Hi!! Sue here. This is my World Cup Semifinals preview. The title was supposed to be “So the President F*cking Hates My Girlfriend (and 10 Other Things I Want You to Know Before the World Cup Semifinals)” but we ran out of space. My bad. Thanks for reading. GO USWNT.
(1) I’m back!! I was done, I swear!! No, really, I SWEAR. Last year I broke my nose, and then I wrote about it, and then I seriously did think that was going to be it for me in the writing game. I remember telling my editor here something like, “It would take the President of the United States going on a hate-filled Twitter spree trolling my girlfriend while she was putting American soccer, women’s sports, equal pay, gay pride and TRUE LOVE on her back, all at once, scoring two majestic goals to lead Team USA to a thrilling victory over France and a place in the World Cup SEMIFINALS, for me to ever even think about writing again.” But I’m a woman of my word. So here I am.
(2) First of all, I’ve gotta get this on the record, if it’s not already clear: I’m SO proud of Megan!! And the entire damn USWNT. That’s why I’m writing this article, mainly. So if you could do me a favor, let’s just take a second, for real, and appreciate this RUN my girl’s been on?? Like, take away all of the “extra” stuff — and just focus for a second on the soccer alone. Two goals against Spain. Two goals against France, WHILE A GUEST IN THEIR MAISON. I want to hit on a lot of other topics while I’m here, and trust me I will — but I just think it’s also really important not to forget what this is actually, first and foremost, about, you know? It’s about a world-class athlete, operating at the absolute peak of her powers, on the absolute biggest stage there is. It’s about an athlete f*cking killing it.
It’s about Megan coming through.
(3) O.K. so now that that’s out of the way, I’ll answer The Question. The one that’s probably most on your mind. And by that I mean: What’s it like to have the literal President of the literal United States (of literal America) go Full Adolescent Boy on your girlfriend? Hmm. Well….. it’s WEIRD. And I’d say I actually had a pretty standard reaction to it: which was to freak out a little.
That’s one thing that you kind of have to know about me and Megan: our politics are similar — after we won the WNBA title in Seattle last season, no way were we going to the (f*cking) White House! — but our dispositions are not. And as we’ve been talking through a lot of this “stuff,” as it’s been happening to her, you know, I’ll be honest here….. some of it scares the sh*t out of me!!
I mean, some of it is kind of funny….. but like in a REALLY? REALLY? THIS GUY??? kind of way. Like, dude — there’s nothing better demanding your attention?? It would be ridiculous to the point of laughter, if it wasn’t so gross. (And if his legislations and policies weren’t ruining the lives of so many innocent people.) And then what’s legitimately scary, I guess, is like….. how it’s not just his tweets. Because now suddenly you’ve got all these MAGA peeps getting hostile in your mentions. And you’ve got all these crazy blogs writing terrible things about this person you care so much about. And now they’re doing takedowns of Megan on Fox News, and who knows whatever else. It’s like an out-of-body experience, really — that’s how I’d describe it. That’s how it was for me.
But then Megan, man….. I’ll tell you what. You just cannot shake that girl. She’s going to do her thing, at her own damn speed, to her own damn rhythm, and she’s going to apologize to exactly NO ONE for it. So when all the Trump business started to go down last week, I mean — the fact that Megan just seemed completely unfazed? It’s strange to say, but that was probably the only normal thing about it. It’s not an act with her. It’s not a deflection. To me it’s more just like: Megan is at the boss level in the video game of knowing herself. She’s always been confident….. but that doesn’t mean she’s always been immune. She’s as sensitive as anyone — maybe more!! She’s just figured out how to harness that sensitivity.
And I think Megan’s sensitivity is what drives her to fight for others. I think it’s what drove her to take a knee. The Megan you’re seeing at this World Cup? It’s an even stronger version of the one who knelt in the first place. All the threats, all the criticism, all the fallout — coming out on the other side of that is what now makes her seem so unfazed by the assholes of the world.
I think in trying to help others, Megan has cemented who she is.
(4) A few 100% random and 100% unrelated facts, presented without commentary.
Donald Trump has never invited a WNBA champion to the White House.
In 2017, when South Carolina Women’s Basketball — coached by a black woman (the legend Dawn Staley) — won the national championship, they were not initially invited to the White House.
In 2019, when Baylor Women’s Basketball — coached by a white woman (also a legend, Kim Mulkey) — won the national championship, they were invited to the White House with no issues.
Stumbled across this cool website the other day. Check it out ?
(5) Alright….. yeah. It’s time. It’s definitely time.
We Need To Talk About Megan’s Pink Hair.
I’m actually just going to say this out loud, and put it all the way out there, since the Players’ Tribune is a space for honesty (plus there’s this whole Atlantic Ocean between us): The hair?? I was….. AGAINST it. Phew!! That felt really good to say. I was against it. I thought it was too impulsive and I voted no. (LOL not that I actually got a vote — our relationship when it comes to Megan’s fashion is based on what you might call a “modified democracy,” where we both give our opinion and then Megan does what she wants.)
