As I walked into the stadium, there were girls everywhere with US soccer jerseys that said, "Wambach," "Morgan" and "Solo." There were girls as young as 5 and as old as 17, all traipsing into the stadium in groups or with their parents. Never have I seen so many girls going to an arena like I did yesterday. I know there are huge female fan bases for a myriad of other sports, but this felt different. I felt as if this sea of girls was flooding the stadium and carrying the rest of us--women, men, parents and brothers--along for a ride. These girls, with their red, white and blue jerseys were telling us, "I know there are amazing male athletes, but I want to see these women play. I know there are singers, models and dancers I could choose as role models, but I want to follow in the footsteps of these women. See how lesbian and straight women play together without fanfare? See how women of different shapes and sizes work together? See how each woman has a different skill, but the same value? THIS is what I want to see."
I'm a huge fan of the women whose names graced many a jersey at Red Bull Arena--Abby Wambach, Alex Morgan, Hope Solo, Megan Rapinoe and Christie Rampone--just as I was of Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy, Brandi Chastain, Kristine Lilly, and Briana Scurry in the 90s. Hamm and her teammates were pioneers for women in sports, winning the World Cup and Olympic Gold, attracting thousands of girls to soccer for the first time. They found--no, earned--a level of international success still not matched by the US Men's Soccer Team.
During the game I saw athletic women--young and not so young, short and tall, slim and curvy--work together to defeat Korea. Not only that, I got to see history being made as Wambach--chasing Hamm's record of scoring 158 goals in career international play--first matched the record, and then beat it by two. Wambach scored four goals in the first half. The crowd went wild every single time, but especially when she broke the record. These girls--
young and not so young, short and tall, slim and curvy--knew what the record meant, even though some of them weren't even born when Hamm set it. These girls jumped up and down for joy and, being young and hip, posted pictures on social media to share that joy. I too jumped for joy because in a world where people are famous for being famous, here were 18,000 people cheering on true athletes and pioneers who happened to be women.
21 years after Title IX, my daughter is going to reap the benefits of equality and the tenacity of these women. She will have strong role models in soccer, gymnastics or snow-boarding and probably some sport yet to be invented. She will, I hope, live in a world where women's teams will sell out stadiums as often as men's teams.
After the game, Wambach's mother came onto the field and tearily hugged her record-setting daughter. Wambach graciously thanked her family for their support and her teammates for contributing to her success. After the cheers subsided, but the celebration on the field continued, I saw two little girls with the number "3" on their backs. The little one looked to be Munchkin's size and she, along with her sister, ran to her mother, Rampone. As Wambach's mother wept and Rampone's daughters scampered around the field, I knew I'd seen history and I'd seen the future. I can't wait for the ride.