By John David Dyche
Recent events have again powerfully confirmed what we already knew. America is divided, sometimes bitterly, on many cultural, political and social issues.
This weekend we observe our nation’s 239th birthday and our inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Perhaps we can observe a brief ceasefire from our battles to celebrate something that unites us. It is something the Founding Fathers never would have imagined: a women’s soccer team.
The U.S. Women’s National Team is in Sunday's championship game of the FIFA Women's World Cup in Vancouver, Canada. They face Japan, which beat the U.S. in a penalty kick shootout four years ago. The game is on Fox nationally at 7 p.m. EDT.
This charismatic, tough, inspiring, and supremely talented group of young women exemplifies so much that is good about the U.S.A. They have the opportunity to join the ranks of American sports heroes who have transcended their game, accomplished something of larger significance on a world stage, and brought our entire country together in the process.
In this regard their predecessors include Jim Thorpe, Jesse Owens, Joe Louis, the 1980 U.S. Olympic gold medal hockey team, and the 1992 U.S. Olympic men's basketball "Dream Team." They also stand on the shoulders of giants – the iconic 1999 U.S. Women's National Team that won the World Cup at the Rose Bowl with Brandi Chastain's unforgettable penalty kick in the championship game shootout.
Some sourpusses will denigrate soccer as a sport. Others still shortchange female athletes in all sports. A negative minority may deplore the nationalistic nature of the contest. There will also be complaints from some that teams from the bigger and more affluent countries enjoy an unfair advantage.
But anyone and everyone who believes in the value of teamwork, admires hard work as a virtue, and appreciates good, old-fashioned American exceptionalism can find something to cheer for in this squad and their low-key coach, Jill Ellis.
It is refreshing to see the U.S. embrace and excel in something like "futbol" that is not native to us and is more important around the globe than it is here at home. Soccer connects us with the rest of the world in a way few other things can.
Despite great strides in gender equality, the United States remains male-dominated in many respects. In soccer, however, our women have blazed a trail of international excellence that our men are following.
America has always had a soft spot for appealing, bold, colorful, dynamic, exciting personalities, and this team boasts plenty.
They include a controversial but amazingly talented goalkeeper, Hope Solo; a glamorous forward, Alex Morgan; a spunky and tenacious midfielder, Megan Rapinoe; and captivating and clutch captain, Carli Lloyd. Indeed there is something about each and every player that appeals to and reflects some part of the distinctively American character.
The team beautifully blends finesse and physical play. The defense has been stellar, with back line stars Ali Krieger, Julie Johnston, Becky Sauerbrunn and Megan Klingenberg comprising a virtual wall in front of the flashy Solo.
Our midfielders are versatile warriors. They are called on to do it all in the "no woman’s land" where contested balls are fought for and the battle rapidly transitions between offense and defense. Morgan Brian, Tobin Heath, Lauren Holiday, Lloyd, and Rapinoe personify Janis Joplin's declaration in Piece of My Heart: "I’m gonna show you baby, that a woman can be tough."
In a valuable lesson to us all, the team's substitutes are sometimes the keys to success. The great Abby Wambach, the all-time Women's World Cup goal scorer, has been coming off the bench, and Kelley O'Hara, Amy Rodriguez, Christen Press, and others have made vital contributions even as their teammates get more attention.
The team is a delightful mixture races, ethnicities, orientations, and backgrounds, including multiple mothers. Their names run the gamut of the American melting pot, much as a military unit might, and there is strength in their diversity (although there remains room for improvement on this front).
Maybe most notable of all is how these ladies so obviously relish and rise to the challenge of trying to be the best against fierce competition. They will be doing us a great service if their example helps inspire a renaissance of that admirable attitude in America.
Our girls were quite clear about one thing after beating top-ranked Germany in the semifinals. They do not want to just be in the championship game; they want to win it. That is the American way, as it should be.
So whether you have followed the team through every step of qualifying and the tournament or have not watched a single minute so far, tune into the title game. It promises to produce fireworks that will be a fitting way to cap off the Fourth of July weekend.
John David Dyche is a Louisville attorney and a political commentator for WDRB.com. His e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jddyche.