But yeah, my feeling was — you’re going to the World Cup!! To do great things!! And hopefully, if all goes well, you’re going to be memorialized in all of these pictures that will be around for….. EVER! Plus, blonde hair is like — Your Signature Thing!! You look amazing blonde. We know that looks good on you. Pink? Megan, are you sure? Don’t you think you might regret this??
And Megan was just, like, Nope. World Cup. Pink hair. I’m in. Let’s get it. She got it colored the DAY before she left, without a care in the freaking world. I mean….. if you were ever wondering what the Rapinoe Lifestyle was about….. that’s it, truly.
(Also, I love it now? Now that’s it’s settled in and looks a little more purple. Don’t tell Megan.)
(6) Back to the France game for a second. A few thoughts here.
One, I’m not sure if you saw — but, my girlfriend?? She shrugged off the Rude Man on Twitter, and managed to play….. I’d say pretty well?
Two, France!! They were incredible. I really hope some of them are reading this, because I just want them to know that. They stayed so damn tough, I thought, through the whole tournament — and that’s with the pressure of hosting the event, too. The way they persevered to make it a match, late, after getting down two goals early?? I mean, don’t get me wrong — I was 100% on MANIAC mode, cheering for our squad. Obviously. But I still hated that anyone had to lose.
Three, on the advice of counsel I’d like to issue a formal apology to everyone who was on the plane with me last week, and had to watch me fistpump like a bozo after each of Megan’s goals, and smash the REFRESH button on my phone like a….. well, also a bozo, after my bars started cutting out in the second half.
It won’t happen again except let me be clear it might.
(7) YOU GUYS: WHAT ARE PENALTY KICKS.
No, seriously — I could not imagine taking one??????
I think the more I watch soccer, and the more I find these ways to apply it to what I know about basketball, the better feel I get for the game. Like, for example, as a point guard, I have a pretty strong sense of floor-spacing….. and I think that ends up being extremely relevant for soccer. I’m definitely starting to “see the field,” you know? And I’m noticing the way that plays develop, and stuff. (They just kind of develop.)
O.K. so that’s my plus column.
My minus column? PENALTY KICKS. Like, I guess they’re kind of like free throws? Only if there was someone trying to BLOCK your free throw, and you had to use your foot (??), and oh yeah if you missed it you’d never forgive yourself and have it haunt you for the rest of your LIFE?? So what I’m saying is it’s not like a free throw at all.
I don’t want Megan to turn out to be an alien from another planet, but: If you’re good at penalty kicks, you’re a f*cking alien from another planet.
(8) I had a long thing prepared here about the equal pay debate.
I was planning on “making some points” and “going in.”
But then I thought about it some more, and to tell you the truth….. I’m kind of done with that.
If you’re not on the right side of this fight, and advocating fiercely for equal pay — whether it’s in soccer, or basketball, or in any other industry, and across every intersectional boundary — then I just straight-up feel bad for you.
Because you’re sad, and wrong, and going down.
I feel that in my bones, increasingly, over these last several months — having seen my colleagues in the W show we mean business on a new CBA.
I feel that in my bones, increasingly, over these last couple of years — having seen our NBA counterparts start (START!) to stick their necks out for us, more and more, in solidarity and out of respect.
And I feel that in my bones, increasingly, right f*cking now — having seen these indestructible USWNT women stand up for themselves and (this seriously can’t be stressed enough) crack a LAWSUIT over the heads of U.S. Soccer while they go out and grind for a freaking World Cup.
Oh right and they literally are MORE PROFITABLE THAN THE MEN.
TLDR: Pay us.
(9) They told me I should make some predictions!! LOL.
In the first semi, I’ve got those frisky lil AMERICANS taking down England, by a score of 2-0. I feel like we’re vibing right now, and the offense is really humming, so yeah — this one’s USA all the way. (QUICK NOTE ON METHODOLOGY: I may have just made the prediction that results in me getting a summer trip to Paris.)
In the second semi….. O.K., so, I won’t reveal my sources, but I heard this major scoop that the Netherlands might be a team people are sleeping on?? But then I guess on the other hand, you also have Sweden, who thumped us in the Olympics….. so that’s a “cool final” maybe….. I don’t know, I feel like these teams probably know each other really well. Like a classic neighborhood beef. How am I doing? Should I keep faking it here? Let’s go with the Netherlands, 2-1.
(10) Wait let’s do a story time.
I’ve been lucky enough to hear a few awesome stories about the USWNT in my day, so I feel like — since you’ve put up with my decidedly non-expert World Cup semifinal preview, and been so cool about it — I owe you one of them here.
I’ll actually tell you my favorite.
