Tuesday, September 19, 2017

US Women Soccer Superstars - Victims of Their Own Success

With the imminent retirement of long-time veterans Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy, and Joy Fawcett from the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team, I often find myself thinking how fortunate my family has been to witness their heroics on the field and their positive influence off of it.

But stands out as a very different experience from the first game we saw.

I attended a soccer match between Brazil and the United States Women's National Team in New Orleans with my daughter, last summer. It was a terrific game with loads of action on a gorgeous, sunny day, and the U.S. Team won on a Tiffeny Milbrett goal in the 90th minute. It was a bittersweet experience.

It was a lovely "father and daughter" 42-hour trip from our home in St. Petersburg, Florida to New Orleans and back again. We talked, we laughed, and we listened to the music of each other for 1393 miles in the vehicle and every one of those 20 hours. We visited Bourbon Street at the Cafe du Monde and night for breakfast.

However, the focus of our journey was to see our football heroes in action. That's right, I said OUR heroes. Ever since that night in February of 1996 when we saw our National Team play these women became my heroes every bit as much as my brothers' heroes.

I remember being their enthusiasm for the game -- their strength, their abilities, and awestruck as I saw them for the first time. However, it was after the match, which I was won over as a fan.

Before that day, Nicole, my younger daughter, asked me if she should bring her Official U.S. Women's National Team Calendar for autographs. My reply - "This is our National Team with the best players on the planet. I truly doubt you will find some autographs," I said. "With the rainy weather, you do not need to destroy your calendar, but also bring your autograph book, just in case."

I could not believe my eyes after the game ended. Where roughly 1,900 spectators waited each and every participant came over to the bleachers. Were they prepared to sign autographs, but THE PLAYERS HAD THEIR OWN EACH PENS! They spoke with the fans and they seemed to enjoy doing this. We were hooked.

Since that time, we have been extremely fortunate to see some of the most important games: the 1996 Olympic Gold Medal game in Atlanta, the historic 1999 Women's World Cup Championship game in Los Angeles, as well as Mia Hamm's record-breaking second for career goals in Orlando in 1999.

We have had several experiences with all the players, such as clinics and we attended a few training sessions. Five decades ago, while Leah was employed as a junior reporter for the St. Petersburg Times, she wrote five attributes for its weekly X-Press Page for children.

On the way, Leah interviewed even and every team member Head Coach Tony DiCicco. At age twelve, she wrote a book to encourage readers, and also to share her experience, encourage the values she learned in the group! It was published last year and has earned very positive customer reviews at Amazon.com.

Our commitment to the Women's National Team runs deep. As a family, football was a force since Nicole and Leah played. This game has provided memories to us, as participants and as spectators.

So you may wonder, was it bittersweet to see our team after over four decades of nothing but games that are televised? The majority of the players were the same, and they had the exact same intensity.

However, this time, the group had broken through. Ever them cheer . They played using a live television audience and a horde of media members, in front of 15,000 spectators.

They enjoyed the fruits of their years of labour. Their dreams of a couple years back, of being recognized, playing in front of crowds, was realized - . For them to enjoy their success, we wanted nothing more than to be given their due. Now they're currently living like the superstars they've always been screaming for autographs and hanging out in their hotel lobby. Easy accessibility is gone. Understanding and recognizing that has been an eye-opener.

Before he rocketed to fame and glory imagine being a Bruce Springsteen fan from the Stone Pony days. You had an opportunity to speak to him even hang out with him. While you knew you wanted him to reach the rarefied atmosphere of superstardom, once he did and he was something special, your little secret was out. No casual talks. No more. You're lucky to find an ticket at the seats from a scalper.
But such as Bruce, of course, try as they might, everyone cans satisfy. They carry their pens but there are media requirements that are raised.

Forward Cindy Parlow and Mia Hamm were the first to be interviewed by the media while goalkeeper Briana Scurry did the ESPN interview that day in New Orleans, followed by forward Tiffeny Milbrett, Head Coach April Heinrichs, and defender Brandi Chastain. With 15,000 fans, it was not possible to accommodate every enthusiast, although the remaining players signed autographs.

Leah didn't attempt to get autographs that day. She has lots, and on that day, we had field photograph credentials. Not only is autograph-collecting taboo for "objective" journalists, but our memories of this match will be in the photos we captured.

Following the game, as the players boarded the bus, I saw a group official is approached by one woman. She was ranting and raving that her daughter did not get any autographs and that she had driven five hours to bring her daughter. The team official clarified that the players signed autographs for a half hour INSIDE.

Apparently, this woman and were led home empty-handed and her daughter was positioned in the place. As she stormed off, she cried, "BOOO Women's National Team!! I will never come to a different game! BOOO!"

I'm other fans left disappointed with a couple of or too autographs. I am sure the experience of this woman will be replicated during the Celebration Tour of the current Fan and at games also.

Our National Team players are victims of their own achievement. After working to develop their fan support, it's simply impossible for them to continue to be available and provide every fan who needs you with autographs.

So if you're fortunate enough in some other games in the future or to see our National Team play, go to enjoy the intensity the ability and the passion these athletes put in their effort. If you do, and are lucky get an autograph or two.

Should youn't get any autographs however, you shouldn't be let down. And you need to forewarn your children that it may not be possible this time around, which will lessen their disappointment.

Finally, as you are driving home, take advantage of the chance to focus with your children on the positive values (hard work, devotion, perseverance) these extraordinary athletes exemplify. Those are lessons we all should want our kids to learn.

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