#ThanksAbby

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.

Hey #WoSo, Why Not?

Soccer should be played on grass. Grass requires a dwindling resource – water. Communities are trying to preserve “green” space for people to enjoy. Why not combine grass soccer fields with “green” space to maximize water conservation. In many communities grass soccer fields might be the only “green” space they can afford. I’m sure it’s more complicated, but why isn’t this part of the conversation about soccer on grass?

I’ve said it on twitter and since heard a variation on the podcast “2 Drunk Fans” – In order to promote the NWSL during the USWNT Victory Tour, why not have players wear their team jerseys during warmups? I’d like them to wear them during the games, but that might be too hard to get by FIFA rules. Abby could be the lone player in the NT warmup. 10 chances to expose NWSL to new markets and fans, that’s a huge return with absolutely no marketing investment. What say you US Soccer? In addition, opponents who have domestic women’s leagues could do the same with their players. I know it would boost the Westfield W-League in Australia, for example.

NWSL teams who are not offering season tickets sales for 2016 truly puzzle me. Even if USWNT did not win the World Cup interest would have spiked. Even if a team is not sure of their venue for next season they could accept season ticket deposits. Even someone who is just a fan, like me, can figure that out.

Why not?

Abby in Rio

Here we are..again.
Abby Wambach did an interview on local Rochester TV , WHAM ABC 13, about artificial turf. In the course of the interview she was asked what’s next for her in soccer or her life plans. She answered by saying she hasn’t decided yet, but she was planning on playing next summer in Rio. She went on to say she’s going to take a couple weeks of vacation to get away from the whirlwind of the last few weeks and maybe make some of the decisions about her future.

Cue the “we only hear what we want to hear” crowd. Abby did not say she expected to play, she knew she would play or even that she would play. What she did say was that at this time she’s planning on playing, but wasn’t certain what her decision would be and she’d think about it during her vacation.

If you follow Abby at all you’d know that at her core she’s a competitor. Her wanting to continue to play at the highest level is no revelation. It is also not her decision alone. She may want to be on the team in Rio, but the coaching staff and other players competing to make that team also have a say.

The US winning the world cup this time around and recent announcements of retirement also changes the dynamic of who goes to Rio. The Victory Tour will absolutely see Abby on the pitch for some minutes every game, it’s what the people want to see. It’s what sells tickets and generates revenue. But it also will allow Abby and the coaches to assess what Abby’s role, if any might be in the next year up to and including Rio. Abby herself said she didn’t want to walk away without that final jewel in her crown, the world cup trophy. Well now she has it so anyone buying into the theory that she will be kept on the team for sentimental reason can let that argument go. She’s already got Olympic gold so there’s no sentimental reason to keep her for Rio.

I really think the decision by the coaches on whether to consider Abby for Rio will depend on their development strategy going forward. If they view Rio as a chance to “change the guard” so to speak, then Abby , in her world cup form, wouldn’t really be a consideration other than a cursory “look”. If, on the other hand, they view Rio as an extension of this cycle, she will have a better chance, and I do mean chance, of getting more than a look and possibly even making the team. In either case, she will still have to be able to contribute something meaningful on the pitch.

I don’t envy her trying to make this decision and walking away from what she’s know all of her adult life so far. I will try to remember that she is an adult and has surrounded herself with family and friends and coworkers and coaches and agents who will help her make this decision.

And I will also try to remember that most people trying to push her out to pasture mean well, even if they have a strange way of wording it.

Whatever she decides, I am confident we’ll see her go into it with all the dedication and confidence she’s always shown.

 

Dear Abby,

Just wanted to touch base and see how things are with you. I’m guessing you’re pretty psyched now that the day of the final, your final final, is here. I know I am!

It’s been a long and swerve-y ride to today, for you and fans like me. I remember your days as a Gator and your early days with the national team. The hype and bad hair, the accolades and the disappointments. I’ve followed you for a very large chunk of my life, and yours. You’ve inspired and exasperated me. You’ve shone and refused to all at the same time. You’ve been my gay icon and a source of my gay discontent. You’ve played your game to the fullest and lived your life unapologetically.

And now it’s all coming together today. I so wish for it to end with the fairytale ending you want. I believe that it will. I believe in you, your heart, leadership, and ability to get that last extra ounce from your teammates. I know you’d like to play and I hope you get one last chance to walk out onto a World Cup pitch as a player, but even if you don’t it won’t tarnish what you’ve accomplished at this level. Not for me or thousands of fans around the world.

