Be Optimistic: St. Louis Athletica is no more and I have shed pessimism

I was going to write something snarky here. Something like, “In order for it to be an annual decimation, there would have to be at least ten teams.” I wanted to make a terrible comparison between Jeff Cooper’s choice and Sophie’s Choice. But I’m not going to do that. (Please ignore the fact that I just did.)

At the end of the last podcast, I remarked to my co-host that we are two of the most pessimistic people that could ever be engaged in an endeavor such as this. I still think that way, but I had a an interesting meeting at work this afternoon which made me want to reconsider my approach to things. In it, one of the participants was very insistent about the things we don’t do, the things we won’t do, the things we shouldn’t, couldn’t be doing. The message they were sending is that nothing is possible.  Our obstacles too great, chances too small. I came away feeling as though I were sunshiney next to this particular party. In fact, I kind of wanted to be a little bit like this:

And I’m very rarely like that.

This line of thinking stuck with me through the day, until when I found out that St. Louis was folding immediately. No WPS to take over for the rest of the season. No miracle from on high.  It’s very hard to be glib, smug and I-told-you-so when loyal and passionate players lost their team. When there are real supporters feeling real pain.  It’s also hard to be optimistic about the future of the WPS when two teams have folded in as many years and with rumors of two more teams in trouble.  But I’m going to try anyway.

I can be optimistic because even though two teams have sunk, the WPS ship keeps sailing.  The WUSA failed because it overestimated every single thing they thought they would get: investors, sponsors, butts in seats. Like a prodigal son, they wasted a generous inheritance. If the WPS wanted to do anything, it was NOT THAT.  And they haven’t so far.

Two teams were added, two teams have left.  The WPS remains. The Sol and Athletica folded for similar, but entirely separate reasons. (Not to mention there are a LOT of different reasons why St. Louis folded as some have pointed out.) I think the league and team owners have learned something valuable from the demise of the two best teams the WPS had. It is an incredibly sad way to get your lessons,

There aren’t any happy things to take away from this. A great team, a great logo is gone.  FC Gold Pride remains alone in the west. For every former Athletica player that gets added to the remaining teams, somebody’s favorite player is taken away. But still, I have a little hope. I hope that these two years could just make for one heck of an origin story for the people who really care and at least an interesting section on the Wikipedia article for those who don’t.

I believe the WPS is probably the last chance for a professional women’s soccer league in the United States in my lifetime. This is kind of a grand statement, yes, but consider that if two leagues fail within two decades of each other, that’s not a good signal that the country is ready for a third.  I really love this sport, and I don’t want the league to go away.  They make enough good choices that I think it can stick around.  I hope it will.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some middle schoolers to chase from my lawn.

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