Woso Fans: Stop, Drop and Read

Now that there is no more Women’s Professional Soccer to give us our women’s soccer fix like a bunch of addicts who Dr. Drew is just waiting to get his hands on; we’re all turning to our local W League, WPSL or WPSL Elite teams.  As much as I hate seeing another professional league start to bloom just for it to be chopped down by a big metaphorical douche bag of a weed-wacker; it could mean an enlightening experience.  Giving these other leagues more support will open our eyes to new teams and new players.  Shame on me and every other women’s soccer fan who didn’t pay enough attention to them before.  In fact, I’m putting myself in time out for my ignorance.  Be right back.

 

…Ok, I think I learned my lesson.  Each of these leagues will be boasting players from the US Women’s National Team, college stand outs, international talent and dozens of relatively unknown’s who are anxious to blow us away.  If you’re wondering where I’m going with all of this; you’re not alone.  I’m not really sure either.  Let’s figure it out together.  I think what I’m trying to say is…eh, who am I kidding…I’m not sure, so I’ll just keep rambling.

Oh, how about this!?  I’d like to talk about some of my favorite players who I think deserve a lot more hype than what they get currently.  They all have a good following, don’t get me wrong, but they are players who just really stand out for me.  And they are players who we will have the joy of watching in these leagues just like we got to watch them in the WPS.  If any of you know me at all you can probably guess who I am going to start with.

 

Leslie Osborne.

A central midfielder.  A leader.  A communicator.  A fierce competitor.  A chameleon of the field taking on any challenge necessary.  If you need a central midfielder who can tackle hard but also play with finesse, charge at the opposition but also be wise in her decisions and lead a team but also be a humble team player then look to the Boston Breakers’ Captain #12.  (I’ve done sales work for over 5 years so please forgive my sales pitch of a description.  But tell me it didn’t work…you’re dying to watch her in action, yes?)  She is an irreplaceable force on the field as well as off.  If she’s not playing for her club she is modeling for Puma or training fellow athletes or coaching a local club.  She’s kind of… well…UNSTOPPABLE.  I can also say she is one of the nicest people I have ever met.  Knowing that she knew me by my twitter name, Gillian E Dubbs; I met her at a soccer expo where I nervously approached my favorite player of the past 5 years and awkwardly spit out, “It’s me, Gillian E Dubbs!” like a goofy 6 year old.  We then talked for about 15 minutes or so.  She was humble, smart and well spoken.  Plus I managed to get through the whole encounter without tripping over anything too, so I’d say it was a stupendous day.  But back to her: Never, EVER underestimate the importance of a strong central midfielder who holds the team together.  Ever seen a game that looks more like ping pong than soccer?  That’s because there was no one in the midfield to settle the game down and control tempo or possession.  That is what Leslie Osborne does so well and that also leads me to my next player who does the same…

 

Brittany Bock

I refer to her as the Fighting Irish Ninja.  If you don’t understand why I do, let me explain: She went to Notre Dame and…SHE IS A FREAKING NINJA.  You cannot contain this girl in the midfield.  She is a freight train of power, skill and smart playmaking.  She covers more ground in a game then some players will in three games.  One of the things I like about her play the best is that she is fearless.  She goes in strong and fierce.  You also can’t keep track of her.  One second she is taking down the opposing team with her ninja tackles and the next she is sending a beautiful through ball up field to a teammate.  I love nothing more than a game that is battled out in the midfield.  If I was ever to go into battle on the pitch there is no one I would rather have by my side than Bock.  Scratch that.  I wouldn’t want her at my side; I’d want her in front of me.  (I flinch easily; I think I’d feel safer behind her)  And similar to Leslie, off the field she seems like a genuinely awesome person who is great to her fans and is pretty inspiring as well.  As far as central or defensive / possession midfielders go, Bock and Osborne are at the top of my list who are not on the current USWNT roster. *cough cough* *Attention to Pia* *cough cough*

 

Becky Sauerbrunn

I am among the hopefuls that wish to never see the day where Christie Rampone retires.  But I am also confident in life for the USWNT defense after Rampone.  No one will ever truly replace her, but Sauerbrunn, in my opinion is going to do one hell of a job of filling the void.  She plays with a quiet knowledge about her that must be intimidating to opposing players.  I would rather take on a lunatic defender charging at me with a trident screaming bloody murder than go 1 v 1 with the composed and confident Sauerbrunn who wisely matches her opponents step for step before devouring them.  She has speed, she has skill, she has consistency and composure that any central defender would kill for.  PLUS: she doesn’t tweet often but when she does she seems to have a great wit.  What beats that?  A witty super soccer athlete?  Come on now!  Which brings me to the fact that she also happens to be a beast of an athlete.  Rampone is my favorite Soccer Machine Robot Lady as I have mentioned.  Anyone who wants to try proving she is human to me; good luck.  But I can see Sauerbrunn becoming the next Soccer Machine Robot Lady who I hope will grow with this team for many, many years to come.  She directs the back line like a wise leader and plays like a possessed soccer beast.  That’s a good combo.

 

Ashlyn Harris

Watching Harris in goal is like watching a panther protecting her home on crack.  She is agile, feisty and fierce.  Her reactions are incredible to watch, especially for someone like me who waits until a ball has already practically hit me in the face before I think to put my hands up and catch it.  She has split second reactions that enable her to come up with saves that leave spectators in awe.  She also is a vital part of organizing the team.  While watching scrimmages of the team where you can hear everything, she is one noisy lady.  She is continuously directing, encouraging and organizing.  She puts off a vibe of confidence and swagger that would make any forward think twice about their next move.  And while that forward is thinking, Harris strikes like the cracked out panther that she is and protects her home from intruders.  And on top of all this, she just seems like one dope chick, who also happens to have one hell of a celebration run. (Please reference her epic run after her massive PK save in the WPS Final last year)

I’ll continue this sometime with a few more players who I love to watch and would love to see more of.  I’m excited to watch these four through domestic leagues and international play for years to come.  And as I am still a little unsure if this had a point other than a chance for me to ramble about some of my favorite players; I’ll leave you with this….

No seriously…I’m leaving you with that.  Bye!

So Marta Is Leaving WPS…

Ever heard that expression, “Don’t wake the bear?” Well consider me a bear that has just been poked with a particularly annoying Brazilian stick.

