By Patrick Daley, Chronicle Staff Writer
This United States Women’s National Soccer Team is the best athletic squad on the planet.
My friends and I were vacationing on Paradox Lake on July 2, and we dropped in to Flanagan’s in Schroon Lake to watch the U.S. play England in the semifinal of World Cup.
Alex, Phil and I weren’t sure if we’d find other rabid fans donning the red, white and blue (let alone a TV showing the game with the sound on). But by the time the final whistle sounded, the tavern was 40 voices strong singing “God Bless America.”
There were roars and high fives when the U.S. twice scored, but the greatest rejoice came when our goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher stopped what would have been an equalizing penalty kick in the second half. That was the biggest, most clutch play of the entire tournament, by any player.
The young girl with her family at the table next to us (I’d say she was 7 or 8) told me that she plays soccer too, and her favorite U.S. player is Rose Lavelle. Her favorite position to play is attacker and she loves scoring goals.
If the families in Flanagan’s were unaware of what they were walking into, by the end of it, they seemed happy to have stumbled upon this patriotic event.
At Stewart’s after the game, we picked up two-stroke motor oil and gas for the boat. Through the ice cream window I heard children repeating our tavern strains: “God bless America, land that I love…”
I almost cancelled our The Daley News’s gig at Kru Coffee on Sunday morning so I could watch the July 7 final vs. the Netherlands with my full attention. But if there’s anything I like as much as this women’s national team, it’s playing jazz.
So, I streamed the game on my phone, kept it next to my music, and gave Brian Chiappinelli a drum solo whenever there was a scoring chance.
When the last whistle blew and our women were victorious, we played a jazz version of “God Bless America.”
It was this team’s fourth World Cup title, second only to the Brazilian Men’s National Team with five. The catch is: The men’s tournament began in 1930; the first women’s tournament was in 1991. That’s 88 years for the Brazil men to win five, and 28 years for the U.S. women to win four.
I’m trying to think of another team or athlete, of any gender, as purely dominant or purely successful as this soccer team. The only ones I come up with are women — UConn basketball, Lindsey Vonn and Michaela Schiffrin.
I’m a proud feminist. I try not to push my social or political views on anyone. You have the right to turn the page. The truth is that there is no other way I could have ended up. My parents raised me to respect all people and to live by the Golden Rule.
The strongest people I’ve ever encountered are my mother, Liz, and my grandmother, Eleanor Smith. In college, I was required to study Simone de Beauvoir. That furthered my convictions.
Now, when I write for The Chronicle, I make a conscious effort to change “his or her” to “her or his.” It’s a small thing that I can do. I don’t do it because I feel sorry for women. I do it because it’s fair. That’s what feminism is about — being fair and equal regardless of gender or sex.
When I was eight, I first tried out for a travel soccer team — Adirondack Soccer Club (ASC). I’d had a lot of success in recreation and school leagues, and I wanted to play “the beautiful game” more.
At tryouts at Jenkinsville Park, the one player that intimidated and inspired me the most was Nicole Wiart. She was easily the best player on our team.
I vividly remember watching her tuck shots into the top corner of the net with ease and consistency. Until then, I had never even known that was possible.
Laura Klaiber was another player I was afraid of. She was an incredible defender and could kick the ball as far as any boy on the team.
Later, at both ASC and Queensbury High School, I loved to watch Katie Michaels, Megan Rhone, Anne Graveley and Jerica Moses. Incredible athletes and soccer players.
The best player I personally have played with personally is Greg Wappett. And the most dominant player I have ever witnessed was his older sister, Sarah, who went to play at Georgetown on a full ride.
Yes, this women’s national team is the best team in sports right now. They have won two consecutive World Cups. They deserve an even bigger parade than in 2015, and lucrative paychecks for their performance.
Not only do they deserve equal pay to our men’s team (which, alas, lost to Mexico in the CONCACAF final Sunday night), they deserve more, because they’ve earned more. Congratulations, ladies. You continue to inspire grown women and men, and 8-year-old girls and boys around the world.
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