It may be hard to believe amid all the steroid talk and the ubiquitous post-Super Bowl hangover*, but there actually exists some positive developments in the world of sports. No joke.
(*It's been - what - eight days since Super Bowl XLIII and we're talking about the condition of Ben Roethlisberger's ribs. Obsessed much, America?)
Yes, Women's Professional Soccer has released its 2009 season schedule, and with it, the hope and promise of even more pro soccer for us to savor.
In a way, I'm actually looking forward to the WPS season than the MLS season. Call me crazy. But there's something about the first season of WPS that appeals to my journalistic antennae. It could be the whole idea that each of these players carries a common goal: to help the league succeed. And there's something admirable in that, not unlike the mission set forth by the first MLS players 13 years ago.
Okay, I won't lie. It's also because I want to be part of this first season in some shape or form. To tell my grandkids that Vovô was there when it all began. Call me a media gadfly. I won't apologize for that. Besides, I missed the first seasons of MLS because my journalistic sense was, shall we say, pretty awful.* Hey, I was still bumming rides to school and eating cafeteria ravioli back then.
(*Yep, I failed tenth grade English. Real journalists just don't fail English. Ever. That's like an actuary failing math. Or a soccer player failing free period.)
So to me, there's something remarkable about watching this first season of WPS. For many of these players, this is their first taste of pro sports. Alot of them probably won't be good with cliches.* In addition to training and travelling, they also have the task of trying to covert the women's soccer Gentiles. It isn't just an ordinary season - it's a crucial five-month stretch that will likely determine whether this league will succeed in years to come or fall flat on its face.
(*Thank God. During the course of my very first MLS player interview, the player - who will remain anonymous - unleashed the cliche hounds on me. It wasn't one after another. It was like six dozen followed by six dozen more. At the time, I was too nervous to even notice. But a few years later, in hindsight, I noticed that he couldn't provide me a single original thought. Thanks alot. Flake.)
On a personal note, I cannot help but root for these women. I'm sure the vast majority of them would likely earn far more utilizing their college degrees. However, they're playing doing this for something greater. Something far more rewarding than a 9-5 office job. Perhaps they're doing this in the spirit of a concept that has been lost - even tarnished - by many of today's professional athletes. For love of the game.
It's funny, because upon reflection, WPS is already an escape for me. A great way to duck all of the persistent evils in modern sports. Drugs. Cheating. Gambling. Arrests. It's a list that never seems to end. And luckily, WPS will serve as more than just a soccer league. It'll serve as a safe haven for those of us who've lost our faith in today's professional athlete.
For I highly doubt you'll find any steroid scandals, criminal endeavors, or public mudslinging in WPS. For the most part, it will just be about the game. It'll be about discovering some of the world's best female soccer players - which, in case you haven't noticed, are pretty darn good. It'll be about the return of an innocence that so many professional (even college) sports have lost during the course of my lifetime. WPS, to me, is a league with a host of players that I can believe in, much like MLS.
Belief. Remember when it was easy to believe that an athlete valued this wonderful concept called honor? That it went without saying. The honor of playing with integrity. Honesty. Fairness. Let me tell you, that belief hasn't died. I'm optimistic that such a belief will not only live, but thrive in WPS.
And because of that, I couldn't be more thrilled about this league.