As you, and the other veterans of the team who may also be playing in their last World Cup for the Red, White & Blue, suit up, know that the US WoSo world is behind you 1000% percent in your task today. We appreciate all the hard work and sacrifice it takes to get to and stay at the elite level.

I will miss you on this stage in the future, but I know that the importance of team and the continued fighting spirit you’ve emphasized during your career will be your legacy.

I Believe..and always have.

Always a faithful fan,
Diane

Now It’s My Turn – Abby Wambach

It’s no secret that I am an avid fan of Abby Wambach, always have been, always will be. As such I’m over all the bullshit arguments people are making against her decision to sit out NWSL this year and solely play NT.

Let’s list some of the arguments against her decision:
A) Men aren’t able to skip club and just play NT
B) Wambach is being a prima donna
C) Wambach is thumbing her nose at NWSL and doesn’t support the league or having a league in the US.
D) Wambach has left WNY in the lurch with an empty roster spot and another player salary to pay because she was allocated and bankrolled by USSF.
E) Wambach is playing USSF/US Soccer because she’s not in jeopardy of losing her WC roster spot.
I’m sure there are others I’ve missed in the list, but this is a good start.

Now let’s see why I think they are bullshit:
A) In 2010, New Zealand (ironically WNY coach Aaran Lines’ home country) had 2 players play on WC MNT with no club affiliation, Australia had one. And to the extent my search attempts have been successful I haven’t been able to find any FIFA rule that states a player MUST play for a club to be selected to play on their national team. So maybe it’s Lines’ opinion, but that doesn’t make Wambach sitting out it wrong.
B) I have been unable to find an interview with Wambach by any media outlet that paints her as anything but confident and humble, usually giving credit for any personal accomplishments to her teammates, club or country. So saying she feels “entitled” to this consideration is a stretch. My opinion is she’s doing this because she feels she must –  not just because she can. (See E below)
C) Wambach started playing US professional club soccer in 2002 and has played in WUSA, WPS, and NWSL. She has been a public advocate of a US professional league for women and still is. She is one player on one team and her choosing not to play this year will not sink the league. If other players choose to play any place other than NWSL, that is their choice and will be handled by USSF/NWSL on a contractual and individual basis. Players have always had a choice where to play regardless if people think they were coerced into playing in NWSL. Her willingness to still make public appearances for WNY shows she still supports the league and its growth.
D) Lines himself admitted that he had had conversations with Wambach as far back as 2014 about her possibly not playing in 2015, so saying he was blindsided is stretching the truth. He also admits to trying to work a deal with Wambach, which to be honest just because someone offers you a deal and you turn it down doesn’t make you the bad guy. Did Wambach wait until after the draft to confirm it? We’ll have to take Lines word on that, but don’t you think he would have nailed that down before the draft if there was any question at all that she might not play? And as to WNY having to pay the player filling Wambach’s roster spot, rubbish. If you read the roster rules (OK, I concede they change without warning, but I’m using the last ones publicly available) any team that has over the specified allocated limit has to pay part of those player’s salary back to the league to be distributed to the teams that have under the allocated limit of players. So, WNY will be compensated for Wambach’s salary just like for the third allocated player they don’t have. WNY will not suffer in that regard. Being able to give another player a paid roster spot and WNY being able to not have to worry about another NT player being absent are just extra perks of Wambach’s decision.
E) No one player, Wambach or otherwise runs USSF or US Soccer. Does Wambach have some influence and do USSF/US Soccer listen when she speaks? Yes, I would imagine so. Any organization is wise to listen to employees who have “been there, done that”. Is she a marketable commodity? Without a doubt. Are these the reasons she’s been able to take this NWSL season off? I’m not naive enough to think they don’t play a role, but other considerations are in play as well. Wambach has arguably carried the hopes and dreams and marketability of the USWNT for over a decade. Training, playing, being targeted by opposing teams, winning, making appearances, being the face of the team at every dog and pony show for over a decade takes its toll. I think it’s not the least bit unreasonable to grant the request of a player to sit out a club season in support of the national team under those circumstances. Even most Wambach detractors still recognize her value to the team in big tournaments. I don’t agree with the 90 minute games Ellis has had her playing, but that doesn’t lessen her value when on the pitch. That is why she will be on the roster, not because she’s someones favorite or they “owe” her a spot or that she’s some sort of aging charity case, because she brings value that is unique to her.