Alright so it’s halftime of the 2015 World Cup Final….. and of course, if you’re reading this, you know the score: 4-1 U.S. Carli has her hat trick, Lauren has one, and Japan has their one. And I think we’re all among friends at this point, so let’s just be real: It wasn’t even THAT close. It was over, dudes. World Cup? Over. Amazing!! Party!!
Except: these world-class athletes being these world-class athletes….. there is noooooo off switch in SIGHT. These women are in the locker room at half time, and they are taking it as seriously as if they were tied at one. People are talking strategy, going over plays, breaking down miscues — doing the whole bit, straight up, just biz as usual.
And then there’s Megan.
She’s sitting there….. and she’s seeing everyone gameplan, and keep their game-faces on, and Do The Normal Halftime Thing..… and she gets it. Of course she gets it. But, like — still, you know?? Still. There is something inside of her that just….. CANNOT deal. Cannot deal with the ceremony of it all. Cannot deal with the bullshit. And she tries hard to fight it, tries not to say anything….. tries to stay somewhat relaxed.
But then at some point the girl just….. I mean….. come on.
She can’t help herself:
“WE’RE GONNA WIN THE WORLD CUP,” she blurts out.
“WE’RE. GONNA. WIN. THE. WORLD CUP!!!
(They won the f*cking World Cup.)
And that concludes storytime.
(11) So there’s this thing that I invented called Megan Goggles.
They’re hard to explain, but I think I’ve almost got it. I think it’s like….. O.K., so: Megan, she just does things sometimes. Do it….. then love it….. then — later, at the very end, if there’s time — worry about it. That’s her M.O. Me, on the other hand….. I’m nothing like that. I’m more of the worry about it first….. and then later, if there’s time, do it type. So the idea of Megan Goggles, I guess, it’s this idea of like — they’re this thing that I put on, and it helps me loosen up a bit?? And just open my eyes, and see the world from Megan’s Extremely Megan perspective.
And anyway, in the beginning of our relationship, I think I would use “Megan Goggles” as a sort of running joke — when we’d be doing that thing couples do where we play these almost cartoon versions of ourselves. In our case: free-spirit Megan and practical Sue.
Except now….. I wouldn’t be so practical!! So it would be like:
[Megan walks into the closet with some scissors, then confidently walks out…..]
[Sue puts on Megan Goggles…..]
Sure, Megan! Absolutely let’s call that t-shirt you just cut a hole in “a look.”
[Megan suddenly decides that she needs to dye her eyebrows platinum blonde…..]
[Sue puts on Megan Goggles…..]
Wait, Megan, nevermind — I take it back that it’ll look like you have no eyebrows! And I can totally see what you mean when you say, “Trust me, they’ll pop.”
And so on and so on — and it just sort of became this, like, shorthand experience. I’d put on my Goggles, and I’d be on….. almost this vacation….. to a place where I was someone a little left of my own center. Where I was someone who thinks like Megan thinks.
And then eventually I came to realize the obvious: that Megan Goggles are a lot more than some cute running joke between us, about fashion choices or whatever — and that they’re actually this kind of skeleton key to Megan herself. Or, put another way: When I put on my Megan Goggles?? What I’m really doing, I think, is learning to understand her better — and, if this even makes any sense: I think at the same time, I’m learning how to understand myself better as well.
But wait I’ll get to my point. I’m bringing all this up, and trying to explain this crazy (or I hope not that crazy!!) concept, because last Friday — in the lead-up to that USWNT game vs. France, and then during the game itself, and then after??
I swear, it was like the most amazing thing happened: It was like the entire country, all at once, for this improbable but also somehow very very very very possible moment….. PUT ON MEGAN GOGGLES.
It was like the entire country, all at once, said — Soccer? YES. Women’s soccer? YES. An openly gay superstar swagging out with two goals and batsh*t celebrations and leading us to a huge-ass win in women’s soccer? YES. That same openly gay superstar not just taking some preapproved level of pride in her sexuality, but actually being the world’s biggest most kissable goofball queen and literally crediting her sexuality for those two goals and her batsh*t celebrations and our huge-ass win in women’s soccer? YES.
This is the American flag now, someone tweeted — and it’s a photo of my girlfriend, BEAMING ear to ear, smiling her BOOBS off on a football field, mugging for the camera, weirdo dye job and all — just totally and completely over-goddamn-flowing with excellence? YES.
So anyway, look — I guess here’s my point:
I’m closer to 40 than 30. I’ve only been legally permitted to get married in the last handful of years. I’m a worrier, an overthinker, and — if it’s your type of thing — a 3x WNBA champion.
But on Friday? It was like for this one, perfect, fleeting, uncomplicated day….. I was everyone.
I was happy.
I was crazy.
I was PROUD.
I was pretending to know about soccer.
I was a little overwhelmed.
I was pretty damn American.
And I was in love with Megan Rapinoe.