After rooting for and watching them win year after year, I finally got my opportunity to see the United States Women’s National Soccer Team live before they head to the World Cup in France. The game was part of the Send Off Series and this was the first one.
‘Reluctance’ would mischaracterize how I felt about going stag to this match, but the feeling was akin to it. Since it was Mother’s Day, my friends had prior commimtments and I had just visited my family in Texas.
I bicycled to Levi Stadium and donned my San Jose Earthquakes t-shirt only to find no one else was repping anything except the Team USA gear. Among a sea of women (and a few male significant others) clad in white jerseys or other patriotic attire, I stuck out a little.
Sure I possibly exacerbated the feeling when I got caught lecherously staring at some fine ass ladies who then avoided eye contact, I admit it.
But I didn’t allow myself to feel self-conscious and enjoyed the game from start to finish!
The South African team was outmatched. Their opportunities downfield were few and the game was mostly played on their side of the field, with them defending against constant pressure by the US. When they did manage to cross the 50 yard line (what is it called in soccer?), they failed to do much more than take weak shots on goal.
I was surprised with how much hard contact I saw. With the cameras as far away as they are, it’s hard to appreciate just how physical the women’s game is. An American got her head checked after taking what looked like a shoulder right in her temple and two different South African players required either a stretcher or multiple trainers / doctors.
October 2nd, 2016 was an absolutely beautiful day in the Forty Niners’ new home city. A few drops of rain came down, but this was a perfect opportunity to get a lot of sun.
Based on how many fans were wearing navy blue and silver, it felt more like a Cowboys home game. The optimism shared between Dallas fans about their up-and-coming rookie phenom, Dak Prescott, was the opposite of the muted pessimism felt among the “Faithful.”
We kept our tailgate low-key and had it catered by a nearby Togo’s. The bathroom there didn’t have a lock, so I dropped deuce faster than I ever have in my life. I clocked it at a minute forty nine seconds and owe it all to the dried fruits and veggies I had on Saturday.
Before the game, our conversation kept veering towards the Ryder Cup because my parents are huge golf fans. I thought they were discussing the sailing competition we have here in the San Francisco Bay Area, sponsored by Oracle. Nope, turns out the British are still butthurt about the American Revolution so they decided to change golf to a team sport and challenge us.
As far as the game goes, it was close and entertaining. The Niners jumped out to an early lead in the first quarter with two touchdowns. Every time they got a first down, male Niners fans with a BAC above .08 acted like Spartans from 300 and did the “HAAA–OOOOOH, HAAA-OOOOOOH.” It was just a coincidence they only got 300 yards in total offense.
Things turned around quickly in the second quarter after a “bullshit” roughing penalty that gave the Cowboys a clutch first down into Santa Clara territory.
By the third quarter, Dallas looked in control. Cowboys fans began doing their own completely-out-of-sync Spartan impression for every first down. A demoralized Niners fanbase initially found it humorous but became silently irritated. They had to stomach Blaine Gabbert go full mediocre, like a warm, stale beer, running some of the most unimaginative play-calling this nosebleed-seats reporter has ever seen.
I had to ask a Niners fan, “Do you call him Gabbert like Q-Bert or Gabbert like Steven Colbert from the Colbert Report?”
“Dunno, man. I think it’s Gabbert like Bert and Ernie. Frankly, I wish they’d call him “Released by the Niners.”
Up in Section 418, my father took it upon himself to announce to everyone that the United States had won the Ryder Cup. Not many people cared, but no more than a minute later it was displayed on the Jumbotron. Then, doing his patriotic duty, my dad started a rousing “USA USA USA” chant that gained some steam and lasted longer than most of Santa Clara’s offensive drives.
At this point, I figured out that this woman with a Dez Bryant jersey sitting in front of me was sitting in the center of what looked to be 10 – 15 friends spread out, almost in a circle from her, throughout our Section. For whatever reason, they couldn’t get seats next to each other but made an attempt at the Guinness World Records for awkward, long-distance high fives.
The Cowboys would tie it up and eventually go up 21 – 17.
Before Dan Bailey put Dallas up a full seven points with a field goal, Blaine Gabbert found an open receiver downfield who seemed so transfixed by the goal post that he never saw the ball until it was over his head and in the arms of the lucky Dallas cornerback he blew past.
It was probably the best game I’ve ever seen in my life. Or at least as special as the overtime victory by a Drew Bledsoe-led Dallas Cowboys at Candlestick less than a decade ago.