Throughout June, the U.S. national women’s soccer team united us all.
I am generally not a person who regularly follows sports, and while I am of the generation of girls who, with interest and awe, watched an earlier version of our national team win the World Cup in 1999, beyond that, I’ve been aware of Abby Wambach but not many others. (I have already shamed myself, so no one else needs to.)
However, the current team, as Wambach so poignantly stated, was “made for this exact American moment.” And because of their collective power, their talent, their clear voices calling for gender equality, they caught my attention, and like so many others, I could not turn away.
On Sunday, millions watched as the team captured their fourth overall — and second consecutive — World Cup title. In doing so, they filled the country with pride and flooded us with a rush of adrenaline that comes from only the most exquisite kind of victories — rare, hard won, and deeply meaningful. Theirs is an inclusive joy, and today it continues to ripple through us all.
As with all great historical movements, there must be a prominent spokesperson driving the mission — a face most recognized, a voice most heard, some body taking the hardest blows. For the national soccer team, that has been Megan Rapinoe. Rapinoe, co-captain and one of the most seasoned and celebrated players is, as described by her coach, “made for this.” “This,” I presume, is being the face and voice of the 23 women (and hundreds who will follow) who are, in many ways, fighting for their lives.
Rapinoe is a stunning figure both on and off the soccer pitch, and she indeed seems inherently at ease in front of the camera, when questioned, when criticized, when praised, when misunderstood, and even when being bullied by the President of the United States. Her charisma and grace remain intact, and there is really nothing contrived about the public-facing self she reveals. And from what I have seen and heard throughout the month of June, she views it all as part of her job.
Imagine going to work every day and working hard (which many of us do), and by virtue of all that is associated with that responsibility, sparking a national call for equality, of greater visibility for your professional field, of pride in those who don’t even know much about your job, gaining the trust of people across the world, and throughout it all, maintaining your integrity and inner light.
It seems to me, in these early days leading into the 2020 presidential race, that Rapinoe has the special sauce that most presidential hopefuls would like to find within themselves. Most will not.
I do not suggest that Megan Rapinoe has ever considered running for President of the United States, but in this age of American concentration camps, of global warming, mass shootings, and devastating discrimination, a few more cancel-everything days like this past Sunday could lift our eyes just enough to remember that it was not always like this, and it will not always be this way.