Last night, the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team gave America one heck of a late birthday present, crushing Japan to soar into World Cup victory. While I’ve never been a soccer person, I am weirdly emotional about televised sports so it was very exciting. Plus, I love America, and I enjoy when my country has a good birthday weekend.
But as a non-soccer person, it’s hard to know exactly what is going on. I’ll admit it: my trough of soccer knowledge is filled with ’90s children’s entertainment. Namely, the 1995 Disney movie The Big Green, the 1992 Rodney Dangerfield vehicle Ladybugs, and this one episode of Full House. All three proved very useful as I got surprisingly into the World Cup over the last week or so.
During England’s semifinal match against Japan, powerhouse defender Laura Bassett had the opportunity to block Japan’s kick at a critical moment. Instead, the ball deflected into her own goal, scoring one for Japan.
You know who has been there? Michelle Elizabeth Tanner of San Francisco, California, that’s who. Yes, a fictional 8-year-old from 1994. A lot of us learned about sportsmanship, life, and disappointment when Michelle triumphantly drove the ball down the field – into the wrong goal. So yeah, Michelle actually headed toward her own team’s goal, while Bassett was just doing her job but miscalculated a bit. Also England was playing in the World Cup and Michelle was playing in a rec league coached by Uncle Joey, a grown man who lives in his friend’s basement and does impressions of 50-year-old cartoon characters.
But here’s where we learn our lesson about mistakes. Michelle’s own team taunted her like a bunch of poorly-raised brats, effectively kicking off two decades of negative stereotypes about millennials. I’d expect that from Aaron, but DEREK? Not Derek. Never Derek. He’s the Yankee Doodle Boy. He’s better than that.
But in 2015, social media rallied around Bassett, who is by all accounts an amazing player who had a bad moment that could have happened to anyone. So our lesson here: sometimes, mistakes will happen, but it takes a real adult to be nice about it.
Americans Are Actually Pretty Great At Soccer
In The Big Green, an English teacher ends up in Elma, Texas, a town where all of the children are variations on the Ugly American stereotype. With the help of the town sheriff – because in tv and movies, Texas is like 50% cowboys, 49% sherriffs, 1% Tim Riggins – the kids win the championship. Yes, the AMERICAN kids. From TEXAS even. All they needed was a British schoolteacher to believe in them.
Last night, America systematically beat out every other participating country to win the World Cup. Basically the same thing. See, Americans CAN do it! Of course, those of us who checked The Big Green out at Blockbuster Video in fourth grade already knew that.
You Don’t Need A Boy On The Team
In an all-new REALLY?! With Seth And Amy, Seth Meyers and Amy Poehler shut down Andy Benoit, a man who writes about sports and decided that no women’s sports are worth watching. What an Aaron, am I right?
But Andy Benoit was born the same year as me, which means he probably grew up on Ladybugs, a movie about a girls’ soccer team coached by Rodney Dangerfield. Well, a girls’ soccer team that included one boy (Jonathan Brandis in the worst blonde bob wig in the world) pretending to be a girl named “Martha.” Yet, after Martha fessed up, you know who scores the winning goal? Kimberly. A girl.
So. Ladybugs is not a good movie. However, Andy Benoit should still know that the Ladybugs never needed Jonathan Brandis to be a winning team. The point is, maybe we just need to stick Andy in a screening room and make him watch Ladybugs on a loop until he comes around or goes completely crazy, whichever happens first.
Maybe A Ragtag Team Of Misfits Can Play Soccer After All
The Big Green and Ladybugs showed us that nonathletic losers- with grit, enthusiasm, and some uniforms – can become soccer stars. While in the World Cup, we saw that athletic, highly motivated, well-trained people – with grit, enthusiasm, and some uniforms – can become soccer stars. This is not the same thing. I think these movies seriously overstated how easy it is to become a reigning soccer champ. But those of us who watched the World Cup from our sofas, only half-understanding what was going on, pretty much already knew that.