By Marc Rasbury
They do not call these the dog days of summer for nothing at least as far as I’m concerned. I usually find myself yearning for the start of the NFL season or crying that the NBA campaign is over. I can’t get excited about baseball until the pennant races heat up. But thanks to Derek Jeter and the Ladies of the US National Soccer Team, I’ve been in a sports wonderland.
From the sound of the final buzzer of the NBA Finals to opening kick off of the NFL season, there is a lull in my sports world. Yes, I do like baseball but the season is too long and I really do not get into it until most of the teams have been eliminated from playoff contention. And, ladies, the WNBA does capture my attention but not like the NFL and NBA, sorry. So this time of year normally has me looking for some street festival to go to or packing up a picnic basket to go to a beach or a pool.
So while sitting by pool side on Saturday after chasing a basketball, tennis ball and a baseball with my son in the blazing heat, I heard that Jeter collected his 3000th hit on a home run no less. That was refreshing as the first wave of water that hit me after spending most of the day in the sun. I have been to a few games this season and one could see the pressure on the Captain’s face although he reluctantly admitted it during the post game press conference.
That hit had to have consumed him like Moby Dick to Captain Ahab. For most of the season, he was hitting feeble dinkers here and there leading some people to proclaim that he was done and the Yankees should move him to 9th place in the batting order. The Player Haters were out in earnest. One would think all of the equity that Jeter had built up in his 17 year career had vanished in thin air.
He came into Saturday’s game needing two hits. He accomplished his goal in Jeter like fashion. He led off the game with a solid double. Then in the third inning, he smashed a homerun into the left field bleachers making him the only Yankee to reach that majestic milestone. Think about that. Out of all the iconic players to don the pinstripes, he is only one to accumulate over 3000hits. That is not only a testament to ability but his consistency and durability. Just when you thought that this would be the story of the week, here come the Ladies of the US World Cup team.
On Sunday, the US World Cup team stole some of Jeter’s thunder with their win over the Brazilian National Team in the World Cup quarter finals. I made several friends whom I still keep in touch with from time-to-time when I was in Brazil back in 2000. As a matter of fact, I made a bet with one of them Saturday night via Facebook. After Team USA lost to Sweden in team play, I was kind of hesitant about making that bet. Nevertheless, I got kind a patriotic and made it anyway. My friend Daniela and her family were talking too much smack.
I saw an expose on Abby Wambach earlier in the week and she stated that she wanted this world cup championship more than anything in the world especially considering that this was her third attempt and perhaps final chance at it. It looked as if she was well on her way to continuing her dream until everything appeared to unravel right before her eyes.
A series of bizarre calls, that made one think back to the USSR-USA basketball game in the’72 Olympics, not tied the game at one all but left Team USA down a player. Rachel Buehler collided with Brazilian five time FIFA World Player of the Year, Marta. Buehler was given a red card and was disqualified from play. Many felt, including yours truly, that Marta should have been given an Oscar for her acting. Marta tied the game on a penalty kick. The first attempt was blocked by Hope Solo but Marta was given a second chance when a referee made another questionable offside call against Team USA. Of course the Brazilian star capitalized on that gift from the official. Team Brazil would later take a 2-1 lead. The fortunate thing for 2011 US World Cup Team, unlike their male counterparts of the ’72 US Men’s basketball team, they had time to recover from the series of bogus calls.
With time running out and down a player, Team USA fought and scraped their way to keep the pressure on their Brazilian counter parts. Then out of no where with seconds left on the clock, Megan Rapione booted a perfectly placed ball with her off foot that Wambach headed into the net to tie game. I assure you when ESPN does their Top 10 Plays of the Year, this will be near the top of the list.
That play will be compared to Montana to Clark “The Catch” or Doug Flutie’s Hail Mary. Team USA went on to win the contest on penalty shootout that was capped by Ali Krieger’s blast (5-3 advantage). But they never would have had the chance to the win the game if it was not for Rapione to Wambach. It seemed appropriate that the veteran Wambach would score the winning goal. I just hope that they have enough left for the Wednesday’s Semi Final against France.
Rarely do we get a sports weekend like we experienced this past week. Thanks to Jeter and the Ladies of the Team USA we have enough good memories to last us to the start of the pennant races or the NFL opening Day should the Owners and Players agree on their differences. But the best thing about both of these stories is that neither of them are complete.
Not only did Jeter finally reach that Hall of Fame caliber plateau, he did it in grand fashion. I was more impressed with the fact that he is hitting the ball with a little more thump. He also went 5 for 5 on Saturday including driving in the game winning run. Talk about having a heck of a day.
Team USA also has a chance to advance to the Finals of the World Cup. Twelve years to the day that they won that improbable victory over to defeat China for their first world cup, they defeated the mighty Brazilian team that knocked them out of the last Women’s World Cup.
Let’s hope that Jeter’s historic day was not an aberration for this season and that Team USA does not waste Sunday’s magnificent effort and come up short against France in this week’s Semi Final match. I would love to see Jeter go on a nice hot streak leading the Yanks to a playoff birth and Team USA bring home the World Cup. That would be a nice bridge to the NFL season, WNBA Playoffs and MLB pennant races. If you would have submitted these accounts to a Hollywood producer, he or she might have ripped them up saying that no one would have believed these stories.