I originally wrote this piece weeks ago in anticipation of our 2 Year Anniversary. Obviously, recent developments may make it difficult for us to reach a 2 Year anniversary. I still think my message is important, so I have tweaked it a bit… From worst to First, or Last to First. Anyway you say it, it means the Pride are 2010 WPS Champions. What a DIFFERENCE A YEAR MAKES. 2010 seems to be the year where Bay Area Professional sports teams are making a go at being the best. I am proud that FC Gold Pride is the team that lead the way. For a team only 2 years old, we have already conquered the prize. So where do we go from here? I placed lofty goals on 2010 and made them very public – 1. On the field, win a championship. 2. Off the field, start selling out Pride games. We succeeded at Goal #1 but failed at Goal #2. To reach the 2nd goal, the Pride moved to the intimate Pioneer Stadium at Cal State East Bay, we played games on the more coveted Saturday evening time slot, we added Marta, the best player in the world to the Pride’s roster, and put a team on the field that always gave a great show. But we still didn’t sell out. People say I want too much too soon. But, is 5,400 fans too much to ask? Maybe it is. Maybe our issue is not what we put on the field, how affordable the game is to families, how entertained people are who attend, how we participate in over 100 community events a year. Maybe the issue is just lack of respect for the game itself. I watch the current Giants coverage and fanaticism with total envy. Even prior to winning the pennant, People skipping work, their kids soccer games, daily life, just to watch a game in a bar, in their living rooms, at the stadium. When I went soccer field to soccer field with players to promote our Championship game, here’s what people told us – “My kids have a soccer game, I have a soccer game, it’s too far, the game’s too early for us, it’s a busy weekend”. We even had local media saying “we need a hook to cover you”, since playing in a championship was obviously not enough of a hook. Or when we did get coverage, several articles from reporters who rarely covered us, decided it was better to write a poorly fact checked article about WPS’s potential demise – instead of celebrating a Championship game occurring in the Bay Area. I thought wow, a championship in the Bay Area and the media, and soccer playing adults and children are not fully invested in this. Now to all the fans who did come to the game and to the media who wrote awesome pieces about the team and the championship – I applaud you for giving the sport the respect it deserves. Whether you are one of our beloved season ticket holders or a fair weather fan, I thank each of you for stepping up and realizing the magnitude of being at a Bay Area Championship game. This week, the Pride is at the hands of a new investor, one that can see the importance of the NeSmith’s vision, and the WPS’s vision. Someone who can step up and be hungry for more. Wanting to win another Championship, but this time, having it embraced by the community we play for. We are the Champions most do not know. That needs to change. It can, and it will, but I need help in this fight for respect, and we need more TIME. The Championship game, and the Pride itself, is more than just another sports team. Soccer matters. Women’s Professional Sports matters. But rather than have me explain why having the Pride sellout, and reach more fans is important, I want it to be told through the eyes of a 4th grade girl named Lola. She started watching Stanford games and when her favorite players graduated and went on to the pros, she came along too and became a Pride fan. Now, parents play a big role in guiding kids, but I think any parent that has a child and they get even a 10th of what Lola experiences – realizes why it is important for women’s professional soccer to be given R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Happy 2nd Birthday Pride! May you get an early gift this year and have more friends attend next year’s party. Spelling, grammar & any mistakes have not been corrected. A Hot Day In Hayward by 4th Grader Lola “Excitement filled the air during a hot day in Hayward. I glanced around myself; Kyra, Caitlin, Cali, Caroline, Pilar, Esmé, and my moms were all around me. At that moment I couldn’t imagine a better day. Flags colored red with the words championship printed on them waved in the air. My eyes carefully followed the players on the field darting this way and that. I heard people shouting and cheering. I smiled a wide smile. Stop for a moment, and think of your perfect day, well that was mine. I squinted down at where the team and the coach were sitting. Well, the coach wasn’t exactly sitting, he was up on his feet yelling and motioning at the players trying to get them to hustle. A bit in front of him was the subbing man, he had his arms up in the air, it looked like he was about to drop them. In his hands were two long poles with numbers on the top of them. The first was a zero, the second was a seven! A seven! My favorite player was going in! Kelly O’Hara! The game paused for a moment while she ran on the field at a speed that amazed me. The game began once more. Players darted everywhere; it seemed they were always moving. I fingered my rough but nice flag with the enormous hope to win, to feel victory. Sinclaire had the ball, she dribbled past the defender, and there was an open goal. I rose to my feet, hoping and wishing at the same time. My fingers crossed tight. My eyes blinked hard. My face burned from the sunlight stroking my head. She kicked, the ball rolled fast on the ground, the goalie dove and pushed it out. I was disappointed but there was a rebound open. Sinclair ran for it. Her foot struck the ball even harder than the rain hits the ground on an afternoon in Florida. It hit the back of the net, it’s a GOAL! Everyone was up on there feet. I couldn’t hear myself yelling. I was almost unconscious of it. I looked over the people in front of me. The players were running to each other, hugging and cheering. After a while the cheering stopped and everyone was mellow again. I plopped back down on the bleachers and started paying attention to the game. Before I knew it, the game was over with a final score of four-zero, us! Gold Pride were the CHAMPIONS! They did it! They WON! I knew they would be able to do it. the crowd burst into the loudest cheering I had ever heard! While the team celebrated, a grand trophy stand was put together on the field. I grinned a huge grin while I watched the captain (Candice Chapman) hold up a huge silver trophy. She kissed it and passed it around to her teammates. I always admired people who followed their heart in what they believe in doing with their life. The Gold Pride was a powerful team who celebrated challenges, enjoyed wins, and learned from losses, and someday I hoped to be just like, or even almost like, the women on that team. I have looked up to them for a long time, admiring them. In short words they are just an amazing team. Sooner or later the crowd quieted down. The smiles on the faces of the players were wonderful! Excitement filled the air of that hot day in Hayward. My eyes twinkled as the sharp rays of the sun shone on me. I was happy. Happier than anyone, I believed”.