First, let me start off by saying that I never, ever like to speak ill of any women’s soccer player.  Although I have my favorites, and my not so favorites I have an extreme overall love, admiration and respect for this sport and the women who play it.  If you haven’t guessed it, the Brazilian ‘stick’ waking me, is Marta.  The topic of Marta has always gotten me all fired up for many reasons. The still young career of 5-time Player of the Year, Marta has been an impressive one.  She has never been a favorite of mine nor will she ever be a favorite of mine.  But I will start by saying that I believe she is the most skilled female player in the world over the ball.  There is no denying her incredible ability including her first touch, her quick feet and her deceptive moves befuddling defenders.  But I don’t find her vision to be anything extraordinary, I don’t find her shot to be one of the best in the world (although still very good), and I don’t find her leadership to be…well…I don’t see any leadership.  When her team goes down she resorts to yelling at them, yelling at the ref, diving and getting chippy (to say the least) against the opposing team.  Just because someone is monumentally skilled over the ball doesn’t make them a Player of the Year in my book.  That makes them the “Most Skilled Player of the Year”.  She has made great strides for women’s soccer in her country and has helped Brazil become a top contender.  So again, I give credit where credit is due.  But I just cannot get behind a Player of the Year who is phenomenal in one or two aspects of the game, very good in other, and nonexistent in some.  I want to see a woman win that award who is a consistent force to be reckoned with in every aspect of the game.  Homare Sawa and Abby Wambach’s nominations this year made me thrilled for that reason.  They are both true leaders and all around impeccable players.  Wambach and Sawa, without a doubt lead their countries through not only their talent and skill but in motivation and belief.  Sawa’s win, (although I was strongly pulling for Wambach) was a refreshing change and I was thrilled for her.  She made things happen for her team that some could never fathom.  The loss still stings from the WWC, but Sawa is beyond deserving.  But seeing Marta still come in above Wambach made my stomach feel like I had just eaten gas station sushi.

For the past few years while Marta has played in Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) here in the USA, she has been raking in the dough.  Pay close attention now: I will NEVER be upset that a female soccer player is being ‘overpaid’.  Because guess what…compared to any men’s sport there is no female athlete on planet earth who is being overpaid.  But, I will be upset when there is someone being overpaid in comparison to other athletes on the pitch who do more to grow the sport here.  Does anyone really think that after the Women’s World Cup those 15k+ fans poured into Sahlen’s Stadium in Rochester to see Marta?  No. They paid for a ticket to see Abby Wambach speak at halftime and other U.S. stars like Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe to play that day. They went and bought #13 Western NY jerseys and screamed and cried for Wambach’s autograph.  We’re in America.  This will be the case in any WPS game. (That being my example due to the record breaking ticket sales that day.)  My point being…in an American league, American players are going to bring more people into a stadium, therefore making the league more money.  I am more than willing to admit (unlike some who insist on putting false information or made up guesses made out to be facts out there) I’m no financial expert or sports agent so I don’t know exactly how all that works.  But it seems if they are the ones bringing the money in, why is Marta the one financially being treated like she’s the Michael Jordan of the WPS?  (I don’t know enough current sports people outside of soccer so you’re just going to have to deal with my 90’s NBA reference)

Furthermore, I know Marta doesn’t speak fluent English.  So it is hard for her to do many interviews or press related events. I have nothing against her as a person and have heard she is a fun person to be around but not many would know that because interviews or media events with her are few and far between.  So anyone saying that she brings in media coverage is as delusional as Brazil was when they thought they were going to beat the U.S. at the Women’s World Cup this year.  I don’t blame her for not speaking English fluently (although she has been here for long enough to be decent at it) but it just doesn’t make sense to try and say she is going to be some sort of media darling in the U.S. if she can’t even conduct an interview without an interpreter.

Briefly, I want to bring up Hope Solo.  Solo has received some really harsh criticism from many people over her dedication to the WPS.  They have said she is “Hollywood” now and only cares about herself and the U.S. Women’s National Team, not caring about the WPS.  If I could speak to these people directly it wouldn’t be a pleasant meeting that would be appropriate for anyone under the age of 18.  Hope Solo has done more for women’s soccer in this country in one year than some people are able to do in a lifetime.  Do you honestly think that if she is that dedicated to USWNT, that she wouldn’t also be dedicated to the league in this country that helps form the USWNT?  A league that will in the future, help mold and develop new young players for the USWNT?  And recently, she made the decision that I hope blew up directly in her critics’ faces when she signed with her hometown W-League Team, Seattle Sounders Women.  So not only is she staying domestic, but she is going to her home turf making endless amounts of fans thrilled.  She is the best goal keeper in the entire world.  She could have gone anywhere.  But she chose to stay domestic.  Now what does all this have to do with Marta?  Well, let’s see…while Solo was being blasted for not speaking up on the WPS situation and being slammed for saying she doesn’t care about WPS…where was Marta?  Was she making grand speeches about the importance of WPS?  Was she speaking out in favor of the league?  Not a chance.  So why is Solo being held solely responsible for being a star who apparently “doesn’t care” about WPS when the highest paid player in WPS sits back in the shadows silently getting no ridicule, planning her departure to Sweden?

Last, I’ll be completely honest; I think it is just hard for me to want to like anyone from the Brazilian team.  I’ll never be able to look at Marta and not see her and her entire team doing everything in their power to beat their opponents in ways that disgrace the beautiful game. It’s true…on any team in any league there is a large amount of acting, diving and flopping.  Every one dives here and there, everyone deserves their own Oscar from time to time; USA included.  But Brazil deserves the entire Kodak Theater at Oscar time and every single last Oscar trophy in it.  I simply cannot respect that style of play.

In conclusion of my coffee fueled rant, it comes down to this: There are aspects of Marta’s game that amaze me.  But as far as her leaving the WPS; I have no morsel of sadness. I wish her the best of luck in Sweden who has a very competitive league and I’m sure she’ll do great there.  But I will not miss her here.  It’s time to focus on the W-League and the WPSL making an impact this year.  Especially with the help of players like Hope Solo making the decision to stay domestic.  I look forward to seeing the development in this country with our women’s leagues with or without Marta, while I also look forward to seeing us play against Marta on the national stage.

Oh and PS: Marta, I’m still trying to find an address to send a gift basket to you and the Brazilian team. The card reads: “Thank you for giving the U.S. ample amounts of stoppage time to score after your truly inspiring performances crawling around on the turf at the World Cup this year.” I hope you guys like Edible Arrangements!

 

…Sorry.  Couldn’t resist.

 

Ali Krieger – The One and Only

I’ve written before about Ali Krieger, about the epidemic which has taken over the nation known as Krieger Fever.  I spoke of her beautiful smile, her impeccable skill, her undying determination.  Well now, given recent events I want to touch on that determination again.  And also that smile.  Because let’s be honest; it has literally been proven physically impossible to talk about Ali Krieger and not mention those pearly whites.

For anyone unaware; Ali Krieger, US Women’s National Soccer team starting right back, was recently injured in an Olympic Qualifying game in Vancouver.  As she struck the ball (quite beautifully I might add) and came down on her right foot a Dominican Republic player came in reckless, high, and late.  The result of this extremely painful looking challenge we have now found out is a torn ACL and MCL.  I don’t want to focus on the injury itself.  As much as I would love to rant about the irresponsibility of the ref for not calling this tackle and the player for such a reckless and dangerous challenge; I instead want to focus on how we all know that our girl, Alexandra B Krieger, is a warrior who will fight her way back to the top. 

In my last piece I focused on her playing abilities; on her amazing skill, composure and all around soccer brilliance (and her smile).  This time I want to look at the person behind it.

Beyond her obvious athletic prowess and her fierce determination she is also one of the nicest people you could imagine.  I had the privilege of meeting her briefly after a practice here in LA this past camp.  As she waited patiently for a fan to find their sharpie she struck up a conversation with the rest of us as if we were old friends.  “How was your Christmas?” “Did you enjoy your holidays?” “How have you been?”…were a few of the questions she asked as she genuinely waited for responses.  I will say that this entire team is filled with gracious athletes who all take ample time with fans and it is amazing to see.  I will also say I believe Ali is the perfect example of just how incredible they are with fans.  She has a kindness and a genuine likeability about her that just makes you feel welcome and thrilled to be around her.

