OK, you can admit it. There's no shame now. No more reason to hide and cower. Before the last two weeks of Mia Mania and this caravan of women's soccer wholesomeness, you didn't even realize there was an event known as the Women's World Cup.
And now that it's here, pronounced with a resounding screech, you can't turn your eyes away.
There is a group of women carrying the red, white and blue by playing their sport with amazing grace and guile.
They are everything this country has preached since that day in 1776: they're big, they're bold, they're beautiful. And they're also a soccer superpower, which is what every red-blooded patriot can identify with and support.
This women's soccer team doesn't just conquer the world; they do it so convincingly that it makes you puff that chest out. Those are OUR women! They got game.
Our men have been letting us down so much these days it's tough to stick with them at times. Embarrassed at the Ryder Cup, the President's Cup, the Winter Olympics, the Men's World Cup. Our sprinters aren't the fastest anymore, our boxers aren't the strongest, and our pitchers not the brightest.
So we turn to a new breed of athlete, one possessing both warm and warrior qualities. This soccer fortnight provides a new perspective on the definition of sports icon. Take a look at this women's soccer scene, traveling all over the country.
Our idols can be sex symbols. Hamm, the team's beacon, earned a spot on People's 50 Most Beautiful List. Midfielder Brandi Chastain, who erased her own-goal gaffe Thursday with a game-tying goal in the 3-2 win over Germany, photographed for a promotional shoot in Gear wearing nothing but a soccer ball. A Sports Illustrated profile on ebullient Julie Foudy happens to show her in a blue bikini playing soccer with her fiance.
Who says you can't play marvelously, and look it to. It seems some of today's athletes of both genders have this priority backward. Are you listening Miss Kournikova?
Our idols can handle families. Working mothers Joy Fawcett and captain Carla Overbeck out their careers on hold to give birth, and now they've returned to be part of this team's run for the World Cup.
These are comforting changes after stories of Shawn Kemp, Evander Holyfield and Chipper Jones' infidelities, not to mention Julius Erving's admittance of fathering Wimbledon semifinalist Alexandra Stevenson.
Our idols can win with smiles and waves. Acknowledging that your supporters aren't the enemy or a nuisance is certainly refreshing. After the quarterfinal win over Germany, the whole team spent an hour signing T-shirts, magazines covers and posters for the 55,000 in attendance.
Find me an NBA player hanging out with the ticket purchasers, and I'll show you someone sentenced to community service.
Our idols are educated. Each member can claim a college degree or is a full-time student. Foudy turned down medical school for this month.
This women's soccer team has touched many emotions and has brought an untapped market of fans -- teen-age girls -- into the mainstream. But you don't have to adore NSync or Leo DiCaprio to admire what these women accomplish with each corner kick.
These women aren't just role models for girls; they're role models for all athletes. You can be smart, and cute, and personable, and still be able to bulldoze a Butkus attitude.
So today, when OUR WOMEN! take on Brazil in a semifinal game at 4:30, there no better reason to paint your face red, white and blue. Happy Birthday, America.
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