What That Third Star Really Means
The first thing you learn as a journalist is Rule No. 1: In the press box, Keep. It. Together. Stay objective. No cheering. Little emotion. Keep calm.
So there I am, sitting in the press box at BC Place on Sunday, watching as the United States unleashes on Japan in the first half. I am staying calm. I am following the rules.
And then the 79th minute happens.
Enter Abby Wambach as a sub. Carli Lloyd takes the captain's armband off and wraps it around Wambach's arm. Unexpectedly, with the emotion of that moment and Wambach's last World Cup, I start to completely lose it. I find myself losing the battle to choke back tears. And to compound things, I look at the clock. Ten minutes left in the game. USA 5, Japan 2. That is when I let it hit me: These women are going to do it. The U.S. women will be World Cup champions for the first time in 16 years.
And at that moment, I make the executive decision that rules are meant to be broken. Ha.
Successful teams always have game changers. And for this 2015 team, they came in all shapes and sizes, from the early saves by Hope Solo against Australia to keep the United States in that decisive game to the 539 shutout minutes of that incredible back line. Or how about the shortest player on the team, Meghan Klingenberg, heading the ball off the U.S. goal line versus Sweden to secure a group stage win. Or Megan Rapinoe carrying the team early and Carli Lloyd carrying the Americans late. Or one of my all-time favorite leadership moments -- Wambach rallying this team from the bench and embracing her changed role. Or Morgan Brian settling the midfield as the youngest player on the team.
And in the end, how do you even begin to put Lloyd's World Cup in perspective. She went from having a quiet first three games in the group stage to scoring in every single knockout game. Oh, and then she drops a hat trick in the span of 13 minutes in the World Cup Final. REALLY? We know of the countless kids who grow up dreaming about scoring a goal in a World Cup final. Now they will be dreaming about scoring a hat trick in a World Cup final. And why not? Heck yes.
I had such immense joy and pride at watching these U.S. women lift that World Cup trophy, standing arm and arm as teammates. Because 16 years is just too dang long. Our 2003 team was part of that drought, so we all shoulder the responsibility. And it is what I love most about the women and family that is the U.S. women's national team. We demand excellence. Every single World Cup. As we should. That is how we are wired. That is all we know. That is who we are. And that is why we are the first country to earn three Women's World Cup stars.
And what I loved about this World Cup was not just that the U.S. women won it, but the way they won it. It was emphatic. It was emotional. It was uncorked. It was decisive. It was 'Merica. There was no need for a late goal by Michelle Akers as in 1991. There was no need for penalty kicks as in 1999. And with all due respect to Japan, a country I respect immensely, this one was a thumping.
Equally gratifying, the conversation now turns forward. For women's sports to grow, we need new storylines. Personalities. Yes, we will always remember the '91ers and the '99ers. Both were important moments in history never to be forgotten, but this next generation -- both girls and boys -- will get inspiration from an amazing group of women who showed the world that even when others doubt, you cannot. Even when you are not playing to your potential, you say YET. Because, as we know in sports and in life, it is not where you start, but where you finish. And finish they did. With confidence and conviction. The '15ers. Congratulations.