There is no real way you can compare Wambach’s situation to any male NT player. The experiences of women on the NT and in US professional leagues is so very different it would be like comparing a chair to a pineapple. Since its inception the WNT has served as the women’s club team, leagues being so sporadic, short-lived and unpredictable that the only constant was playing for the NT. That USSF has finally decided to get behind a league as a development pathway for future NT players is commendable (and about time), but by no means provides the level of support the NT does for players. I think we can all agree we want the NWSL to grow and thrive to be the provider of that support, but it’s far from there right now.  This configuration is new and evolving and comparing recent or current male NT players to Wambach in this regard is not even fathomable to me.

Maybe your personal opinion of Wambach is colored black & white by recent events – WC lawsuit, calling out WNY teammates for lack of effort- or older events like MagicJack, but at least be willing to consider that there may just be some grey area in there.

Last season fans were outraged that players “had to” return to the US to play in NWSL and give up getting experience and making better money internationally. Now they’re screaming Wambach could spark an exodus – which is it fans? Do players “owe” NWSL their loyalty, or does that just extend to legends of the game?

Feel free to have at my arguments in the comments, all civil discourse encouraged.

That Age Old Argument

 

“How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you was?”

– Satchel Paige

Too old, washed up, over the hill, not needed, redundant, put out to pasture, past their prime.. all terms used at one time or another to describe people thought not able to do the job anymore, simply because of a number.

Hi, My name is Diane, I’m 58. That is my chronological age, the number of years I have been on this earth. I am also 48, my biological age, the physical condition of my body. I’m also 69, my psychological age, measuring experience, logic, and emotions. Put them all together and you get my functional age, the actual me that moves through space and time in the world. Too often people just look at someones chronological age and stop there. It’s understandable, industrial societies measure productivity in terms of time – the amount a worker can produce over a given amount of chronological time.

In sports it’s a little different. What is produced by an athlete (worker) is not as easily measured like widget output from a factory. Sure there are stats, but stats only tell one part of the story, as fans everywhere will argue. When considering athletes’ productivity, especially in team sports, you also have to take into account functional age. The entire package. The combination of the chronological, biological, and psychological age. An athlete may well be considered old in relation to the chronological age of their teammates, but athletes by virtue of the excellent care they take of their bodies are younger biologically than chronological age would suggest. Many athletes have been known to play at a high level when their chronological age was past what most would consider too old.

Which brings me to psychological age. An athlete of sufficient psychological age will bring to bear all the experience gained, logic learned, and emotions lived over their chronological years of playing to get the most out of the biological body they possess. This would mean that their physical preparation might look different from other teammates, but it also might mean that their psychological age contributes to the productivity of the team in other ways not as easily measured. They’ve most likely “been there, done that” in every way from struggling to make the team to suffering and coming back from injury to playing on the biggest stage to almost – but not quite –  grabbing the brass ring. Having a teammate that can share those experiences and what worked, or didn’t, and how they handled it is immeasurable, especially to less experienced teammates.

And that is why I have such a problem with people who discount an athlete simply because their chronological age is past what is considered the norm to compete at a certain level in sport. A huge disservice is done to those athletes who are able to manage all the variables and still produce at the highest level of a sport. It’s not all that long ago that it was thought impossible for a woman to return to a sport at the highest level after childbirth, athletes in many sports are proving that’s not the case. Dismissing an athlete simply based on a number is just as foolish.

I’m not saying that at some point an athlete might not lose the physical capability to compete at a certain level, but that capability should not be measured simply by chronological age. More and more frequently players in their mid-teens are being lauded for their accomplishments, is it because they have accomplished something or simply because they are of a certain chronological age?

Some days my 58 year old self wants to tell my 48 year old self to kick the asses of these ageists, but my 69 year old self prevails and I simply write a blog instead.

P.S. Yes, this blog is about Abby Wambach (to a lesser degree Christie Rampone/Shannon Boxx/fill in your least favorite player over 30) and her detractors that think it’s time for her to hang up her boots and cite her chronological age, ad nauseam. On a larger scale it’s about people that don’t consider all the variables when writing a human being off, whether in sport, at work, or life in general. Everyone has value and brings different things to the table. Some tangible, some not, but valuable just the same.