Ali is also quite possibly the most positive person I have ever seen.  It’s true.  It’s actually kind of sickening.   A cynic wouldn’t stand a chance around her.  She would turn them into an optimist with a quick flash of her smile.  Her ‘#allsmiles’ hash tag tweets and her positive outlook in everyday life is something all of her fans love seeing; and what we admire about her so wildly.  This is why I am 100%, no…200%, eh, actually…infinity% sure (is that possible?) that she will come back from this quicker than anyone could ever imagine.  And when she does she will still be at the top of her game, smiling all the while.  The fact that she is a fitness monster will also undoubtedly help.  Ali is…well…she’s a freak of nature.  (As are many of the women on this team) Her dedication to her game and her physical fitness will shine through during this tough time.

When I call Ali a warrior or a fighter or a bad ass chick who could take down an entire army with one arm tied behind her back…I am not exaggerating.  (Well, maybe a little with the army bit.  Please don’t test that one out.)  She has proven her commitment to the game and her determination to fight back from all odds.  In 2006, at 21, she was hospitalized due to blood clotting in her lungs leading to 6 mini heart attacks.  Her dedication, determination and positivity all contributed to her rejoining her team at Penn State senior year to finish out her college career after this life threatening condition halted her momentarily.  This new injury is now just another bump along her road.  A road that we are all honored to get to watch roll out in the career of one of our greatest defenders of all time.  She’s like our  own real life Road Runner.  You can try to set as many traps and drop as many anvils on her as you want to, but it will do you no good.  There is no stopping her and this injury is no exception.

The few tweets I have seen from her since the injury happened have all been well spoken, inspiring and confident.  She knows just as well as anyone that this is part of the game.  Injuries happen, and quite often they unfortunately happen at the most inopportune times.

This is just another injury of another athlete but I felt compelled to write about it.  It was either write, or go hunt down the player who did this to her.  But I decided crossing Canadian boarders on a mission to orchestrate a hit on an international soccer player wasn’t the smartest idea.

Just as she is smart, composed and strong on the field she will be the same in her recovery I am sure.  Her presence will be missed greatly and no one can replace everything she has to offer in the right back position, but this is a deep team filled with overly capable players.  I know her presence on the sideline will be crucial as well though, being a motivational leader to her team.

Ali, we are all wishing you the fastest and most successful of recoveries.  I don’t mean to sound selfish, but we’re all going to be eagerly awaiting your return.  So…I mean…you should probably hurry it along…like really…hurry.  You’re an inspiration on and off the field and one of the best defenders in our history in my opinion.  So please come back to us soon.  Positive thoughts and wishes will be sent your way every day from your army of fans.  Thank you for your continued hard work and best of luck!

By the way…if you need any entertainment while recovering let me know.  I specialize in air guitar, dancing to 90’s pop music, lip singing to 80’s hair ballads and falling down / running into things (not by choice) which leads to entertainment for those around me.  Keep it in mind.

Tobin The Magnificent

Audience if you would; please look at the soccer ball. Do not take your eyes off of it. Do not look away or even blink. Tobin The Magnificent, is about to take the field and defy the odds of gravity, probability and logic using only her feet and this ball, wowing you with dazzling displays of skill.

That is the introduction I feel is necessary for one Ms Tobin Heath every time she takes the field. I suppose it may be a bit much to ask, but it doesn’t hurt to try.

Tobin Heath for those of you who have had the distinct displeasure of not knowing; is a midfielder for the US Women’s National Soccer Team and also a member of Sky Blue FC in the Women’s Professional Soccer league. She comes from Tarheel blue, being alumni from North Carolina which automatically makes her a favorite in my book. She is a young player with skill on the ball which befuddles the average brain. When she steps on the field it is part soccer, part magic act, part dance routine. As she zigs, while making the defender zag, she dances over the ball and fluently disappears behind the defense putting herself into a scoring opportunity. I will admit, watching Tobin can be frustrating too though. When I first started seeing her play I blamed my TV for months that every time she got the ball the TV would skip and somehow make me miss something. But then I came to realize it wasn’t the TV. It was Heath making a move so quickly over the ball that the human eye cannot catch it. It’s like trying to keep up with an Italian on speed telling a story about their family; impossible. The moment you think you know what her next move is, is the moment you are left in the dust.

She is known for not only being a skillful player in the heat of battle when it counts, but also a crafty trickster full of unimaginable talent during ball trick battles with fellow team mates. If you ever get tired of watching sleeping animal videos on YouTube (I know, that’s not even fair though. Who gets tired of that?!) search for some of Tobin Heath’s trick battles and various YouTube trick videos. You will not be disappointed. Let’s just say, when Tobin goes for a simple walk it’s not quite as simple as you would think. Those of you who have seen her ‘Tobin Heath Walkabout’ video can testify to this fact. Those of you who haven’t seen it need to do yourselves a favor and begin living a life of fulfillment. You can start by watching that video.

Her shot placement is another factor to her game that leaves us all astonished. If you told her to get drunk, spin around in circles, blindfold herself and kick the ball from 40 yards out and hit the upper corner of the far post; she would not only do it successfully, but she would giggle about it afterwards which makes it even better. Tobin giggling makes everything better in the world, in case you were unaware. Her shot placement and control over the ball is just astounding. A thesaurus isn’t even going to come up with enough correct adjectives to describe how incredibly controlled and crafty she is. Trust me, I tried. I laughed at the thesaurus in its meek attempts to fully embody this skill in words. So I vote we create a new phrase of words. Tobin’s skill is…….Tobinifiably Heathabulous. Yes. That’s it. Lauren Cheney mentioned in an interview that Tobin is the craftiest player she has ever played with and I am sure that anyone who has played around this young phenom can agree. When she is not dribbling around defenders, or placing a perfect shot in the exact spot that she intended she is most likely creating some pretty nifty (yes, I am 24 and use the word nifty. Deal with it.) passes in the midfield. Her vision for the game is spectacular for being such a young player. She reads the game well and is able to find the connecting passes that will move the ball forward effectively. Her aptitude for this cannot be overlooked. Without connecting players like that in the midfield you just have defense and offense. With nothing in the middle connecting the two you are going to have one lousy game. The USWNT has a phenomenal midfield obscenely full of talent. Her passing abilities and calmness on the ball help control the game and bring fluidity to it that is needed

I briefly mentioned earlier, her undeniable ability to make the world a better place with her smile. Yes, this line should remind you of the Mary Tyler Moore theme song because Tobin Heath can, in fact also turn the world on with her smile. In fact, I say someone needs to just follow Tobin Heath around for a day playing the Mary Tyler Moore theme song. Just the thought of her walking around town, smile on her face, bobbing her head from side to side to that song makes me feel overwhelming happiness. Which brings me to my next point where I would like to address Tobin, directly.

