Let’s hear it for the American women, World Cup champions

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07/06/2015 6:42 PM |

SPORTS DESK/Bob Liepa

A surge of patriotic fervor swept through me on Sunday. Sure, it was the day after the Fourth of July holiday, but that wasn’t the reason for it. What caused the red, white and blue of my fiber to tingle with pride was, would you believe it, a 40-second video.

Before the start of the Women’s World Cup final between Japan and the United States on Sunday evening, I checked out a short video that someone had evidently shot from a hotel room high above as American fans marched, apparently toward BC Place Stadium in Vancouver, British Columbia, for the game. Clad in red, white and blue behind a large banner for the American Outlaws, a supporters group for United States soccer, this spirited band of fans had made its presence known. Chanting loudly, with whistles and horns blowing and drums banging, they made it clear that the United States women’s team wasn’t alone on this quest.

Americans for America. You have to love that.

One has to admire their spirit, even if their “I believe that we will win” chant is kind of silly (why wouldn’t a fan believe that?).

But the United States women had given them great cause to believe and then backed it up with a 5-2 victory. The result wasn’t stunning so much as the manner in which it was achieved.

The United States had jumped on Japan before the Japanese even knew what hit them. Mostly, it was a heavy dose of Carli Lloyd. Lloyd had a hat trick within 16 minutes (including an audacious shot from near the midfield line that made the score 4-0).

Can you say game over?

The Americans ended up with their third World Cup championship and first in 16 years (can it really have been that long?). Lloyd, the exceptional midfielder, deservingly received the Golden Ball as the tournament’s most outstanding player. Her teammate, Hope Solo, was handed the award for the tournament’s top goalkeeper.

What a way to cap a Fourth of July weekend. It was a great birthday gift for America.

“Fireworks just after the fourth,” Andrew Das of The New York Times tweeted late in the game.

My two favorite sporting events are the Olympic Games and soccer’s World Cups, as much for the spectacle as the sport. FIFA made some missteps in this tournament (field turf instead of grass? Come on), but the play was riveting.

It was a great advertisement for women’s sports, which have come a long way since Title IX became the law of the land in 1972. Along with the growth of professional (and even major college) sports as big business, the proliferation of women’s sports has been a tremendous change over the past four decades. Crazy as it may sound today, my high school didn’t have a girls soccer team my senior year.

Nowadays, girls have virtually limitless athletic opportunities. They have heroines to emulate, teams to play for, resources to draw upon.

And, judging by the fact that it has been 16 years since the American women last lifted the World Cup trophy, the rest of the world seems to be catching up.

As much as this weekend was a celebration of America and women’s soccer in America, it was also a celebration of women and the rightful place they hold in sports.

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