clear
Wednesday May 6th, 2015 7:40PM

Opinion: Wednesday offers at least one worthwhile sports option

By Morgan Lee Sports Editor
As of Sunday morning I cared about the U.S. women's soccer about as much as I cared for Harry Potter.

There was nothing wrong with either of them per se, and a lot of people enjoy them, but I wasn't among them. (Note: I'm not of that decrepit race of sports writers who hate soccer -- just the opposite in fact -- but for various reasons I simply paid the U.S. women's team little attention.)

That all changed on Sunday afternoon.

The thrill of the U.S. women's win over Brazil in the quarterfinals of the women's World Cup in Germany -- in penalties; after a dramatic late goal; against a team that was clearly pushing "gamesmanship" to the limits -- was enough to warm even the coldest of hearts. And it made a full-fledged fan of me and countless others around this nation.

"I jumped out of my chair and started cheering -- I couldn't help myself," a friend reported to me just moments after the conclusion of the enthralling encounter. "I don't think I've ever even watched a women's soccer game before."

It was a sentiment shared by a number of Americans -- even those who simply saw the highlights. And why not? Sunday's victory was of the kind that any one of us could be proud, as it symbolized much of what this nation holds dear.

The current U.S. women's team is not the flashiest or most skilled team in the world -- that mantle belonged to the Brazilian team now left in its wake -- what they are is motivated, determined and hard-working.

And while they were pushed to the limit on Sunday -- scoring in overtime for the latest goal in World Cup history (women or men) -- the U.S. women showed that they have enough grit and determination to make up for any other shortcomings. And who in this country doesn't appreciate the honest underdog?

Not that the current national team is bereft of talent -- quite the opposite, as goalkeeper Hope Solo, striker Abby Wambach and winger Megan Rapinoe showed on Sunday by each effecting key contributions. (Solo made key saves throughout, including a defining stop in the penalty shootout; Wambach scored the tying goal, courtesy a beautiful, looping cross from Rapinoe.) But this team wins more with guts and guile than silky passing and flashy dribbling.

This is not the team of Mia, Brandi and Julie -- the all-conquering, all-world trio of Hamm, Chastain and Foudy that hooked the attention of this nation back in 1999 with a World Cup victory in front of home fans, which included THAT shirt-twirling, bare mid-rift celebration from Chastain after the championship clinching penalty in Los Angeles.

But the current incarnation has plenty going for it, including the kind of attitude that even the soccer novice can appreciate and one that has earned my admiration.

On Wednesday, the U.S. women will take on France in the World Cup semifinals. The day after the the Major League All-Star game has often been referred to as the slowest day in sports, but that moniker need not apply this summer.

True there is no baseball, while football and basketball (especially the NFL and NBA) are nowhere in sight (despite constant claims of agreements around the corner for the NFL -- wake me when there is an actual document signed and sealed). And while the British Open should present plenty of intrigue, it won't even start until Thursday. Meanwhile, Wednesday offers us all a chance to see if the U.S. women can build on their exceptional display from the weekend and consolidate much of the exposure they -- rightly -- earned over the past few days.

Things will be different moving forward for the U.S. -- and not just because of the added interest from back home. With Brazil and Germany both out of the tournament, the U.S. will be the favored in the semifinals and, should it advance, the championship round. Make it that far, and this team will have earned its rightful place alongside the '99 and '91 teams that claimed World Cup crowns.

I watched precious little of either of those two achievements either. And while I had no intention of paying close attention to its progress this time around, the U.S. has shown that it deserves more than just a token notation on a sports page.

-- NOTE: The Triple-A All-Star Game -- which will feature a number of Gwinnett Braves standouts -- will also get underway at 9 p.m. Wednesday and will be broadcast live on WDUN.
© Copyright 2015 AccessNorthGa.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Utah comes back, beats GaTech 30-27 in OT Sun Bowl
John White plowed into the end zone from 8 yards out to give Utah a 30-27 overtime victory against Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl on Saturday.

6:30PM ( 3 years ago )
Girls basketball: East Hall wins McDonald's Shootout title
The East Hall girls basketball team followed up its Lanierland title by winning the McDonald's Shootout Friday. The Lady Vikings beat Elbert County 50-35 in the championship game at the Hart County gym.
6:43AM ( 3 years ago )
Sports
Hawks win second straight, drop Wizards
Through two games, the Atlanta Hawks have not trailed, they've displayed impressive scoring balance and they've won in back-to-back days by a combined margin of 54 points.
12:14AM ( 3 years ago )
Williams leads Hawks past Nets in opener
Marvin Williams had 14 points and nine rebounds and the Atlanta Hawks opened a double-digit lead early and cruised to a 106-70 victory over the sluggish Nets on Tuesday night in their final home opener in New Jersey.
10:24PM ( 3 years ago )
Smith takes little delight in making playoffs
Coach Mike Smith has led the Atlanta Falcons to the playoffs in three of his four seasons. Right now, he couldn't care less.
9:29PM ( 3 years ago )
Professional Sports
Baseball: Gainesville storms back to take Game 1, 5-4 in 9 innings
The Gainesville baseball team showed determination in abundance on Wednesday, coming from behind twice -- the second time in the bottom of the ninth -- to win Game 1 of its Class AAAAA second round series against Evans 5-4 at Ivey-Watson Field in Gainesville.
10:26PM ( 2 hours from now )
Baseball: Trojans take Game 1 over Upson-Lee
Lincoln Hewett had four hits and two RBI and Brock Wingo added three hits and two RBI to lead North Hall to a 9-0 blowout of Upson-Lee Wednesday in Game 1 of the two teams' best-of-three Class AAAA econd round series at Jody Davis Field.
10:00PM ( 2 hours from now )
RailRaiders snap G-Braves win streak
The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, on the strength of a four-run bottom of the fourth inning, beat the Gwinnett Braves 5-3 Wednesday afternoon in the second of a three-game series at PNC Field.
By AccessWDUN staff
3:54PM ( 3 hours ago )
Girls soccer: Lady War Eagles make history, storm into first ever quarterfinals
Mark Dunn keeps watching his retirement drift further and further away. And the Chestatee girls soccer coach is just fine with that...
2:07PM ( 5 hours ago )
Girls soccer: Lady Wolves roll into 3rd round; St. Pius up next (VIDEO)
Buford girls soccer coach Crystal Fowler wanted to see some variety from her offense Tuesday in the second round of the Class AAAA state playoffs...
12:45PM ( 6 hours ago )