women’s game has simply been better in both cases. You can say it’s caused by a lack of interest, but interest is generated largely by the media, and they have been the ones dropping the ball and not helping the sports collective see how much better the women’s game has become.

Look, men look up to men in sports for good reason. They’re lauded on prominent national broadcasts, plastered all over advertising for a wide range of products in almost every type of media. Which women get those opportunities? Reality show stars, sex tape vixens, beauty queens – you get the picture. Call me stuck up, but I simply do not want my daughter looking up to these women as her role models. Unfortunately, those are the women that are being given the chance to be on display.

This country needs its commentary on women to come more from Bob Ley talking about their success and less from Perez Hilton talking about how they look in a dress. We need to be given more chances to be able to praise the success of this Women’s National Team or your local WNBA team and fewer opportunities to see what the Kardashians are eating for dinner. We, as fathers and as Americans, simply need more Hope Solos and fewer Heidi Pratts.

By celebrating, talking about, tweeting about, and rejoicing in the success of this team, we can start turning our attention to women that deserve it. We can move more towards celebrating actual success that success manufactured to get you to watch TV. We can finally have the little girls of America look up to real women and want to follow in their footsteps that lead to real world success.

And if that’s not a good reason to celebrate this win, I don’t know what is.

August 03, 2009

North Church - Softball Champions!

Way to go, North!

The Doubleheader Warriors pictured are just some of the folks that helped make this season GREAT! Thanks so much to everyone that came out to be a part of the team at any point this season as well as those who were there throughout the summer for support, and here's to a successful title defense in 2010!

November 26, 2008

I Know It's Only Selling Out, But I Like It

We interupt this complete lack of blogposts for exciting news!

Doing your holiday shopping online this year? I was contacted a few weeks ago by a website called BigFlySports and asked if I'd put in a few words about their site. At first I was skeptical, but it turns out that they've got a lot of unique gift ideas, including a ton of Vanderbilt merchandise. Seriously - if they can slap a pewter VU logo on something, they've got it available for purchase. But it's not just VU; they've got a ton of NCAA schools represented, as well as MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL, and NASCAR. I was truly blown away that (a) they'd ask me to send something like this out to my tens and tens of readers and (b) that the site looked as professional as it does and has so much to offer.

You'll find all sorts of things, including (and believe me, there's far more than this):

Car Mats
Golf Equipment
and, of course,
Bar Supplies

OK, so here's where I come into the picture (what, you thought I was doing this for free?). Just for reading my blog, I can give you a code (VANDY208) that will give you free shipping on your purchase, something that may not be offered by other online retailers that have this kind of stuff, and (I won't hide) it makes my Christmas a shade greener, if you catch my meaning.

So, if you're buying a gift or ten for a sports nut, take a quick look at BigFlySports. And DON'T FORGET!! Once you make a purchase, pleasepleaseplease remember to thank yourself and myself by using the promo code VANDY208 and get your free shipping!

October 12, 2007

It just makes no sense.

It's such a shame that the world's leaders have chosen to highlight and commend someone who simply speaks loudly and stands on the tallest soapbox rehashing issues we already know about rather than someone who is actively involved in affecting change in an area that most have ignored.

September 17, 2007

Another great author passes away

Robert Jordan, longtime contributor to the Conan series and creator of the epic Wheel of Time series passed away last night. He'd suffered nearly two years from primary amyloidosis with cardiomyopathy, which reportedly has a very low rate of curing. While my first thoughts went to his family as well as the loss of one of the great fantasy writers, I soon started to realize something terrible.

He never finished the Wheel of Time.

This is tragic for two (ok, many, but I'll only expound on two) reasons -- the first being it was his life's passion, and became one of the cornerstones of modern fantasy. He started it 16 years ago and will never know the satisfaction of seeing it completed or know the reaction of his readers to the final climax. The second is far more selfish. If you've ever read the series, you know that it can drag on (and on and on) at times, and I hate that the payoff (which was building to a great crescendo in the more recent books) won't be coming from his hand. The good news on that front, however, is that it sounds like he has written most of it and has revealed the major plot points to those who will complete the final volume.