Time To Empty The Bench

Every so often there are so many things going on in the world of sports that even I have a hard time following them all. When that happens I get a kind of ‘opinion overload’, now is one of those times. So, to use a sports analogy I’m going to empty the bench and put all my opinions on the field in one post..here goes.

  • Domestic violence as it relates to sports:
    Domestic violence can never be justified, it can be rationalized, but never justified. I’m not sure why domestic violence is different than just you know, violence, but according to the law it is. If the law singles it out as a separate offense then ALL sports need to have a policy in place to deal with it when it occurs. Because let’s face it, it will occur. Sport is just a microcosm of society and since it hasn’t been eradicated in society, it won’t be eradicated in sport. In my opinion any policy has to include help as well as consequences from the sport entity involved. Every person has done something they are glad they got a chance to grow from and change for the better. I am not and never have been an advocate of zero tolerance. I don’t feel that policy addresses the problem, it only makes it a problem for someone else. I also think that every case is different and a policy has to have enough flexibility not to punish someone for merely being accused.
  • NFL and Sponsor reactions to domestic abuse:
    The NFL was not at all prepared for the backlash they got from the public in regard to the recent cases of domestic abuse, no one will deny that. And they are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to sports realizing that they have a social responsibility that reaches much farther than making small pink things for the ladies. They didn’t get it right, but they too deserve a chance to change. I look at it as allowing them to make the mistakes and address the problems in drafting policy so each and every other sport doesn’t have to, let them bear the burden for their short-sightedness and we all reap the benefits. The fact that the sponsors have jumped on board to spur the NFL along is just an added benefit. Each sponsor has a different social message, so let’s just deal with each of them individually as our conscience sees fit.
  • USSF, NWSL, and domestic violence:
    Just like the NFL, USSF and NWSL don’t have a domestic violence policy that addresses what to do when a player is accused. Honestly, is anyone surprised by this? Soccer is a “civilized” sport, not like that barbaric other football. They need one and the arrest of Hope Solo brought that to light. Unlike that other football, USSF and NWSL has decided to let this play out in court before they assess any penalties. Is this the right thing to do? I think so. I think whatever comes out in court will go a long way to shape the domestic violence policy for USSF going forward.  I also don’t think they ever expected the first alleged offender to be from the women’s side, so they were doubly unprepared.
  • The double standard and domestic violence:
    Once again I think everyone was a little surprised that a (relatively) high profile  female athlete was accused of domestic violence and didn’t really know how to handle it. Within USSF I don’t think we can call this a double standard since we have nothing within the sport to compare it to. (If you know different, please correct me in the comments) As far as sponsors go, you may be able to make a better argument. Nike has suspended an endorsement contract for a male athlete until the verdict is in. Why they don’t do the same for a female athlete, I don’t know. Maybe the court of public opinion isn’t loud enough (snark).
  • The court of public opinion and domestic violence:
    I hate the court of public opinion for several reasons, least of which is it’s propensity to judge by knee-jerk reaction. Just because a video surfaces or some individual looking for their 15 minutes of fame makes some loud accusations, that does not always, note I said not always, mean guilt or result in a conviction. I believe we are a country of laws and as such every accused deserves their day in court..a real court, with real laws and procedures.
  • Abby Wambach is a rock star..and a soccer star..and still relevant..and the youngsters will just have to wait their turn or make a case so good that no one can deny them a spot on the roster. That’s how it’s done, kiddos.
  • Cycling politics aside, these cycling uniforms are horrendous. I don’t care if the Pope designed them.
  • I get my WoSo fix (and other sports I follow) largely from Twitter. Twitter is mean..and great..and mean. I’m having a hard time with that. I love snark and sarcasm, love it! Why can’t folks understand it doesn’t have to be mean and personal to be good?
  • Why do baseball players play in their pajamas these days? Those long uniform pants…
  • WNBA has really stepped it up this year, Brittney Griner has changed the game.
  • Don’t cry that you can’t afford WCQ/WWC tickets when you’ve tweeted at least $700 in jersey purchases in the last year. It’s all about priorities people.
  • I have zero interest in tennis anymore, even Serena can’t make me watch.
  • Sometimes sports, like life, sucks. But sometimes it doesn’t and those are the moments I watch for.

What Were They Thinking?

Weeks have passed and I think I’ve finally processed Tom Sermanni’s untimely firing by USSF from his USWNT coaching job. I think. At first I was highly upset and bewildered. Oh, hell let’s face it, I’m still highly upset and bewildered.

