“Pride goeth before a fall.”
— Proverbs 16:18
It was a rough week for the U.S Women’s National Team in the soccer World Cup. Not only did they barely make it past pool play into the “knockout” stage, their performance – until, at least, the 5-4 loss to Sweden – has generally been described as “listless” and “half-hearted.”
The result was the earliest exit for the American team since the tournament started.
As a background to the disappointing performance of the team on the pitch were photos and videos of several members of the team not singing the National Anthem or putting their hands over their hearts at that time.
I don’t know these people, nor am I much of a soccer expert, not having played it since 1972. But my general impression is that they failed not because they weren’t good enough but because of arrogance.
Having made the national team of the world’s greatest soccer power, they appeared to assume that the tournament would be a parade of American victories, crowned by yet another big trophy.
But more than that, it seemed as if they didn’t truly treasure the opportunity. If you make a national team, you are not merely a really good professional athlete but – like it or not – a representative of your nation.
If the latter role doesn’t suit your politics or sensibilities, don’t take a knee, take a pass. There are millions of other women who would give their right kneecap to play in the World Cup tournament.
I understand that elite athletes in any sport have been coddled and told how wonderful they are since they were 5 years old, and many of them have lived in a bubble of adulation.
We have been especially proud of the USWNT not only because of its successes, but also because of the players being absolutely correct in their demand for equal pay with the men’s team, which has never been within shouting distance of a World Cup title.
This time, though, they let us down. I’d rather them finish last and show grit in their play and pride in their nation than yawn on the winner’s stand.