That said, though, my selfish regret is a mustard seed compared to the enormity of the void created by his passing.

Rest in peace, Robert -- may your death indeed be lighter than a feather.

September 07, 2007

Madeleine L'Engle, author, passes away.

"If I could comprehend God completely, God wouldn't be worth bothering about. I'm finite, God is infinite; the finite cannot comprehend the infinite. But we get enough glimpses."

Thank you for being one of those glimpses. Rest in peace, Meg.

September 06, 2007

What a long, strange trip, etc. etc.

Good Lord, what a holiday.

The long weekend started with a Fever game for me to cover, since the women had won their way into the WNBA Eastern Conference Finals. I'd tell you how the game went, but you could just as easily look here and read for yourself, now couldn't you? It was a great game, and Bill Laimbeer (who coaches the Detroit Shock these days) is always fun to see on the court, and is even more fun in the interview room.

From there, it was forty winks then off to Nashville to visit my father and cover my second game in 24 hours, only this one ushered in a new era for me -- Vanderbilt football coverage! Well... sort of. See, a few months back, I'd been offered press box credentials at all Vanderbilt football games by Vandymania, one of the two main Vanderbilt fansites. I'd written for them before as a columnist earlier (including a weekly football collaboration with Jay last season), and was very excited about getting that experience for them.

This was all well and good until I got an email from the Vandymania editor asking for links to some of my articles so that they could submit them to the VU athletic dept. to obtain a season press pass. I was surprised by this as I thought this was already taken care of. As it happens, however, the Vandymania press pass had instead been given to someone else, leaving me without. I was extraordinarily disappointed, but, to their credit, the guys at Vandymania did a great job of getting me up in the press box for the Richmond game, though it seemed like I'd be on a game-by-game basis for the rest of the season.

You know, after having covered the Richmond game, not being in the press box might be OK after all. Football reporting is wholly seperate from covering basketball. Where I'd been used to being extraordinarily close to the action with the entirety of the crowd behind me at basketball games, being in the press box for football games is a much more isolated experience. The plays are way far away, and with the air conditioning being on to couter the Southern heat/humidity, every window was shut, blocking out a lot of the crowd/band noise. Being able to see plays develop was nice, but the press box was very professional, meaning reactions to big/great plays were subdued no outright cheering for either team. Fat chance of that happening next week with Bama homers in town, but I digress....

So it turns out that being in the press box just isn't as cracked up as I'd thought it would be. Maybe it'll be different with a bigger opponent, but maybe not. I honestly think I get as much (if not more) out of being in the stands and taking notes. Yes, it will be miserably hot and notes will be harder to take, but it'll FEEL like football again, and I'm not sure if I want to miss out on that feeling for the sake of air conditioning again.

The game went well -- Vanderbilt won thanks in part to a record performance, but for more details... Yeah, I'm a shill.

So Sunday afternoon was for driving down to Jackson to see my mother and grandmother, where thankfully nothing all that eventful happened until we left for Tunica and the casinos therein Monday afternoon. From there the six of us proceeded to gamble for hours on end, some (Grammy) with more success than others (me). I was doing well Monday night, being up about $200 for the night ($100 for the trip) and had a GREAT set of blackjack dealers who simply wanted to give me their money. I didn't end up going to bed until around 4, but was still ahead when I left and looking forward to winning more the next day.

Didn't happen so much. Ran up against cold deck after cold deck, and eventually left with just my slots winnings, which is completely backwards from how it usually goes -- typically I'll fare better on the tables than I would the slots. Oh, well -- I didn't lose more than I could afford and was able to play all weekend -- that's why we go, right?

So, back to Jackson Tuesday, where we pick up the car from the dealer with new brakes and rotors -- my car feels weird now; it doesn't shimmy when I try to stop! Wednesday comes and it's another 7 hours in the car to Indianapolis, back home again. In Indiana. Sheesh. 900 miles and 14 hours driving, another 250 miles and 4 hours riding, all in the span of five days. My plan to go to this week-ends Alabama game at Vanderbilt is officially shot.