Of Gods and Humans

USWNST2015ChampsIt’s an exhausting time of year. On top of the Tour de France and Wimbledon, we had the Women’s World Cup?! There is not enough time to be the kind of sports fan I want to be, that I know I actually am.

Somehow over the weekend, I managed to make it to the Olympic Day celebration at the San Francisco Civic Center. It was an outdoor viewing party for the Women’s World Cup final. Whoo, yes, USA!!!

Wasn’t it amazing? There were hundreds of people on hand, and every single one seemed SHOCKED at the intensity which the US brought to the opening minute of play:

The first goal happened while we were settling into our seats!

And then the second goal happened as we were calming down from the first!!

We were trading high-fives with strangers and giving each other incredulous looks!!! Did that just HAPPEN!?!?

But now that I’ve had a moment (two days) to calm down – why were we shocked?! It was game on! Time to PLAY! The US knew they needed to keep the game up-tempo to keep Japan from settling into their slow, deliberate game. You could see the momentum shift between teams in accord with the speed of play.

When the US snagged control of the game from the first moment, Japan was on the defensive….and from there it just took few too many minutes for them to shake off the panic and slow the game down. And then when the US let their intensity ebb, you could almost understand it: hey 4-0, do we REALLY have to do this for 75 more minutes, what’s the urgency? At which point Japan scored. The humanity of BOTH teams was on full display. At least, that’s what I see now that I’ve come out the back end of my pro sport experience.

When I was a kid and even a teenager, pro athletes were gods displaying other-worldly talents. But having been “a god” (HA!) I know the truth. They are human beings. Imperfect. And fallible. Often the winner of a contest is not the one who had more physical ability (or, as I used to think, the one who apparated into the universe with a higher fated destiny) but the one who took advantage of the opponent’s humanity.

Watching Wimbledon the other morning, I saw Nick Kyrgios lose to Richard Gasquet. It wasn’t so much that Gasquet played better tennis. When Kyrgios wasn’t overcome with anger at the ref, he actually seemed the better player. But, alas, he’s human. Kyrgios was so mad he actually stopped competing! He was moving on the court, but less like a competent professional athlete and more like a teenager so upset about 10pm curfew that he can’t make the most of the time he does have with his friends.

I love July. So many sporting moments from which we can draw inspiration and maybe understand what it means to be human and a champion – at the same time.

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