By Brandon Niles
Excitement fills my small office, which normally houses a gruff ambience, fitting of a construction company in the south. Names like Hope Solo and Alex Morgan have been uttered with exuberance in recent days, though foreign to most Americans only a short while ago. The enthusiasm all around America surrounding the Women’s World Cup soccer tournament has been inspiring, as the U.S. team ascends to the finals.
Americans traditionally have not been highly supportive of soccer as a national sport, and they’ve been even less supportive of women’s athletics as a whole. The WNBA, women’s NCAA events, the LPGA, and other sports have long been vastly under appreciated when compared to their male dominated counterparts. The WNBA in particular has drawn criticism from NBA fans, many calling it a drain on the league and a worthless endeavor. However, despite the traditionally poor support for this type of event, Americans have rallied strongly around the women’s world cup. Perhaps this is because it’s an opportunity to see America succeed on an international scale. Maybe it has something to do with the negativity around the U.S. economy and the polarization in American politics. Whatever the reason though, these talented young women have given an entire country something to captivate them this summer.
The excitement in my office continues as a result of the U.S. women’s soccer team beating France to get into the World Cup finals. This comes after an exhilarating and heroic victory over Brazil in the quarterfinals on Sunday, which was easily the most thrilling soccer event I’ve ever seen. The victory over France, while not as nail-biting as the one on Sunday, just adds fuel to the massive support the team has been getting around the nation.
Since this tournament started, media outlets have increasing footage of streets and bars filled with chants of U-S-A! U-S-A! Discussions about red cards and yellow cards and the validity of officiating, usually reserved for the Super Bowl, have echoed in the halls of offices and surrounding water coolers. The country has truly embraced this talented young team of world-class athletes, and the state of sports is better for it.
In a time when two of the most popular sports (football and basketball) are in labor negotiations, the economy is struggling, college sports scandals are emerging, and people have become disenfranchised with the money connected to professional athletes, it’s refreshing to see a group of players who love the game; striving to be the best in the world, simply for that distinction. I think Americans can feel that drive, feel that passion for the game, and I think it’s filling a hole in the hearts of American people.
Even if the U.S. team doesn’t win it all this coming weekend, the pride and excitement that the stars of women’s soccer have brought to the spectators of America is worth every moment of training and dedication that has been put into it. So to the players, while we may not sweat with you on the field, and we may not travel to bear witness, feel the warmth coming from Americans everywhere. Hear our chants as we support you in your final endeavor. And above all, our sincerest thanks for bringing purity and wonder back to sports.