I liked Tom as the selection to succeed Pia and I bought into his experimentation and willingness to vet many new players. I liked that he used different line ups and different formations. I liked that he was pushing the team in a direction they’ve needed to go in for some time now. I liked that the players, all of them, were not comfortable in their spot on the team. I liked that none of this seemed to bother him when questioned by media, even after Algarve.

Ah, Algarve and the Cup and the USWNT’s seemingly poor result. No one wants to finish in 7th place, in anything, but especially not in a tournament they’ve dominated recently. Did I expect a better result? Yes, I did. Was I disappointed with the way the team played? Not, really. Every game had a different starting XI and subs, but they were in every game. No matter the final score, they were competitive in every game. Did they lose our “American” fighting spirit? No. Did they stop attacking? No. Did they give up? No. Did they lose to teams they’ve beaten under the old style? Yes. But honestly, that old style is what wasn’t working anymore and what Tom was mandated by USSF to change. Algarve was a positive on so many levels I am hard-pressed to find fault with our result. I think I am in the minority opinion, though.

Moving on from Algarve was hard for many fans and apparently for USSF, too. With little to no contact with Tom after Algarve and with some (no one knows how much or little, or who or when) input from players, USSF in the form of Sunil Gulati sacked Tom after an international friendly win against China. Just showed up and sacked him with the only explanation being USSF wanted to go in another direction. This only demonstrates why I have such contempt for USSF and TPTB. To be so rude as not to even give a performance review so that an employee knows what his employer is dissatisfied with is not only bad business practice, but down right rude. And if any conversations were had behind the scenes between Tom and USSF, no one will admit to them. Tom has said emphatically that he was not spoken to after the Algarve Cup and he has never given me any reason to doubt his honesty. I am doubly disgusted that they lured Tom away from a successful stint with Australia’s women’s national team, The Matildas,  to change the program here in the U.S. to more possession-oriented, attacking football and to re-invigorate a team in transition and then not had the guts to stick out the transformation. If you ask me, USSF lost the “American” fighting spirit. They knew what they were getting when they hired him and didn’t have the confidence in their own decision to see it through. Way to go USSF.

The other part that I spent a lot of time thinking about was why fans were/are so quick to point the finger at a player(s) as the culprit in Tom’s firing. I have no doubt the players were consulted or might even have sought out USSF to express their opinion about how things were going under Tom. I would expect that. I would also expect USSF to take it all in perspective. My employer surveys the employees every quarter about how they feel the company/leadership is doing. I am also 100% certain that no one in leadership has been fired because one, or two employees have not had confidence/belief/liked them. If leadership is not engaged in something illegal an employer would be foolish to act on such a minority opinion. If USSF was really running scared about the results Tom would bring in the upcoming Women’s World Cup, I’d look to other contributing opinions, not solely a player or two. What about staff? Tom kept most of the USWNT staff and had only recently hired his own assistant coach. Maybe the staff were uncomfortable with the direction Tom was going, against the status quo? What about sponsors? Sponsors pay a lot of money to USSF and expect results to hang their brand name on. Maybe sponsors got antsy after Algarve and since USSF had no conversation with Tom they were ill-equipped to calm sponsor’s fears? What about fans? I’m a fan and I know I freely voice my opinions on social media and through blogs and the occasional email. Maybe fans contributed in some small way to the unease. It could happen.

My guess is Tom’s firing was a result of all these factors and others I would have no idea about. I’m sure some opinions weighed more heavily than others, but I think they probably all contributed. And that leaves me more than a little sad that “fans” would be so quick to point the finger at a player, any player, as having so much power to get the coach sacked. That does not bode well for the USSF or the sport.

Another thing I had trouble with was “a different direction”. USSF can’t just say that with no explanation of which direction they want to go in. If they were not happy that Tom hadn’t settled on a set roster, or positions, or formation as World Cup Qualifying draws closer, how in the world do they expect a new coach to accomplish all that with the same mandate they gave Tom in the time remaining? Leads me to think they will abandon the mandate and just look for a coach that does what looks familiar. I’m not OK with that.

I want this USWNT to win the World Cup. Period. I don’t care if they do it in skirts and tube tops or nurses uniforms. I don’t care what formation they use or who is on the team. I don’t care who coaches or who commentates.

