Sunday, October 3, 2010

Brandi's Game

C and R are still on cloud nine after hanging out back stage with the world class athletes that came out to support soccer great Brandi Chastain in her retirement game. You know, think about it, how many pro athletes careers end with them standing at a podium in the off season, tears in their eyes and a sob in their voice as they announce they are retiring from a sport they love and that has defined them from early childhood? What a horrible way to go. Brandi, on the other hand, had the right idea, to be surrounded by those who love her, cheered on by her legions of fans, playing the sport she loves in the field that feels like home, in a big party-like atmosphere, and raising money for her new charity. At one point, she said it was like being at a wedding! Just think if Minnesota would arrange a game like this for Brett Favre, have him throw for 568 yards and 6 touchdowns, then he would retire quietly, happy to go.

BTW, Brandi played for both sides, so she could play with her all friends, ala the great Pele at his retirement soccer game in NYC, and if you don’t know Pele is, how can you call yourself a soccer fan? Go Google it, we’ll wait.

C and R asked a few of the players if there was any plan to “let” Brandi score, as it was her retirement game, and everyone one of them said, “NO way!” or words to that affect. Fierce competitors, one and all, but geez, even C and R know you let the hometown favorite score. We mean, come on, when Brandi, who normally plays defender, was placed in the forward spot, you have to let her score!

She had a shot on goal when she played for the red team, she shot wide right, but football great Brent Jones was there to bang it in. Unfortunately, he was offside, as he was for most of the game. Brandi went over to plead her case to the line judge to no avail. We kept laughing when Brent would run past the defenders with his hand up for the ball, like he would for the 49ers. Problem is, you can run past the defense in football, but not in futbol, or American soccer. He was offside most every play!

Finally, when Brandi switched teams and the forward line featured the great Mia Hamm and her, the defense, which included Brandi’s brother, let her shoot. Unfortunately, it kept going to the goalie. Finally, someone clued in the goalie and she let it go, and a Brandi shot found the back of the net with a few minutes to spare.

It was cute at the end of regulation, the game was declared a tie and penalty shots were called for. You’ll recall, Brandi made the famous penalty kick in the Women’s World Cup in 1999 to win it for the US and took off her shirt to show off her sports bra. Everyone made their kick in this game, although Brazil’s Sissi missed, so Brandi demanded a rekick, and since it was Brandi’s party, she got a rekick. Before Brandi’s penalty shot, she hugged the goalie, and probably whispered, “let this one go in, too.” Left footed, she kicked the shot, the goalie dove over the ball without touching it and it found the back of the net.

Then more speeches and Brandi became the first woman athlete to have her number retired at Mitty, where she played high school soccer, and got her number retired at Santa Clara, where she finished her college career.

Anyway, here are some highlights in a night of highlights as observed by C and R:
Julie Inkster:
Golfing great, 50 years old, never played a lick of soccer in her life, played with her hat on, running away from the ball and trouble to preserve her body!

Brent Jones:
Three championship rings for the 49ers. No shin guards. We told him he is playing with world-class soccer players, and he said he would probably get hammered, but tough guy Brent went out there anyway.

Team’s Strategy:
We listened in and Brandi was starting as a defensive back with her stepson and the coach told them not to get in a fight.

Cindy Parlow:
Scored the game's first goal.

Julie Foudy, Joy Fawcett, Tisha Venturini, Tiffany Milbrett, Mia Hamm, Cindy Parlow, all friends from the 1999 World Cup team and Olympic Gold Medal teams, looking as trim and as fit as ever, and could give the rest of the world a run for their money.

Mia Hamm:
C’s hero for years, Multiple Women’s World Cup winner, Multiple Gold Medal Winner, most goals scored for a national team member, men’s or women’s, yes got her autograph thank you very much, saw her make numerous runs at the goal, and they still trust her for the corner kick.

You know who the real stars were, though? It was the girls who participated in the before-game clinic with the players as coaches. The age groups were approximately 10-18, and these girls were highly skilled and well versed in the fundamentals of soccer. It was cool to see these girls so skilled and so enjoying being out there. C and R hope these girls stick with it and see where soccer can take them, like it did for Brandi.

Brandi said she would like to get into coaching down the road and “give back” to those who have supported her. She certainly has the passion and enthusiasm for the game and the young players. We wish her well in her next endeavor, her life “after soccer”.

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