Tobin, in my humblest opinion I feel you may be wasting a crucial asset. You’re skill and talent are undeniably phenomenal and I believe you can dribble your way out of just about any jam the world throws at you. But as a backup, in case you are ever at a loss of how to get around a certain defender, may I suggest simply stop, say hi to them, strike up a conversation, smile and laugh. Your laugh is as infectious as it is awesome. I dare anyone at that point to not let their guard down, relax and just want to give you a high five and laugh along with you. At which point, you will of course do the polite thing by giving them the high five they have asked for…just before blowing past them as they stand there laughing in a total state of joy, unsure how they got there. It’s just a thought…maybe run it by Pia…but I don’t see how it could fail. It’s basically bullet proof.

Tobin Heath is not only talented, skillful and impressively athletic; but also seems kind, gracious and to have a great head on her shoulders. The future of this young star is endless. I cannot wait to see what mind blowing goals and assists she has in years to come for us, as I know they will be plentiful. I also cannot imagine her being anything less than crucial to helping the team bring home a gold medal this summer. Each game she plays in begins a new act of her endless magic show that we are all lucky enough to be audience to. I for one, cannot wait for the next act to begin. So I am going to go grab some pop corn and get ready for Tobin The Magnificent to grace the stage again.

Our Very Own Captain America – Christie Rampone

The year: 2065. The planet: Earth. (Correct, we will make it past December 21st, 2012) The Headline: US Women’s Soccer Legend, Christie Rampone retires at the age of 90.

Those of you who think I am being hyperbolic obviously haven’t seen Christie Rampone play recently. She is 36 years old, has had two children and will smoke you up and down the field all day long. I’m really not even sure how to describe this amazing woman. (I use the term ‘woman’ because ‘soccer machine robot lady’ has not been properly copy written and trademarked yet. But I am fairly certain that is what she is.) Since I can remember, I have loved the US Women’s National Soccer team. I remember being a young girl watching stars like Mia Hamm, Brandi Chastain, Julie Foudy and Kristine Lily (who I believe also may be a ‘soccer machine robot lady’) grace the field. Right along with them was the rock, the solid force known as Christie Rampone. And here she is, more than a decade later still playing some of the best soccer you will ever see.

Rampone is a strong, reliable and communicative central defender. Aka Hope Solo’s best friend. Her presence cannot be underestimated. She is a physical presence on the field with talent oozing out of her pores and is also a vocal presence who directs, communicates and organizes this amazing team. Yes, if we did not have Abby and Alex and Lauren all scoring goals we would not win games. But if we did not have Rampone directing traffic, organizing the back line and mid field and shutting down every delusional attacker silly enough to think they will get past her; then our lovely ladies up top would never have the chance to score those beautiful goals. They say all offense begins with defense, I say all offense begins with Christie Rampone. I’m not sure if any of you remember that little game we played against Brazil this summer? I think there was a late goal involved…penalty kicks…something like that. Remember? Well go ahead and rewind about one minute before Abby buries that ball in the back of the net and take a look at who started that play. Take a look at who was hounding that Brazilian attacker relentlessly with determination shooting out of her eyes and tracking her every move until forcing the Brazilian forward to turn the ball over starting our attack. That’s right…our woman of steel, our Captain America female soccer version…Christie Rampone. All offense starts with Christie Rampone.

She not only offers up inspiration by the ton on the field but she is also an inspiration to working moms everywhere. I can’t really comment on the whole mom thing too much seeing as how I am not a mom. In fact I tend to veer away from children, as they are normally squeaky and sticky. (Christie, if you’re reading please understand I am not implying your children are squeaky or sticky. I’m sure they’re squeak and stick free.) But I can tell you that those who are moms; moms who want to achieve success in their career and still win a mom of the year award have Rampone to look up to. She has two awesome girls who travel with her and will be able to grow up knowing that they can do anything in life that they set their minds to. She is living proof of it through not only her amazing career but also her positive and inspirational outlook.

Now let’s just briefly talk about her fitness levels. She is…her fitness is…when she…because I mean…her level of…ok I thought I could put it into words but apparently I can’t. Let me try again. SHE IS THE FITTEST HUMAN ALIVE. Yeah, that works. Scientists, doctors, and any people of the medical profession: may I recommend doing some research on this specimen? Unlocking the secrets behind this perfectly trained and toned body could quite possibly lock in a Nobel Prize for whoever succeeds. She is a perfectly running machine that most 20 something year olds (myself included) would kill to be half as fit as. I know many other soccer fans will agree that when we sit down and watch those fitness training segments that US Soccer will post from time to time we are all left in awe of every one of these women. This team is filled with athletes who are beyond committed to their fitness levels. Watching Kelley O’Hara and Ali Krieger run a beep test until they are barely able to walk, or seeing Abby Wambach bench press what I estimate to be 5092 pounds, or seeing Alex Morgan and Heather O’Reilly annihilate sprint times is all just incredible to see. But I think we can also all agree that watching Christie Rampone just makes us all a little sick. Christie, I don’t mean to be rude, but you kind of disgust us; in the best way possible. It’s overwhelmingly amazing. You’re dedication to this team, to your fitness, to developing your skill and the skill of those around you is something that should never, ever be overlooked. When us fans sit down and watch these fitness training videos and see you just dominating everything it is truly inspirational.

Briefly, before I wrap this up I just want you to picture something for me. Imagine you are dribbling a soccer ball down the field. You have found a seam and gotten behind the defense. You look over your shoulder and see Rampone is the closest to you but is still yards away. You smile confidently knowing you just need to beat the keeper 1 v 1. But wait…all of a sudden you are on the ground, you don’t have the ball anymore, and the US has already started a counter attack. What happened?! You have been Ramponed, my friend. You can never, and I mean NEVER underestimate the abilities of this superstar. But let’s be honest; this scenario will only happen once in a great while anyways. Although her recovery speed and ability to back track is phenomenal her ability to not have to do either is equally as good. She puts up a wall in the center of that back line and basically says, “You are not getting anywhere near my goal and my goalkeeper. You can either face me and be humiliated or you can just hand over the ball now and walk away with your tail between your legs.” I do not envy any forwards who come across her path.

Determined, focused, humble, versatile, inspirational, passionate, abnormally talented and freakishly fit; a few words in a feeble attempt to sum up this American legend. Ecstatic, giddy, euphoric, joyous and proud; a few words in a feeble attempt to sum up what we all cannot wait to feel this summer at the 2012 Olympics when Christie Rampone leads the US Women’s National Team to victory.

Christie Rampone is now, and forever will be our very own Captain America and my absolute favorite soccer machine robot lady.

If You Don’t Know What WPS Stands For-Go Sit In Time Out

 

Think back to July 10th, 2011. Where were you the moment Abby Wambach’s fantabulous head buried a cross in the back of the net behind a stunned Brazilian goalkeeper? I was sitting in front of my TV weeping like a little child over a lost imaginary friend. But instead, tears of joy. This is no shock because I have been a devout fan of women’s soccer since I could say the word soccer. (My verbal skills weren’t killer so this came a little later in life than you would expect, but you get the picture) The thing that was incredible to see though was the fans this moment gained for women’s soccer who hadn’t given it a second look before. The whole country stopped, watched, screamed, cheered and Tweeted their asses off. Now I have a question for you all…

Did someone forget to send out the memo to the country that these women play in a professional league here also?

