By Gary Schofield, ESPN 102.1FM/930AM, Delaware’s Sports Station
Disgraceful, Classless, disrespectful, unsportsmanlike…those were some of the words being thrown at the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team after their exuberant celebrations during a 13-0 mauling of Thailand in the Women’s World Cup Soccer tournament. Now correct me if I’m wrong, but soccer is well known for exuberant celebrations of goals in a sport where so few are scored and for some of these women who were setting records that day or scoring their first World Cup goals, they were supposed to act like it wasn’t awesome because the opponent obviously didn’t belong? If that was the case, why didn’t Thailand just pack up after a 3-0 first half and go home? This is the WOMEN’S WORLD CUP!!!! Not an international friendly or an exhibition, this is soccer on it’s grandest stage and we are asking the best soccer team in the world to do what, sit on their hands and let the time run out? Would it have been more respectful if the US just told their players “Ok, no one goes past midfield, no more shots on goal” No because they would have been crushed for that too.
We’re not talking about little league or middle school soccer here so please don’t make the comparison to the lessons we try to teach young kids about humility and grace, these are grown women who play this sport for a living vying for the biggest prize in the world for their sport and I don’t believe it’s fair to criticize these women who have worked for their whole lives to excel on that stage and I believe it’s disrespectful to them to ask them to just trot back to midfield quietly after they score.
This whole conversation though makes me think that there is a bigger issue here, when did we start feeling like the losers of a sport contest are somehow victims? Lost in all this discussion is that the members of the Thailand team and their coach had no issue with how the US played or responded to their goals. No matter the sport there will always be teams that are better than others, that’s the whole point of competition. Since when did we start asking professional athletes to worry about the feelings of their opponents? In the Washington Nationals recent 12-1 drubbing of the White Sox, should Kurt Suzuki not have high fived his teammates excitedly after hitting a grand slam in the 8th inning, because the game was a blowout? Do we ask fans to stop clapping if Bradley Beal hits a 3 in the 4th quarter that puts the Wizards up 20? Does a player get killed for a spike if he scores a touchdown in the 4th quarter to make it a 4 touchdown lead? We don’t criticize when those events happen, nor should we.
We should be celebrating the greatness of these women and spreading the word that this is what we should all be aspiring for in all aspects of our lives not just on the field. You should aspire to be the greatest you can be in whatever you do and if anyone has a problem with that, try harder, study harder, practice more, make it your mission to achieve that same level of greatness, not expect that greatness to minimize itself to your level. Remember when we celebrated the best things, instead of trying to tear them down? When did we stop doing that, when did we start feeling like mediocrity is more fair for everyone because greatness is only truly achieved by the few?
I don’t know really, but the events and rhetoric following Team USA’s win really got me thinking about it and it makes me sad. So what are you telling yourselves, well we can be good, but not TOO good? We can be excited about our individual records, but not TOO excited? STOP IT! The US Women’s World Cup team is the Greatest soccer team on the planet and we should be celebrating every goal they score right along with them because their achievements are something to be cherished, not trashed. So Alex Morgan, keep counting those goals (her 5 in that game matched a World Cup record by the way), we should all be proud of you and I for one will now actually watch some soccer, when I otherwise wouldn’t have. These women are a fantastic example of what hard work, dedication, sacrifice and talent can lead to and that should be the discussion, not that they cheered too much in a World Cup game. So I’ll leave you with this, stop being afraid to be great and for those of us that aren’t, stop blaming those that are for your shortcomings.