I sit here having intended to write a tribute to Abby Wambach on the eve of her retirement from soccer. I sit here unable to do it. It’s like if I do it, it will happen. If I don’t maybe she won’t stop playing. But even I know I don’t have that power and it’s her time to step down.
Abby came into prominence when I was older than a lot of WoSo fans, I was about 45 and had been involved in sports primarily through field hockey and softball in high school. I had continued playing and coaching softball, men’s & women’s, for the next 3 decades. Women’s soccer was just on the far periphery of my sports interest. And I’m sure unless you played soccer it was on the periphery of yours as well. The ’99 Women’s World Cup drew me in and my interest and passion just grew from there.
Soccer for me almost always has included Abby and now that it won’t I’m struggling with what to do with the passion I have and the player I will identify with within the game. Abby was me..a younger, fitter, more accomplished me, but the me at 17 I thought I could be. She was raw and ambitious and fearless and even I knew back then, gay. I saw in her what I had wanted to be before I let life get to me and steal my dreams. At 45 I still wanted to be like Abby, but the years had passed me by and I lived vicariously through her. And what a life I’ve lived.
No person lives a perfect life and Abby’s been judged on and off the field for decisions she’s made, and things she’s said or not said. She’s weathered all the judgement with the same resolution she’s shown all along, to live her life to her expectations. To be able to live like that is what we all may aspire to, but she seems to be pulling it off.
My admiration of Abby isn’t confined to her accomplishments on the field or even in the women’s sports arena, to me she’s transcended women’s sports and has been recognized by the sports world in general. She is still the raw, ambitious, fearless person she’s always been, but now she’s got perspective and experience to add and I hope the world is ready for her to unleash that off the field.
Everyone wants to know who will be the next Abby – there will be no next Abby. There may be a player with better stats, but everyone knows Abby is much more to the game of soccer than her stats. She changed the game far beyond the numbers on a match report. Someone will eclipse her numbers, I don’t know if we will see someone change the game the way she has.
I’m thankful that someone like Abby has existed in my lifetime and that I was fortunate enough to be able to follow her career and growth as a person and player in such detail. I can’t wait to see what she does next.
All I have left to say is..Thanks Abby.