In the United States, there’s a euphoria that swirls around the U.S. women’s national team during major tournaments that is difficult to comprehend, especially when juxtaposed against the relative lack of euphoria that exists between tournaments.
It’s almost like a long-term relationship where you only tell someone they really matter on birthdays and Valentine’s Day. They know they’re being taken for granted, waved in front of friends and colleagues like a trophy in a beautiful dress, selfishly celebrated only during moments of triumph with the faux-zest of someone who likes to look like they care when the light is shining. Few would question if they decided to walk away. But they can’t, because let’s face it, they’re in love with the game. And so we continue to use them for their love.
The U.S. women’s soccer team is the only legendary national program in U.S. soccer. That is, if legendary status is a product of consistent dominance against the world’s best. They’ve won four gold medals and a silver at the Olympics since 1996. They’ve won two World Cups since the inaugural tournament in 1991 and have come in second or third place during every other World Cup. Given the team’s historical dominance and their immense profile over the years, their inability to consistently exist in a meaningful way outside of major tournament play is not just baffling, but telling of our societal stance on women in sports.
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Four men sat around a scratched wooden table in silence, sipping chai lattes and periodically shifting uncomfortably in worn wooden seats that looked as if they belonged in an early 20th-century middle school study hall. They had been avoiding eye contact even though they were all more than familiar with each other.
Exasperated with the silence, one man finally spoke up as he clumsily stripped off an orange Nike warm up jacket. “Look, this is not comfortable, but we must talk about this, no?”
His three tablemates nodded.
Robin Van Persie continued, “We have all made sacrifices before. You, nine years ago. I remember the stories they told about you when you moved from Lisbon. It was the season before I moved to Arsenal. When I heard your name, I would stop what I was doing and listen.”