During the Women’s World Cup there was enough women’s soccer spirit to fly the women’s soccer sleigh around the world. (It’s Christmas time…bare with me on the themed analogy) And the support for them when they came home from Germany continued with TV interviews and people taking a genuine interest. While our girls were all the way in Germany battling it out, the whole country was behind them. They could feel the support from thousands of miles away. So if we can support them from across the pond, why can’t we support them when they’re in our own back yard?

Women’s Professional Soccer (which is in fact, WPS…for those of you sitting in time out) saw a very positive increase in ticket sales including a 15,000+ crowd for the first game back in Rochester, NY after the Women’s World Cup. Yet, the league came inches from folding recently. I would say “it’s time to put your money where your mouth is” but I hate that expression. I’m not putting my money anywhere near my mouth. Do I look like I want to get hepatitis? But essentially, that’s what we need. (Money…Not hepatitis) If you say you became a fan of women’s soccer during the World Cup, now is your time to prove it. I understand the World Cup is a higher level of excitement than any league can offer. But it doesn’t change the level of talent, skill, determination and poise that they play with. That will all still be there when you tune into WPS on TV or head to a game.

This past week I was lucky enough to catch a short documentary by Jun Stinson called “The 90th Minute” (www.the90thminute.net to see the trailer and learn more). It was a look at the lives of three professional players and what it’s like to play for WPS. It gives a glimpse into what a true athlete with pure love and admiration for a sport looks like. Not only was it beautifully done, entertaining and informative but it also brought up the question that all women’s soccer fans are racking their brains trying to figure out; WHY? Why is this league having such a hard time finding success? I spoke to Jun after viewing it and thanked her for putting together such a great documentary. More people need to get involved with out of the box ideas like this to support the league and raise awareness for it. There are far, far too many people who will still give you a dumbfounded look when you use the acronym, WPS.

So here are two of many thoughts I have on the whole thing…

Let’s be honest; the sports world is no longer separate from Hollywood. Sports and Hollywood are now combined into the celebrity couple Spollywood. They haven’t adopted any babies from third world countries yet, but they have taken a whole lot of NBA, NFL and MLB players under their wing. When I see basketball players at red carpet events I don’t know if it’s because they’re promoting a new album that Timbaland is producing, because they play for the Lakers, or because they’re Kim Kardashian’s latest husband. They are not only athletes, but ‘A list’ celebrities reaching people who don’t even watch the sport they play necessarily. Hope Solo took a brave leap into this world by partaking in Dancing With The Stars which I hope will act as a gateway drug to more publicity through TV and Hollywood. Every time one of these women appear on a show (not sports related) that is a huge success in my book. The talent in the league is undeniable; it’s there. But now because of the newlywed, Spollywood, the league needs publicity in other media outlets. It’s time that people got to see the fun personalities of these women so they can relate to them and be drawn in. Individually they do a great job of marketing themselves. I just hope to see extra support for them to continue doing it through more media outlets to reach more people. (Ellen DeGeneres, I am still waiting on a call back from you to get some women’s soccer love all up in your show. I’ll assume you just lost my number, it’s ok. No hard feelings. But seriously…call me.)

Next, I hope WPS remembers that people over the age of 13 are the ones paying for the tickets and merchandise and therefore need to be marketed to. We get it, WPS; young girls love women’s soccer. But so do young boys, adult men, adult women, elderly men, elderly women and dogs of all ages! (Proof: My parents’ dog completed a glorious victory lap after Alex Morgan’s goal against Japan and also watched a Lauren Cheney interview with me. For research purposes she is a 2 year old female mutt and seems to really be drawn to Cheney and Morgan…and her red ball) It is a professional league, yet through their marketing it looks more like a D2 college league. I’m not saying to neglect the younger female demographic by any means because they truly are at the heart of the fan base. These are the girls who dream to someday be a part of this league, so we cannot underestimate their true dedication and love for it. All I am asking is that it isn’t made out to look like they are the only fans showing up to these games on their way back from a Justin Bieber concert.

If you watched any of the Women’s World Cup this summer and can say that you found it entertaining, give the WPS a chance. There is no gold medal on the line, it is not an epic competition held once every four years and it will not give you the chance to scream, “Suck it! Go home Brazil!!!” at the TV like a crazy person. (Was that just me??) But it will give you the same brilliant athletes from our US squad plus many amazing international players as well; all playing at the highest level of the beautiful game. If you say you supported them in the Women’s World Cup you can support them in the Olympics next summer and most importantly; in the WPS. Buy season tickets, watch the games and buy all the merchandise that your little soccer heart desires.

In short, as they say…let’s all get hepatitis! Put your money where your mouth is.

 

Dear Ellen – Help Save the WPS!

I think it’s time we stopped playing games, Ellen.  Yes, I’m talking to you Ellen DeGeneres.  It’s time to stop playing hard to get and making us swoon after you.  It was cute at first, but it’s time to acknowledge how badly you want to help out women’s soccer in America.  

I have written various pieces about my quest to work with Ellen DeGeneres and how it is a journey that began years ago.  (see “Dear Ellen: Will You Be My Disco Dance Partner” and “Are You There Ellen DeGeneres? It’s Me, Amy” in previous blog entries) Now it is taking on a new form though.  I am still 110% (eh, maybe 118%) behind my idea to come on as a correspondent for The Ellen Show doing sketches and interviews surrounding women’s soccer but there is a bigger issue at hand now.   There may not even be a professional league left next season.  So there is a large group of fans who do not want to see this league fail doing everything they can do to help it succeed and continue on as a prosperous league.  There is an old expression; the pen is mightier than the sword.  Personally, if I owned a sword and knew how to use it I’d be charging in on a horse, Knight-style demanding a league.  But I do not.  I know how to write…kind of…so that’s what I’ll do.
The Women’s Professional Soccer league (WPS) is in need of a 6th owner for a new team in order for the league to continue running.  Many of us fans are reaching out to a certain celebrity, Ellen DeGeneres to help save the league and become an owner.  I have a list of reasons why Ellen should get involved.
1-      Ellen is the greatest human alive. WPS is the greatest league alive. Done deal.
2-     Ellen showed support for the US Women’s National Team this summer during their run at the World Cup.
3-     Ellen would be an entrepreneurial owner; designing the uniforms with some Ellen flare, choreographing an opening number for the team to enter the field, hiring an English DJ to entertain during halftime AND she could instate an opening monologue into soccer. (Which I suppose I could fill in for her here and there on that one.  Hint, hint.  Wink, wink.  Subtle, subtle)
4-     Ellen would be able to turn a whole new viewing audience onto women’s soccer.  The viewers are out there, but without the proper marketing, exposure and air time they will never be given the opportunity to become true fans.
5-     The world without WPS would be far less bright and would leave great sadness behind.  This would cause Ellen to have to start working overtime in order to bring more laughter and light into people’s lives where there is now a giant gaping black hole of WPS-less existence.
6-     I used Arrested Development as an analogy in my last blog about saving the WPS.  Portia De Rossi, Ellen’s wife, brilliantly acted in Arrested Development and portrayed one of my favorite characters, Lindsay Bluth.  Brilliant yet under rated show / brilliant yet under rated league.  We saw what happened there; Ellen can’t let it happen to the WPS too!  Brilliance needs to be rewarded.
7-     The WPS and Ellen are both all about good causes.  The WPS has been a strong supporter of Breast Cancer Awareness through “Project Pink” games and also various other local causes amongst the communities they play in.
8-    Piggybacking off #7…one of the teams, the Western New York Flash, held a dog day where they teamed up with the local ASPCA to find homes for animals and also encouraged dog owners to bring them out to the game.  Ellen is a HUGE advocate for animal rights and an animal lover.  The possibilities are endless in the amount of good Ellen could do through a team.
I could probably make a list to 100 if I had the time.  (Or the attention span)  But you all get the picture.  Ellen DeGeneres and the WPS would be a perfect match and I hope we get to see it happen.
Ellen, if you’re out there: Please consider this. If you need to make a pros and cons list I am more than happy to swing by your pad and speak with you.  We can make a list, have some coffee, dance, me you and Portia can go shopping, maybe play a prank on Taylor Swift…we’ll make a day of it.  After thinking about it you will see what a great opportunity this could be.  This league inspires young girls and shows them that they can succeed and live their dreams.  It inspires adults to stay active and get into shape by seeing such strength and endurance displayed.  It inspires parents to teach their kids to be healthy and active and it gives them role models for their kids to look up to.  This is a league with talent, skill, entertainment, endurance, aggression, grace, poise and it’s filled with athletes who possess all of those things plus a level head on their shoulders who are all smart, kind, and beautiful and they are idols to many.  Please help save this league and give it hope for the future. 
Call me up when you’re ready to sit down and discuss.  I’ll be by the phone in my Ellen wig dancing over a coffee table anxiously waiting. 

