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uswntThis is in response to the Daily Prompt: Teen Age Idol

Who did you idolize as a teenager? Did you go crazy for the Beatles? Ga-ga over Duran Duran? In love with Justin Bieber? Did you think Elvis was the livin’ end?

It’s a few days after my 12th birthday and the year is 1999. I’m spending this day with my second family. I grew up with these kids as my surrogate siblings and my mom went to college with their mom. All pivotal moments in my life thus far have included The Goodman’s, so why would this be any different?

Ben, Kelsey and I are running around, high on post birthday cake when their dad, Bryan tells us it’s time for a very important game. All 6 of us, along with a slew of pets, pack into the tiny tv room. For the next few hours, not only am I glued to the tv in a way my ADHD brain didn’t seem capable of, but I notice how close I feel to everyone in the room, as if we are one person. We are watching the U.S. Women’s National Team in the final against China.

Women are the center stage of an athletic tournament and not only is the stadium completely packed, but the most important adults in my life are infecting us with a cause for celebration. I love playing soccer. I have loved playing soccer since the age of five when my mom signed me up, praying it would burn off some of my “excess energy”. But it is on this day that I become a true soccer fan. Had they lost the World Cup and Brandi Chastain hadn’t iconically ripped off her shirt after scoring the winning penalty, it wouldn’t have mattered to me. The seed had been planted. I was a sucker for the game.

I saved up money the longest time, walked in to Soccermania and bought a white Mia Hamm jersey that would get worn only in my room. It couldn’t be trusted in the outside world, not on my body that was a magnet for dirt. My soccer coach took us to see the Boston Breakers (who Hamm was playing for at the time) and eventually we even got to see the USWNT play live. My job of choice on every school questionnaire was professional soccer player.

Part of what I love about calling Portland, Oregon my home is that 16,000+ fans regularly show up to cheer on their women’s team, the Portland Thorns. My favorite team in the Australian W-League is Canberra and we’re going to spend the very last of our money to drive 7 hours to watch their home semifinal in two weeks time. The spark in me was lit and even after I retire my own cleats, it will still be burning. There’s nothing like supporting such talented athletes and multifaceted women who are playing the game for the love of it and not for the minuscule material gains.

You can bet my world was rocked when 3 days after my 28th birthday everything came full circle and the USWNT added another star to their jerseys. My partner and I quit our shitty jobs in June so that our schedules were completely clear to get up at 3am Australia time and watch every single match of the 2015  World Cup. I watched as a new generation of soccer players, ones that were now actually my own age, made me feel like a 12 year old fan.


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