But I do. I do care. I do care that they have bad-ass kits. I do care that the elder players make the team, especially Abby, Christie and Hope. I do care that the coach can pull it all together and get them to play pretty soccer, it doesn’t have to be beautiful, pretty will do in this case. I do care that they win for the 99ers. As much as this generation wants to get out from under their shadow, I’m sure the 99ers would like to pass the torch and just savor their great accomplishment without always being characterized as the weight around this team’s neck.

What were they thinking? We will never know. I will never know, but I have to move on. I have to wish Tom the best. I have to support this USWNT in whatever form it takes going forward. I have to try to support the new coach. I have to continue to hold USSF accountable in whatever way I can, for my sanity.

I am a supporter. It’s what I will do.

NWSL 2013 – Analysis In 10 Parts PART 4 – Western New York Flash

Fourth in a series of 10 posts analyzing NWSL 2013 from my viewpoint.

wny flash

I’m a little torn about this one. The Flash have my all time favorite player, Abby Wambach and a supporting cast that features some reliable favorites and upcoming young players. If I lived closer and could watch them play in person I’d be in big trouble as to where my loyalty would lie. No kidding.

Preseason, Season Tickets, and Fan Engagement:

Western New York Flash (WNY Flash) started posting about the NWSL on their website November 21, 2012 and never looked back. Their preseason saw them defeat Canisius, Penn State, Ohio State and UNC, not a bad start.

I purchased two $220 tickets in section 107 on the halfway line. The process was easy online and I was contacted by email to select my seats. My only complaint would be that I had asked for my tickets to be mailed to me because I do not live in NY and they were not. I had to email and explain again that I was from out of state and wanted them mailed, which they did promptly. None of the perks offered to STH’s were geared toward long distance ticket holders.

WNY Flash started to engage the fans before the league name and logo were officially unveiled and continued to do so throughout the season. They covered all the social media sites; Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and tumblr. Their Flash Spotlight series was a nice way to meet all the players. Whoever ran their twitter account did (and still does in the off season) a really good job of keeping fans abreast of all the things Flash players are up to, on and off the field. If a Flash player is involved you’ll hear/read about it from the team.

Web Site and Web Stream:

The WNY Flash website could use a serious boot into this decade. While the content is quite good and up to date, the look/graphics are dated. If that’s the worst thing I have to say about a site, it’s good. There are a few things I couldn’t find any mention of; archived streams of games and more importantly any link to their true supporters group (NOT American Outlaws) The Flash Mob (@WNYFlashMob). Flash are one of only a couple teams with a grassroots supporters group, at least link to them from the site. The team store link on the site opens a pathetic selection of merchandise, once again.

WNY’s stream was OK, not always the best quality, but almost always watchable, listening was another thing entirely. Announcers were mostly knowledgeable about both the home and away team, but couldn’t bring themselves not to fill every second of every minute of every game with some sort of commentary, often leading fans to mute the audio.

Kits and Venue:

I liked all three of Flash’s kits. The home white was clean and simple. The away red was probably my favorite as they chose the vertical stripe like the Red Stars. Just that little touch made all the difference for me. The third kit was hot pink with a vertical black stripe and while striking, I’m just not a pink kind of person.

I didn’t attend any games at Sahlen’s Stadium and only got to see it online or on TV.  It looks nice enough and the capacity seems about right. The only real complaint I heard was that parking was not easy to find. I’ll leave that to someone who attended a game to address in the comments.

Final Observations:

Western New York Flash obviously already have a legacy in women’s soccer, just look at the titles they’ve won in the last 3 years in 3 different leagues. You can always count on them putting a good product on the field. Now it’s time to step it up a notch in the media and merchandising department.

I’d like to see some improvements in 2014:

  • Offer some appropriate perks for STH’s that are from out of state. They may be few, but the purchase of a season ticket from anyone deserves a perk they can actually take advantage of.
  • Support the supporters group by linking to them from your website. Strike up a friendship with them.
  • Offer more merchandise.
  • Improve the quality and consistency of the live stream. Consider streaming in Spanish. And please tell your on air talent that sometimes less commentary is more, find a balance between providing information and just talking to fill the air space.

I am encouraged by commitment to the women’s game like the Sahlen’s have shown. I hope they continue to hold the bar high for what a professional team can be. To be honest, even if Abby didn’t play for them I’d still keep them on my must watch list. How far can they go in 2014?