Joshua Roberts: A Cup connection

How the U.S. women’s team convinced a soccer idiot of the sport’s legitimacy

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Joshua Roberts

Rhetoric, ramblings and other non-sensical statements:

  1. They’re called soccer hooligans for a reason, right?
  2. We’re also fond of boxing, and have a growing affinity for UFC. Seeing one man scramble another’s brain … now that’s entertainment.
  3. Algorithm: a set of rules or steps to solve mathematical problems, program a computer, etc. Source: Ask Jeeves.
  4. That maternal unit-mandated stint as a 6-year-old goalie on the Orange Crush team aside.
  5. Went for a wedding.
  6. Most beautiful place in Colorado.
  7. The car museum includes a Pontiac Firebird Trans Am that looks exactly like the one in “Smokey and the Bandit” (Awesome, yeah?).
  8. Discussion included commentary on the following Facebook post: “Josh Roberts: Vows to only attend weddings via Skype from now on.”
  9. Quotes that appear in this column are exact statements, by best recollection, or entirely fabricated.
  10. Dude’s hair was troll doll-like.
  11. Hope she doesn’t read this ^ line.
  12. Also lost due to time: a trip to Arby’s.
  13. Does Subway still have punch cards?
  14. Praying she doesn’t read that line.
  15. The delivery was flawed.
  16. Yep, that’s a shameful pandering line from a Kansas City Chiefs fan to a pro-Broncos crowd.
  17. Are Chuck-E-Cheeses still around, and if so, are tokens still the standard form of currency?
  18. Technically, I think the game ended at 2 (3) to 2 (1) Japan, but I’m not sure. Additional clarification: research of any kind will also be absent from this column.
  19. In case you hated this piece, Tebow > Orton.

It’s a foreign concept to me, this strange sport called soccer.

I’ve read it’s the most popular game in the world, and maybe there’s some truth behind the title, given the ruffian nature of some fans (1), but forgive me, global community, for not exactly picking up what you were putting down.

Call me an ugly American, if you’d like.

Here, the interest is football, basketball and baseball (2). Our culture wants action. We want 75-yard touchdown passes, dunks on the break, homeruns that double as a second moon and guys after the guy who hit the dinger to be plunked on his hind parts.

Soccer, with its steady pace, low scoring, and timekeeping system that requires an algorithm (3) to decipher, hasn’t ever made the cut. At least it hadn’t for me (4).

Until Sunday.

After a weekend at Gateway Canyons Resort (5, 6 and 7), Lady Friend and I rolled into Grand Junction to see her parents on the way home to Craig. After some idle chitchat (8), we started paying attention to the television, volume down low, broadcasting the U.S. women’s duel with Japan in the World Cup final.

According to the scoreboard, the teams had played 9,567 minutes by the time we started paying attention, or, as Lady Friend’s father put it, “The players are the daughters of women who started the tournament … in 1996 (9).” The score enticed interest — it was 0-0 — or in the soccer world, an offensive outburst.

We turned the volume up.

The more we watched, the more we got into the game. We replaced they when referring to the Yanks, and us couch pilots began plotting strategy in hopes of channeling our suggestions across the pond to the Frankfurt, Germany arena to the U.S. coach.

Tension crept in the game, and it became easier to appreciate two teams playing hard with a championship on the line.

Late in the final, Alex Morgan of the U.S. fired a bullet past the Japanese goaltender (10 and 11), putting the Americans on the board, 1-0. Back in Junction, we cheered and braced for seeing our country’s players hoist the World Cup, a nice and patriotic element to a quiet Sunday.

Then, as swiftly as our players had gained it, momentum was gone.

Japan slid one past U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo, who until then had welded an iron lid over the American net. With the score knotted 1-1, the game headed to extra minutes, and it was impossible for Lady Friend and I to forfeit watching the rest of the game and begin the trip back home (12).

More things happened in the game our soccer illiterate Junction group couldn’t grasp. We made wild guesses about the intricacies of the overtime period, shootout, substitutions, red cards, yellow cards, greeting cards, Subway cards (13) … you name it.

I made a crack about the referee looking like Ivan Drago from “Rocky 4 (14),” and another about the game being decided by a three-legged sack race if it was still tied after the shootout. Apprehension or the lame comedic attempts (15) made the jokes fall flat.

But, something strange happened in those extra minutes — my national pride in the U.S. team and an appreciation for soccer bloomed.

No matter the sport, no matter the endeavor or activity, there’s one trait I’ve always placed above all others — heart. It’s why I can never root for LeBron James, or why a knob like Jay Cutler (16) will never win a title. Guys like James and Cutler are billion dollar talents with Chuck E. Cheese (17) token tickers.

Heart wasn’t a problem for the U.S. team, wasn’t a problem for Abby Wambach, either.

She scored on a header in the extra minutes off a pinpoint feed from Morgan. Japan tied it again with only a few minutes separating the U.S. from Cup glory, and the game headed to the shootout.

Once more, Wambach played Mrs. Captain America.

She snapped a rope past the Japanese keeper, providing the only scoring punch for the Americans in the shootout. The game ended as a 5-3 Japan win (18).

With so much invested in getting so far, with so narrow a gap separating the U.S. from winning, you’d think the Americans would have been more upset at losing, angry even.

But, they didn’t act that way, didn’t propel the myth of spoiled boorish Americans peeved about runner-up status.

They acted in defeat like they had in victory — with class, dignity, and grace. They acted with sportsmanship.

They congratulated the Japanese players and consoled each other as teammates. They were an example of what sports should be, how teams should be unified, win or lose. Even as a bandwagon viewer thousands of miles away, I was moved by the purity of it.

Hopefully I wasn’t the only one. Millions watched at home, including presidents.

That moment of defeat was when our team shined brightest. They were our teachers, our ambassadors. They competed with all they had, left everything on the field, and they did so for victory and country rather than riches.

There’s nobility in that.

Our team lost, but all who watched gained. We received an uplifting lesson, and I consider that a compliment to both this game many don’t understand and the women who play it.

That legacy, to me at least, is far more enduring than any championship ever could be (19).

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Comments

TSnyder 3 years, 1 month ago

If you want to see the same amount of heart, sportsmanship and comraderie, attend a MCHS girls' soccer in the spring!!

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