WPS All-Stars: to recognize people.

I promised a friend that I would write about the All-Star picks today, but to be honest, I didn’t know what to say. I don’t like All-Star games and haven’t since enduring them as a WNBA fan. I vote, but I don’t hold my breath, because it takes a few years before the fan base agrees with me. I usually don’t bother complaining at length, because I don’t enjoy watching All-Star activities anyway. I suspect some players don’t enjoy participating. It’s all media- and fan-service, after all.

Fortunately, as I was sitting down to write this morning, I was interrupted to have a very long talk with my dad about his job, my grad work, and where our priorities lie. He kept probing about why sports media, why women’s soccer, why etc. Since what I was saying didn’t seem to be answering his question, I started outlining one of my favorite women’s soccer stories–it’s an Odyssey of sorts–and in the end, he started talking about purpose.

“We have different means to reach the same end: to recognize people,” he said.

There are a lot of reasons to dislike All-Star games, and this is one. Because it is a popularity contest–I think Bachmann and Miyama’s inclusions make this glaringly obvious. Compared to some selections, there are players that are truly performing better overall and who are more productive and important to their teams. There are lesser-known players that are exciting or driven (or both) that deserve recognition for their contributions and accomplishments.

I never wrote down who I voted for this year, which I kind of regret. I can’t share exactly who I voted for. But I can recognize the ones that I feel strongly about.

  • Kelley O’Hara. Easily having a better year than Lauren Cheney. This is a rookie striker who has a starting position alongside the likes of Christine Sinclair and Marta. She has a starting position despite the fact that FC Gold Pride has proven goalscorers. Lauren Cheney, on the other hand, has more pressure on her (and more recognition) as the top draft pick with greater USWNT status and a weaker pro team, and while she is doing okay so far, she has been talked up more than she has delivered.
  • Ali Riley. I have heard complaints about Allison Falk making the All-Star roster, but I voted for her. I think she has been a key part of Philadelphia’s backline, much the same as Ali Riley has been a key part of FC Gold Pride’s. Brittany Taylor, on the other hand? She is a good player, I agree. But if Ali Riley had even half the unfounded mainstream buzz that Taylor does, she would have gotten more votes.
  • Karen Bardsley. She made it! She is finally getting that recognition she has deserved. (I was displeased that she didn’t have the opportunities last year.) The vote for Hope Solo is a moot point; she is the best keeper in the women’s game. Karen Bardsley has been given an opportunity and run with it. Erin McLeod is good (as is Nicole Barnhart, fyi) but she isn’t putting together an All-Star performance this year.
  • Ramona Bachmann. Yeah, I don’t get it. At all. O’Hara could have had this spot. Tobin Heath could have had this spot.

There were some other omissions that I don’t feel nearly as strongly about. If nothing else, the WNBA taught me patience. (It took a while, but eventually other people realized Katie Douglas is pretty damned good at what she does.) I have a shortlist of players that I expect the fans and media just need time to warm up to. Although I will admit, I find it curious that it’s still taking most people so long to catch on to what a solid pick Sarah Huffman has always been.

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