Also take a look….


http://www.womentalksports.com/savewps
Check out this site for sure. Great organization helping to put the word out there and gives instructions on how you can help!


http://www.change.org/petitions/us-soccer-to-sanction-the-wps-for-the-2012-season
Another way to help…a petition you MUST sign started by an awesome dedicated fan!


http://www.change.org/petitions/us-soccer-for-womens-professional-soccer-sanction-the-league-to-be-division-one-under-ussf
And yet…another way to help! Another petition! SIGN!

Save The WPS

Time for a pop quiz:

1- Do you love good competition?

2- Do you enjoy watching a group of people extraordinarily good at what they do?

3- Do you want to support American athletic leagues?

4- Do you enjoy breathing oxygen?

5- Do you respect people dedicating their lives to becoming the best in the world at their profession?

6- Do you have eyes and ears?

If you answered yes to one or more of these questions it is a scientific fact that you should love Women’s Professional Soccer. Ok, so full disclosure, I guess I added a couple of questions in there that don’t completely have to do with women’s soccer. But for the most part, this is a fair test. Because let’s be honest…at a WPS game you get to witness good competition, with extraordinary athletes, in an American league, while breathing oxygen, respecting the athletes on the field for their hard work, and you do all this by watching and listening with your eyes and ears. See? It all connects in the end.

Women’s Professional Soccer is unfortunately in a very tough situation right now. They need to find a 6th team for the league or it could mean the end of WPS. We have an extremely underrated and under publicized league and it needs to be saved. I am not a business professor, I am not a CEO of a company (unless you consider my bathtub moonshine business from 2009-2010), I am not a figure of authority or a leader of an athletic league. I am simply a fan of the game who has been watching and loving this sport and idolizing the women who play it since I can remember. So to be short; no, I do not have the solution to this problem. I have a hard enough time coming up with solutions to questions like “Should I wear pants or not while I write today?” and “Red or white wine with lunch?” So I don’t think I’m equipped to say much on this complicated matter. And I do not envy the people trying to come up with the solution. But if they have any questions on wine or the epic pants/no pants question I do hope they reach out to me for some lively conversation.

It boggles my mind how we can have the best league in the entire world in this country and be struggling to find a 6th team. The domestic talent is there, the international talent is there, the passion from the fans is there. What is missing? If I were to ask 10 of my friends who are not die hard soccer fans what the WPS is, most of them probably wouldn’t know it by the abbreviation. If I were to ask them what the MLS is they would know it is Major League Soccer. That’s what is missing. Many, many brilliant TV shows have gone off the air after a few seasons because although critics can’t stop raving over a show, it doesn’t get the ratings it needs to stay afloat. Don’t let the WPS become Arrested Development. (If you do not know this show I order you to watch it on Netflix now. Well, as soon as you’re done reading this.) The WPS is just that; critically acclaimed but not enough viewers…yet.

In men’s soccer when you look at an international level we definitely jumped on the train a little late. While we were eating hotdogs watching guys run around in circles and swat at a ball at baseball games, the rest of the world was playing soccer. But when you look at the women’s side, we have an edge. We have the number one ranked international team in the world, and we have the best professional league for talent in the world as well. If we throw away the opportunity to continue that legacy here; it would be a sad day.

Not only do we have American heroes from the Women’s World Cup like Abby Wambach, Hope Solo, Alex Morgan and Lauren Cheney. But we also have international players like Kelly Smith, Christine Sinclair and many more. On top of that we have young players who are making moves and proving they are forces to be reckoned with also, like Brittany Bock, Meghan Klingenburg, Christen Press and Casey Noguiera to only name a few out of many. The talent is there. There is no disputing that. But unfortunately it’s not that simple.

So please, Women’s Professional Soccer, put your brilliant little heads together and find a way to make this 6th team happen in the time frame you have been given. Maybe we can get together a ‘Super Committee’ of sorts, but one that won’t fail us miserably. We already had one super committee fail us this week, we can’t take another. How about instead of Super Committee we gather a ‘Marvelous Task Force’? Yes, I like that. So I put my trust in you, Marvelous Task Force. I believe in the MTF (See, I shortened Marvelous Task Force to make it quicker to read and also quicker for me to type so I don’t have to keep typing Marvelous Task Force) Right, I believe in the MTF and I have faith that they will pull through with a solution.

This league is a powerful force of athletes who are not only talented and skilled but also smart and excellent role models. So unless you want your 13 year old to stop trying to become the next Abby Wambach because her dreams were dashed by this league folding and instead focus her attention on becoming the next Snooki; I suggest you start backing the WPS and women’s soccer in this country.

Also take a look….
http://www.womentalksports.com/savewps
Check out this site for sure. Great organization helping to put the word out there.  They have exerpts of this blog entry plus a way for anyone to get involved and have their voice heard on this subject.

http://www.change.org/petitions/us-soccer-to-sanction-the-wps-for-the-2012-season
Another way to help…a petition you MUST sign which was started by an awesome dedicated fan!
http://www.change.org/petitions/us-soccer-for-womens-professional-soccer-sanction-the-league-to-be-division-one-under-ussf
And yet….another way to help! Another petition! SIGN!

