I personally know nothing about soccer. But my 10 year-old daughter has been glued to the Women's World Cup games, and -- since last Sunday's nail-biter against Brazil -- I have too.
My daughter is a hard-working, eager player on an girls travel team in Washington D.C. that practices three to four times each week, and soccer is her world. She only wears soccer clothing, even when she is not playing. She is in the midst of four weeks of soccer camp. Her coaches encouraged all the girls to watch the games that aired during the weekend, and to ask their parents to record the games that took place during the week. As far as my daughter is concerned, having soccer viewing as "homework" was a welcome task.
Given the dramatic nature of this year's world cup, we all went into the weekend pretty pumped up to see the U.S. Women's Team win the world cup. Even my mother -- who knows even less about sports than I do -- was glued to yesterday's game. With the U.S. displaying superior skill and dominating the game in terms of possession and shots on goal, their victory seemed due. And yet, every time the U.S. scored, it seemed as if viewers and announcers (including Brandi Chastain of bra bearing fame from the last U.S. Women's champion team in 1999) alike knew, deep down, that Japan would come back. The Japanese team's average height was only 5'4''. Their prior record against the U.S. was 21 losses, zero wins. They entered and experienced the game as the quintessential underdogs.
And yet, consider that the magnificent women on Japan's team were shown photographs of the earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan in March killing upwards of 22,000. Sometimes, when you are fighting for something bigger and more important than the game itself, anything is possible. Each goal scored by Japan came just moments before they would have lost. To those of us watching, it seemed like one of the most dramatic games in sports history. And when the U.S. superstar goalie, Hope Solo, hurt her knee in overtime, the remote chance of a Japanese victory began to seem possible.
What was most striking about this game was not the incredible sportswomanship on both sides, the magnificent displays of athletic superstardom, or the unbelievable tension and drama throughout the game. What was by far most striking was the reaction of the Japanese women when they won. There was no shoulder carrying, no shirts removed, no grand gestures. They lay on the ground, they hugged one another, and they seemed genuinely humbled by their victory.
The extent to which a group of young women brought hope to Japan was so moving, so palpable, that even the biggest of U.S. fans, my daughter, was happy for them!