New York City Hall is the epicenter for today’s U.S. Women’s World Cup celebration, and I can feel the energy as I sit less than three miles away from it, watching the television coverage, typing away. Flash mobs have assembled all along lower Manhattan’s parade route, young women in their Lloyd and Morgan jerseys, their hair pulled back in pink headbands.
This is what the next generation of American soccer looks like. And it’s freaking awesome.
Twenty-one years ago, the same type of seismic event happened for American boys. The men’s World Cup, for the first time played here on our soil. I had just turned 15, and was transfixed to that ’94 U.S. team. Tony Meola manning the goal, Cobi Jones’ dreadlocks flowing, Alexi Lalas’ crazy orange beard glowing. Even those loud denim-looking stars and bars jerseys were purely American, and purely radical.
We had no chance of winning that World Cup. It was a minor miracle to even get out of the group stage. But I watched every game, collected their trading cards, wished I could be inside Giants Stadium for just one minute of one match, because it looked so damn fun.
That summer I became a soccer lifer. I had played growing up, but a childhood hobby instantly became an adult interest. I love the sport, watch the growth closely, defend it when I can. Years ago, there was a lot more defending from the simpletons that dismissed it as communist or socialist or… whatever. We, as American soccer fans, often didn’t help our cause. We were defensive, and sensitive, and looking for a fight because the fight was all around. You call me a commie pansy. I call you a redneck neanderthal. Nothing gets solved. No one is giving an inch. Everyone hates one another.
We’re better now. For those that still want to throw grenades into the soccer discussion, (“It’s boring. There’s not enough scoring. Other countries are better.”) you obviously have a point. It can be boring. Few people enjoy scoreless draws. Germany, Italy, Brazil are likely always going to be better. They have approximately a century’s head start, and almost none of their best athletes are siphoned off to a million other sports.
But the soccer haters now just feel like amusing relics from a distant decade, like Zach Morris’ brick phone, the controversy over the lambada, and 2 Live Crew being censored. You can’t help but laugh.
NYC FC just paid $100 million to join MLS as an expansion team. NBC Sports spent $250 million just to broadcast EPL games. EA Sports’ FIFA is one of the best-selling video game franchises of all-time. Messi and Ronaldo jerseys litter elementary and middle schools. It’s not just patriotism anymore. The nation is spending money, lots of it, on soccer.
I love football. I love soccer. They’re not mutually exclusive. I grew up in a household watching the NFL with my dad every Sunday. My mom always advocated female empowerment, and my sister embraced that philosophy. So today’s parade doesn’t surprise me because it’s a nation doting over a group of successful women. It doesn’t surprise me because we had 25 million people watch a soccer match last Sunday (the same number as Game 7 of the World Series and Game 6 of the NBA Finals). It surprises me that anyone would think this day was still so impossible.
This women’s team was extraordinary to watch. They were galvanized and motivated by losses in ’03, ’07, and ’11. They had old vets, and a new class, perfectly melded together. They had living legends, and social media superstars, and wide-eyed rookies. They were on a mission. And delivered in amazing fashion.
It’s the circle of sports life. Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan, and Abby Wambach were inspired by Mia Hamm, Brandi Chastain and Julie Foudy 15 years ago. The next generation of American soccer stars, and empowered women, are painting their faces today and cheering along the Canyon of Heroes or in front of their televisions.
And you gotta admit, it’s freaking awesome.
D.A. hosts 6-10pm ET on the CBS Sports Radio Network. He has hosted The D.A. Show (aka “The Mothership”) in Boston, Miami, Kansas City and Ft. Myers, FL. You can often catch him on the NFL Network’s series “Top 10.” D.A. graduated from Syracuse University in ’01, and began looking for ways to make a sports radio show into a quirky 1970’s sci-fi television series. Follow D.A. on Twitter and check out the show’s Facebook page. D.A. lives in NYC, and is a native of Warwick, NY.