Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Random Thoughts: US WNT/Norway

If the U.S. WNT were an actual club team with a home stadium and regular opponents, I would definitely buy season tickets. The team is just so good, and yet so approachable off the field that you can't help but root for them.

To expand upon that little alternate-reality idea, should they ever decide to stake claim to a home stadium, the appropriate measures should be taken to ensure that it doesn't become Rentschler Field. Good grief, I have yet to visit a more utilitarian, let's-skimp-on-the-amenities type facility on the East Coast (must have been 100% taxpayer funded). The lines for food during halftime were painfully long, the back-less bench seats were enough to warrant an appointment to see the chiropractor, and the drab concrete surroundings certainly did not lend itself well to the atmosphere. It's like someone stole the blueprints from the old Foxboro Stadium - a stadium constructed back in 1970 and demolished in 2002, mind you - and constructed a "Mini-Me" of Foxboro.Yikes.

Those gold jerseys are growing on me. When they were first unveiled last month, I wasn't impressed at all, since I'm not a firm believer in metallic-toned apparel. But seeing them in person, and allowing myself sufficient time to get used to them, has changed my opinion of them. I'm liking them!

Speaking of gold jerseys, the only player jersey available at the souvenir stands were Abby Wambach #20 models. Obviously, Abby's a great player and she deserves to have her jersey be the one available to the kiddies, but, did anyone think that it might also be a good idea to sell Kristine Lilly jerseys on "Kristine Lilly Day"?

And, one last thing on jerseys: if it's wrong for me to, as a 26-year-old heterosexual male, sport a #11 Carli Lloyd jersey, then I don't wanna be right.

Sometime around the 78th minute, the crowd began to chant "U-S-A, U-S-A!" and thereafter, responded loudly to a few unflattering calls on our players with resounding boos and hissing. My hope is that the high energy and enormity of this fan response can be replicated at WUSA club venues next season.

Speaking of WUSA, it's an absolute treat watching Kristine Lilly perform, and I can't wait to watch her play regularly for the Boston Breakers next year. Simply, amazing. I have yet to witness, in person, one player - male or female - pretty much single-handedly influence a game as much as I have in the two WNT games I've taken in this year (the other being 4/15 at Foxboro). I know I'm repeating this, but she is simply in class all by herself.

I know manager Greg Ryan is using these friendlies to experiment prior to the World Cup in the Fall, but the lack of crosses from corner kicks vs. Norway after the U.S. had been dominating in the air, definitely grabbed my attention. However, when the lone goal of the match comes from a short pass off a corner, I'm not inclined to make a huge deal of it.

You won't see it in the stats, but Cat Whitehill had a tremendous game, with two critical clears in the waning minutes.

Finally, I'm going to run into a little bit of a spiel here, but indulge me for however long it takes for you to read this.

First of all, is there not a better family-friendly atmosphere in sports than a US WNT match? In addition to world-class soccer played, I was absolutely tickled to see so many families with their girls and boys in their club soccer jerseys, all watching the game with so much interest. Sitting in front of me were three pre-teen girls enthusiastically cheering Abby Wambach, while a father behind me was explaining set-pieces to her daughter. Bar none, some of the most delightful moments I've ever witnessed at a sporting event.

Additionally, when I have kids (scary thought, especially after watching Knocked Up), I am going to steer them in the direction of the WNT in their formative years when they start developing the concept of sports role models. While parents should be the first and foremost role models in any child's life, it's inevitable that children also look outward at celebrities and sports figures in finding people to admire.

The WNT is a parent's dream when it comes to role models: strong, fit, and personable athletes that work hard and play well unquestionably serve as exemplary sports role models for today’s young girls. The constant negative light in which such less-than-stellar celebrities like Paris Hilton and Britney Spears lends itself further to the need for positive female role models. Forget the Olsen twins and Lindsay Lohan - if I ever have a daughter, I hope she looks toward the WNT rather than the trashy celebrity escapades of spoiled Hollywood starlets.

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