A Beautiful Game of The Beautiful Game – USWNT

If I had the option of reliving November 19th 2011 from the hours of 7pm to 10pm Mountain Standard Time once a day for the next 5 years of my life in exchange for my soul I would gladly make the trade. This weekend I was one of the lucky 18,482 fans at the US Women’s National Soccer Team game against Sweden in an International Friendly match in Phoenix, AZ. Let me tell you, it was truly a beautiful game of the beautiful game.

This was a match I have known about for a couple of months and was unsure if I would be able to attend or not. But thanks to some amazing followers on Twitter offering different pieces of the puzzle to help get me there; I made it. I drove my little munchkin two seat convertible from Los Angeles to Phoenix on the day of the game. It was a lovely drive with the majority of it being on empty freeway with no civilization in site. This is a good thing for me because I love nothing more than putting my top down on a road trip, blasting the stereo and singing at the top of my tone challenged lungs. By the time I was in Phoenix my voice was already a little scratchy from a superb medley ranging from Janis Joplin to Journey to Katy Perry to every classic show tune you can imagine. I got pretty animated during “You Can’t Stop The Beat” dancing in my seat. Then of course put on my Adele playlist and had a good solid 30 minutes of sing-crying at an obscenely loud volume.

After getting to the stadium I met up with some fellow Twitter fans and grabbed a drink. I needed to settle my giddy-nerves from flaring up which would end up making me look like the insanely excited 6 year old child I am inside. It really is a gorgeous stadium with one of the most perfect fields I have ever seen. I had a field seat ticket so I headed down to the field and just stared at the pitch for a little while in a happy soccer coma. The giddy 6 year old was on the verge of coming out and doing a happy dance, but I maintained my coolness and instead grabbed the beer guy’s attention.

When the game started and that whistle blew, everything was perfect. The world could do no wrong at that moment. At least I thought, but then I let the 6 year old out and screeched and jumped in glee, knocking my beer over. My excitement was even more amplified by the two people next to me, a father and daughter, who appeared to be dead inside and I decided I hated them. But later in the game a group of 14 year old girls who knew nothing and said everything moved in next door and I decided the dead inside father daughter duo weren’t so bad. Within minutes the ball was right in front of me, at Amy Rodriquez’s feet. Watching her with the ball at her feet from only about 6 feet away is one of the most amazing things I have ever seen. She is just this brutally strong, compact, speedy little soccer machine. Every time the ball came that close to me it was incredible just seeing these players right there, doing what they were born to do and doing it so….damn….good. Sweden took advantage of a ball around the 18 and scored in the 28th minute though. We had been dominating and controlling the pace, but hey, that’s soccer. The entire game had this enormous building feeling to it. It was an inevitable fact that we would score. Then in the 81st minute Alex Morgan put a rocket on goal which was saved and Tobin Heath was more than happy to collect the rebound and stuff the ball into the back of the net, getting us tied at 1. After that it built even more and I really thought we had the winner coming, but around the 92nd minute the whistle blew and we would settle for a tie. But let me tell you, it was not reflective of how we played…we looked GOOD.

Lauren Cheney was on point with her corner kicks, her short range passing, her long switches across field and moving off the ball. She had a game of perfect precision and skillful sorting of the ball. She was in full 007 Spy Mode darting around the field disappearing and reappearing everywhere we needed her. The 6 year old in me had a strong urge to start doing diving spy move somersaults in excitement, but I managed to refrain. Carli Lloyd was having an excellent game also of connecting plays, crafty touches creating opportunity and contributing every second towards making our team better. So overall our central midfield was looking brilliant but let’s be honest about the central midfield on Saturday, I will just say- Shannon Boxx, Shannon Boxx, Shannon Boxx. This woman is unreal. There is no vocabulary yet created for describing the amount of respect and admiration I have for this legend. Our other iron woman, Christie Rampone had an impeccable game as always as well. I think Abby Wambach said it best on Twitter saying Rampone is the “strongest human alive”. No argument there, no further comment needed, as that says it all. My favorite, Heather O’Reilly had her usual game of making blazing runs, helping on defense, creating offense, burning past defenders and throughout the game ran roughly 47 miles. And I didn’t have speed gun with me but I believe she peaked on one of her runs around 124mph. This is just a rough guess, but I think it’s accurate and in no way an exaggeration. Becky Sauerbrunn was in fine form which let’s be honest…she always is. Every time she did a throw in near me I shook in fear over her guns. This girl is ripped. She is a beautiful woman who I think looks like Heather Graham, but only if Heather Graham was an athlete that could tear you apart with one toned arm tied behind her back. She was out wide on Saturday dominating that left back position and also getting into the attack beautifully. I will say I love her out wide as well, but when she plays in the middle with Rampone you might as well just put a 100 foot high brick wall in the middle of the field. A brick wall with ripped guns and a 6 pack, that is.Tobin Heath, our goal scorer was looking good too. Every time she got the ball a new dance routine began for her as she craftily danced and juked over the ball toying with the defense. I think right before serving a cross one time I actually saw her start to do ‘The Dougie’. And last but definitely not least I have to say that Alex Morgan is looking fresh. Her first touch, her runs off the ball, her back to goal work and her rocket shot were all looking phenomenal. She had a few different balls come in over her head that she collected with one fluid movement of her leg bringing the ball in like she has a magnetic power over it. I’m convinced she’s some kind of soccer specialty magician or immortal soccer nymph. She’s unreal. She put in some hard work (with very limited minutes, I would say too limited) and was hungry for a goal and was very unlucky to not walk away with at least one. A good save, some lucky blocks on the way in and a far post that was almost snapped in half by her bullet of a shot in the 78th minute prevented her from scoring though. Goal scored or not; Alex Morgan is on the prowl and is looking incredible.

Speaking of that poor goal post that was rocked by Morgan’s shot; I have a beef with the frame of the goal after Saturday. We hit both posts and the cross bar. Boxx’s crossbar shot looked like the dented it, it was hit so hard. It’s probably in need of cosmetic surgery it was rocked so forcefully by Boxx. And then Abby hit the other post on a ball that defied the laws of physics by not going in the goal. Just get out of the way!! Trust me goal frame, you don’t want all that pain. Just get out of the way and let these goals in! Regardless, the whole team showed everyone in that stadium once again why they are the number one ranked team in the world. Every one of them played beautifully this weekend and we are looking confident and ready for Olympic qualifiers. Seriously, like I have said before: any teams who have to face us in London 2012, I feel sorry for how badly you will be owned by Abby Wambach’s storm of fury and the whole USWNT.

So thank you Fox Soccer and ESPN for being so supportive and airing the game on televis…oh wait. Never mind. I forgot…neither of you aired it. Someone must have forgotten to give you the memo that the number one ranked women’s soccer team in the world (which just so happens to be the USA, you know…the country we live in) was playing a game in front of what was predicted to be a record breaking crowd against a rival team who beat us in the World Cup this summer promising for a high energy and highly entertaining game with guarenteed viewers eager to watch from home. Yeah, you must have lost the memo. Well, let’s thank some people who actually deserve a thank you…

Thank you ussoccer.com who actually did pull off a webcast of the game for fans across the country. Thank you Adele for a cleansing sing a long / hysterical crying session. Thank you Twitter followers who helped get me (and my giddy inner 6 year old) to the game and made it a very enjoyable experience. Thank you ridiculous road signs you only find in the middle of nowhere which made me giggle and also made me slightly nervous I was entering a horror movie plot line. (ex: State Prison Next Exit. Do Not Pick Up Hitch Hikers) Thank you highway patrol for making this my first ever road trip with no speeding tickets. But mostly, thank you to the US Women’s National Team, as always, for coming out and playing like true champions.

