The US women have won another World Cup in front of a packed house and a worldwide audience. Megan Rapino, Alex Morgan. Tea sipping. Science wielding. Standing in statuesque form. Underpaid and kneeling, not going to the bleeping white house. These was the rambunctious group. The group that stood up and said the nation would take them as they were, because they were going to win and they were going to win their way. Then they did.
Afterward, I saw picture of Brandi Chastain along with Jessica Chastain, and the image brought back a bit I wrote twenty years ago (in those ancient days when we had hand-coded web journals rather than slick little blogs…my how the world has changed in some places).
Back in that day, Chastain’s image of unadulterated joy was for me one of proof. She had done it. They had done it. “Momentary insanity … I just lost my mind. I thought, my god, this is the greatest moment of my life on the soccer field,” was the quote that stuck with me.
Looking back, as a somewhat distant observer of the sport and its social status, Brandi Chastain’s team was one what showed the US women belonged, that their story was on par with any other sports story in the world. The teams that followed were as good or better, and carried the aura of normalization—that, while the US men’s team waxed and waned, the women were always there, fielding some of the best athletes in the world.
I’m less than a casual supporter these days. I’ve been busy, and barely watched any of this year’s event, but I’ve paid attention, following twitter stuff and media narratives (which we know is dangerous, right?). I saw the president’s attempt to horn in on their attention. The team’s righteous indignation at it. The inane controversy about their celebrations. Among it all, though, the thing I found most interesting was the people following the team—the supporters, who are passionate, young, and diverse.
This was their team. Their sport. And in following it, they showed that this is their country, too—that they were aware of what the team was doing in ways that even many in the media still don’t seem to fully comprehend.
Their numbers have grown, and their reaction to the players is more nuanced. For them this team was more than a collection of players with a shared goal. For them it seemed this team was a group of people who transcended the sport to define a moment in time. When I read the tea leaves left behind, I think that, for them, this team was a statement that was really quite simple, and really quite powerful.
We are ourselves. We are together. And, therefore, we are great.