Monday, July 8, 2019

Long Live the Queens! (U.S. Women Rule the World Cup)

They did it!

Dang, this team is a great team.

When it comes to the world stage, the United States Women's National Team is, arguably, the "team of the decade," not only in the beautiful game of soccer, not only out of all U.S.A. teams, but just THE Team of the Decade. Period.

It's just my opinion. It's a little bit of what fans do, in sports, when they humorously put on a just-for-fun show of "smack talk." (So take it easy, Italian friends; this is all in the spirit of nice American fun. Capito?😉)

And, yes, I'm biased. Of course!

Note also that I said "the world stage" - which means international play, so don't be talkin' 'bout your New England Patriots here. (😉)

I'm also referring to exclusively team sports, not sports that have "team" and "individual" events (e.g. track, swimming, gymnastics - where we have seen some awesome individual and team performances).

Have I made sufficient qualifications? Probably not. Or perhaps too much? It's the occupational hazard of the philosopher: we can't say anything without a mountain of qualifications.

So I'll say it simply: FC United States Women's National Team is the Team of the Decade. They are the great team of international competition in the 2010-2019 era.

What makes a team "great"? Well, winning is certainly a big part of it. Skill is a big part of it. But, let me speak personally - as a fan, who was a hapless player of every team sport in my youth but who nevertheless kept trying, who had better luck with golf and distance running but didn't stick with those sports, whose best sport through the years has been fishing, who grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the 1970s (the significance of this should be obvious ... #SteelCurtain #Franco #MeanJoeGreene #FourSuperBowls #LetsGoBucs #Clemente #Stargell #WeAreFamily), who is now a happy fan of the sporting efforts and accomplishments of my children from basketball to volleyball to karate and - I'm happy to say - girls' soccer.

What makes a team "great"? Intangibles (all the little clutch plays that no one even notices). Dedication. Hard work. Cohesion.

And also, personalities (some inspiring, others peculiar or "colorful" - a great team is not the same thing as a choir of angels and saints). Their personalities are "on the table," but they know how to pull together. Between games and seasons, there can be friction even to the point of drama, as long as they are able to rise above it on the playing field (or "the pitch," as it's known in soccer).

Then there's a kind of indescribable magic that sparkles when they play together and that catches fire sometimes, unpredictably, often enough in the big moments of games, so that you're always on the edge of your seats. You know that anything can happen. Over the course of a decade, you find that you have collected a whole bunch of memories of epic, jaw-dropping, heart-stopping moments when beautiful, wonderful things happened.

A great team is exciting. They win big, but even when they lose, they pour their hearts out so that you can't help loving them even more. You also know that they'll be back.

Team of the Decade. Players come and go over the course of ten years, though there are usually a few who remain to carry the banner of continuity. Individual players have their various problems, opinions, situations, attitudes, whatever. But this is strictly about the game. It's about how they run and and pass and kick, how they play together, how they make things happen on the pitch.

The Janaro family enjoys watching sports, and we have had a lot of fun being fans. Not everybody likes every sport, but we do appreciate "the big stages," especially the Olympics and the World Cup.

In recent years, the women's soccer team has been consistently amazing and inspiring, from the dazzling comebacks and heartbreaking loss in the final of World Cup 2011 to Olympic gold in 2012 and then to back-to-back World Cup championships in 2015 and 2019. This year's team was a juggernaut. They were on the level of the 1927 New York Yankees, and they made sure their opponents knew it. I didn't think they were being cocky. They were confident and they enjoyed playing the game. They took their opponents seriously, so that even if they didn't play their best game, they found what it took to win.

Of course, the Washington Capitals' championship run in 2018 was our all-time sports high point as a family (even though not everyone likes hockey). Mom, John Paul, and Teresa even went to the victory celebration on the Mall. But over the course of the decade, the Caps (and the Nationals in baseball) have given us plenty of disappointments too.

The Women's soccer team has rocked the whole decade. We want to shout out a huge "thank you!" to all the champions past and present, to Abby Wambach, Megan Rapinoe, Christine Rampone, Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan, Hope Solo (hush! - she was an incredible, insanely good goalkeeper!), Ali Krieger, Crystal Dunn, Becky Sauerbrunn, Tobin Heath, Kelley O'Hara, and to so many others (this is just a select list) including 24 year old Rose Lavelle who danced with the ball and then pounded it home with a brilliant left footer in the 69th minute of this year's final match.

We can look forward to seeing her, along with many other talented young players, in the future.

Congratulations to our United States Women's National Team. We don't have royalty in the U.S. government, but we (we the people!😉) are certainly free to bestow noble titles on those who have reminded us of the nobility and beauty of our humanity, of the richness of life even when we play.

With this in mind, only one thing remains to be said. This team rules; they have earned the honor of being called "Queens of Soccer."

Long live the Queens!