Sunday, August 12, 2012

Observations from the Couch 8.12.1

This probably isn't the last post of Katie2012, I have a couple started that I want to finish, but it's kind of important if you want to understand how this suddenly became a sports blog. I said at the beginning how much I love the Olympics because of the sports but it is always at the end that remember other reasons. One of my least favorite traits is that I can be terribly emotional and along with that I can be terribly sentimental. As long as I can remember I watched the Olympics, it was just what we did as a family, and whenever they end I'm just a little sad because it's four years to the next and who knows what will happen in those years. I can tear up watching the damn highlight show as I wait to watch the closing ceremonies I already watched live online.

Maybe deep down I'm just a big, well tall, kid again.

Of course there are other less emotional reasons too. For two weeks the news in it's many forms is dominated but sports and smiling faces making it easy to get lost in the games and barely notice that Willard picked wingnut Ryan as his running mate. It sounds corny but the nations of the world compete and no blood is shed, unless you happened to watch the field hockey gold medal game. Athletes from around the globe laugh, cry, and share their dreams as we at home argue, clap, yell, stomp our feet, and throw an occasional remote at the wall. The world just seems a much better place when medal counts are more important than body counts.

Than the flame is extinguished, the spirit fades, and the realization comes that the world really hasn't changed at all. Or has it?

In London ten openly gay athletes won medals, including seven gold, so if gay were a country it would have come in 31st in the final medal standings. They included Seimone Augustus of the U.S. women's basketball team, Megan Rapinoe of the U.S. women's soccer team, whose coach Pia Sundhage is also gay, and English rider Carl Hester with gold medals. Judith Arndt, a German cyclist, won a silver medal while Edward Gal of the Netherlands and Lisa raymond of the U.S. won bronze medals. I'm especially prould of Marilyn Agliotti, Carlien Dirkse van den Heuvel, Kim Lammers, and Maartje Paumen of the gold medal winning field hockey team from the Netherlands.

Maybe the world did change if ever so slightly. Still, it is changing.

Observations from the Couch 8.12

Three hundred and eighty-nine days, 389 days after the U.S. women's soccer team lost to Japan in the World Cup they found redemption at the Olympics by defeating the same Japan team 2-1 and winning the gold medal. The American team had played six games in sixteen days in three different cities and won the gold in front of 80,203 spectators in Wembley Stadium, home of the English national 'football' team. It was the largest crowd ever to watch a women's soccer game in Great Britain or at any Olympics games. The win even earned them a tweet from President Barack Obama who signs his personal tweets bo.

My MVP of the team has to be goalkeeper Hope Solo and it has nothing to do with her cute butt. At one point in the tournament Solo, arguably the best keeper the team has ever had, strung together 368 minutes of shutout soccer in the net. Solo was also one of only three women at the Olympics to play every minute of every game for her country and allowed only six goals doing it. She came through for the team when the only options available were gold medal or failure. She now has two Olympic gold medals and a Golden Glove award as the best goalie at last years World Cup.

The team will play a series of exhibition games this fall but what comes after that is anybody's guess because both the player's association's and coach Pia Sundhage's contracts run out at the end of this year. With no major international competition until the 2015 World Cup and no major women's professional league in the U.S. it will be hard to keep the team together in its current form. Seven of the eleven starters are currently listed on the roster as having no club affiliation, none of Japan's were listed that way, so you can't blame any of them for going overseas to play at a high level.

Defender Heather Mitts, who is 34 and has three Olympic gold medals, announced her retirement after the game Friday. Captain Christie Rampone, who is 37, a mother of two, and the only American to have played in four Olympics and four World Cups, has mentioned the possibility as well. Hope Solo, Amy LePeilbet, Carli Lloyd, Shannon Boxx and Abby Wambach are also all over the age of thirty. Still it's a deep team with Alex Morgan, Sydney Leroux, Lauren Cheney, Tobin Heath and Kelley O’Hara are all under the age of 25 and the NCAA brimming with prospects.

Last year's World Cup and this Olympics showed how the rest of the world has caught the U.S. in women's soccer, a sport the team has owned from its birth. Japan, France, and Canada all had awesome tournaments but in the end London also proved something else. Once again the Americans are at the pinnacle and the team to beat in women's soccer.

"We filled Wembley Stadium, and you're telling me there is no league to play in?" Solo said after the game. Seems what Forbes Magazine called "the most compelling team in American sports" deserves at least that.