I just stared at the television in disbelief. It didn't really register. I turned to my son and said, "What the hell just happened?"
"Own goal," he replied calmly.
My heart, along with millions of others worldwide who were cheering for England's women's national team in the World Cup, stopped. I don't remember breathing for what seemed like an eternity. Surely there is a mistake, right? I didn't just watch Laura Bassett score an own goal in extra time. Did I?
Heartbreaking? Absolutely! Frustrating? Definitely! No one deserves to lose like that.
"At least it wasn't the U.S. team, mom," he said. Thank GOD!! I thought to myself because I'm not sure I would have controlled my profanity in THAT case. I'm not the most graceful loser.
Then, it happened.
My son turned to me and said, "Mom, if you were on her team would you be mad?"
As a supporter of the Lionesses, I couldn't believe it. I was heartbroken for them. As a mother, I felt a strong desire to just reach out to Bassett and tell her everything is going to be okay. But as a competitive nut, my initial response was fury. Why the hell did she pass a ball toward her goalie with that amount of momentum behind her, with only seconds left, with SO much on the line? As a player, if you're trying to clear it, know where the goal is and kick it in the opposite direction!!
Okay, breathe, get a grip and answer your son.
"Well, I would be extremely disappointed as clearly they all are. But, players make mistakes, shit happens even to the best of them."
He didn't buy my politically correct response.
"Mom, you know this happens in professional soccer more than you probably realize. Sure, it sucks, but it's part of the game...... So? Would you be mad at her?"
There it is again - that question. Then I realized what he was really asking me. Would I be mad and disappointed in him if he made such an error on the field.
Crap! How do I answer that? No, of course I wouldn't be MAD! I'd be heartbroken, sure. I would feel awful for him because I would know how bad he would feel about it. But damn, the kid is right. It happens, even to the best of athletes. I certainly don't want my son to think I would be angry with him for making a mistake.
I've always been a bit, shall we say passionate, even hyper-critical, about my sports teams and players. When I was a kid, I would scream at John McEnroe for making bad shots and would yell at the N.Y. Islanders if they squandered a good chance. As an adult I'm not much better. Last year my son almost banned me from watching the men's World Cup because, well, again, I can get a bit - crazed. Honestly, I am surprised he's letting me watch the women's World Cup with him this year.
As I sat there and watched Bassett break down on the field, watched as her teammates consoled her, and then listened to Mark Sampson, their manager, give what was probably the hardest interview of his career, I allowed my son's words to resonate with me. "It's just one of those things, mom. She misjudged it, it happens. Could have happened to any player."
And you know what? He's right. England's national team should be applauded for handling this loss with the class and dignity they have. I'm sure it wasn't easy, but they have definitely set an example for baseball's great, Eddie Murray's, famous quote, "You win as a team, you lose as a team."
It's easy to win gracefully - but much more important to lose gracefully.
My son asked me if I thought she'd play in the match against Germany this weekend. Not only do I hope she plays, I hope she receives a huge standing ovation. To quote teammate, Karen Carney, "This won't define her and we won't let it."
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