 

The Story of Faith Single

I will now tell you the tale of Faith Single. Faith was a young girl with great ambition. Everyone knew her as a strong, independent, athletic child with big dreams. The summer when she was 10 years old she went all the way to the World Hopscotch Cup. But sadly, she lost to a small Japanese girl who had the wind on her side that fateful day and brought the gold medal back to her nation which needed some good news. This was a hard loss for Faith to accept, but being the driven young girl that she was she moved on and continued her training. Then one day she received a call from an after school program saying they wanted her to come be a part of.  She had gone through a pretty horrific hip surgery somewhat recently that threatened her whole hopscotch career. But she was ranked the #1 hopscotcher in the whole world and was not about to give that up. So while still recovering from the injury she wasn’t sure if she should engage in this after school program. Although the World Hopscotch Cup wouldn’t come around again for another 4 years, she had a chance at the Hopscotch Olympics the next summer and didn’t want to risk injury.

In the end she realized by attending this program she may be able to inform and educate more children on hopscotch and get them to become fans of the sport in the U.S. The program was called “Dancing With The 6th Graders”. It was sponsored by a local company, A-B-C (All Biased Company). They were overly accepting to some kids in the program, but very harsh to others, so I suppose it was a fitting name. It was a program that encouraged younger kids who had no extracurricular activities to keep them occupied. It gave them a chance to pick their careers…I mean school grades…back up and on track. Faith knew she didn’t need help with any of that because she was very driven, goal oriented, and at the top of her hopscotch career. But knew it would be a great challenge for her, since a fear of hers was dancing with the older kids.

Faith still had hopscotch duties to fulfill so she knew it would be a hectic schedule, but she was ready. If anyone could do it…Faith could. She began training with the 6th grader they paired her up with; a foreign exchange student named Max Chsmerszdaodsahzmdwoskey. Max and Faith looked perfect together, it was a match made in heaven. But they butted heads quite often. They were both very stubborn and competitive. It was in fact their greatest strength and weakness as a team. Her practice schedule was hectic and she was doing everything she could to keep up with school work, hopscotch training, DWT6G, and also making personal appearances on local sports shows for her hopscotch career.

I won’t go into details on every other couple but they included Vicki Rake, who had experience on the stage in the town’s production of Hairbrush; a musical based in the 1960’s about a young girl who didn’t fit in.  She also had her own local children’s day time talk show speaking with at risk 7 year olds. Then there was Sob Parnashian, a boy who’s actual name was Rob but every nicknamed him Sob because he was always crying about his 3 older sisters getting everything. (Also because he was a son of a bitch) But the girls sure did swoon over him because of a certain physical asset that ran in his family. There was also a flamboyant young fellow named Larson who made all the costumes for everyone, a happy-go-lucky kid named Shaz who was always singing Sonny and Cher songs, and a tall awkward boy who played basketball but everyone knew he was crazy after he changed his name to Betta Universe Olive Branch. Then there was RJ, a very brave boy who was hurt while fighting off bad guys and bullies from the playground and everyone loved and respected him. None of the kids other than Faith had much of anything going on outside of school. So they had plenty of time to rehearse for the program while Faith worked diligently to balance her hectic schedule. At times she was ridiculed for not practicing enough for DWT6G which was false. To an athlete, like Faith, this was hard to hear because she knew how hard she was training.

The teachers who would be running the program were all quite different. One was an elderly British teacher, Ben, who didn’t condone any type of modern dancing and absolutely hated everything and everyone. Then there was an Italian man, Juno (not to be confused with the pregnant Ellen Page character, although the way his moods changed, he may have been pregnant), who was very animated in his critiques and slightly creepy about it. Last was Berry Ann Inababababa, who seemed to despise strong girls with a good head on their shoulders. There was something about a strong beautiful young girl that just made her sick.

Throughout the program it became very apparent that the teachers wanted Faith gone. If the judges didn’t like you, the rest of the kids on the playground would determine if you got to stick around for the next week. Luckily, Faith was extremely popular. Her fans called themselves “Fingles”, a fun play on her name. The Fingles were 200% behind Faith and vowed to help her because they all admired her so very much. But the program was breaking her spirit. Faith was proud and very competitive so when she received such harsh and unprovoked mean criticism that other kids weren’t receiving it was hard for her. Also, A-B-C never gave them much time to shine or highlight their big, fun moments together as a pair. Since they were sponsoring the program it was up to them to help the children network themselves for playground votes. But they made it an uphill battle from day 1 for young Faith. She and her partner Max were both very outspoken so they found themselves in detention quite a bit from voicing their opinions to the teachers. But this made their fans like them even more! It was refreshing for the other kids to see someone standing up for themselves and not just playing the safe, PR friendly, brown nosing game of reality competition sho…I mean…playground politics.

One day Faith’s hip injury starting acting up. She knew she had to power through so barely spoke of it but did need to seek some medical attention. That same day RJ got a boo boo. The teachers were very concerned for RJ’s boo boo. While there was not one mention of Faith’s hip which was literally being held together with staples and anchors from her surgery, they seemed overly concerned with RJ’s boo boo. RJ wanted to continue on, he didn’t want to be coddled or told he could not continue. After all, he was a strong boy who was a hero to many. But the teachers insisted on coddling him like a newborn baby. Later, Faith had two great dances but the teachers were determined to stop her that day. If she made it past that day it meant she was in the final 3. They were irritated by this strong, independent, athletic and beautiful young girl. They weren’t used to dealing with children who stood up for themselves and they wanted her gone. So they gave her some very harsh criticisms and made it very clear to the kids on the playground they shouldn’t be voting for her.

Alas, the teachers got their way. Faith was banished from DWT6G. This made some of the Fingles very upset, but they knew it was for the best. This program was breaking her down and she did not deserve the unwarranted and at times offensive comments from the teachers. She went out there, faced her fears and proved a lot to herself, to her fans and to her critics. Faith inspired many people, giving them hope, lots of hope…tons of hope. And also showed that athletic girls can be beautiful and graceful and rock a ball gown like it’s no one’s business. Her fans were also excited, knowing that her leaving DWT6G meant she would be able to focus all of her time now on the 2012 Hopscotch Olympics. It was time for Faith to go back to doing what she was born to do. She inspired, entertained, and captivated the town during her time on the program and it was a journey she will never forget.

The 2012 Hopscotch Olympics should prove to be an epic event. Faith Single is going there with a mission; a mission to bring the gold medal back to America where it belongs, just like she did in 2008. Faith: Thank you for your courage, strength and ability to be an amazing role model to not just young girls, but people everywhere. You are a beautiful girl with more talent, charisma and poise than most people could ever dream of and you carry yourself with an air of confidence and pride that is admirable.

In short; you’re a beautiful independent individual riding Solo. Thanks for giving us Hope.