Pretty sure this makes Tiff Weimer my sports media hero.

Technically, I’m supposed to be taking a break from anything related to school, but I want to talk about why I’m so excited about Our Game Magazine. So to be fair, I am going to reference articles without quoting or citing them, and you can find them in the reading list. But mostly, I want to have a fannish dork-out over the potential of this magazine before I have a chance to feel cynical about it.

In case you’re too lazy to click the magazine’s link, I’m going to C&P straight from the page. All copy is good copy.

Our Game Magazine is a women’s soccer magazine created by current and past players for players and fans all around the world.

Khaled El-Ahmad- Founder
Tiffany Weimer- Editor
Kat Galsim
Carmelina Moscato
Alyssa Naeher
Mike LeGates
Olaf Goldbecker
Leslie Osborne
Ryan Wood

The first issue will be web-based, making its debut on June 1, 2010.

No disrespect to any of the other names on this list, but it’s the current and past (women’s) soccer players that get me charged up over this magazine. One of the complaints in women’s soccer–or women’s sports in general–is that men’s teams would never have to [do something like this]. There really isn’t a need for male athletes (in most sports) to create their own media in order to have thorough and relevant coverage. But frankly, it’s the player initiative that makes me excited about this magazine.  This isn’t Fair Game, for those of you that remember that; this is Our Game, spearheaded by one of the best player-writers in women’s soccer.

There was this great study done by some folks at Penn State not too long ago, looking at the narratives surrounding Title IX. If you read the article, it’s easy to look at the majority of the findings and conclusions and get depressed or frustrated with what people are saying about women’s sports. It’s easy to be negative about the fact that the best resistance to mainstream narrative comes from female athletes. It’s easy to say that we [in women’s sports] want a greater percentage of more relevant mainstream coverage, because that is where the money is. My cynical self says I really prefer not to have the mainstream coverage. I prefer not to have that style tainting my enjoyment of my sport.

Money be damned–since the WPS has none–I’d rather have internally-created content that the league, teams, and players have control over. I prefer to have people that are knowledgeable and who give a damn telling me about what is going on in the game I love. I’d rather have the potential for women’s soccer media to build new narratives away from the ESPNs and US Soccer, because women’s soccer is rich with the kind of narratives that can appeal to a large audience. The game has its Davids and Goliaths. It also has armies of players and teams in between. All of women’s soccer deserves greater coverage–and more often than once or twice a year during tournaments.

In the  WPS chat the other day, my co-author asked Tiff Weimer (the magazine’s editor), whether the magazine was born of desire or necessity. I think it is a necessity. But I think if you look at the staff listing, you can see desire there as well. I don’t think I am bringing too much bias, either. Have a look at the mission statement:

The objective of Our Game Magazine is simple. We want to further the popularity of women’s soccer throughout the world. Our aim is to provide a creative, unique perspective like no magazine has ever done before. Soccer is the one game that can unite the world, and we want to aid in the growth of the women’s side of it. The staff at Our Game Magazine is fully committed to bringing you a quality product stemmed from insightful soccer minds and a passion for the beautiful game.

Whenever I talk about my research or women’s sports media, I almost always bring up Weimer. Not because she is a journalism major–you can find other communications/journalism/English/whatever majors in the sport. This is a player that has blogged for various teams at various levels of the sport. Youth national teams, WPSL teams, WPS teams. She is as good a writer as she is a player, and I’m disappointed when she isn’t given opportunities on either front to show how she can shine. She has embraced social media, particularly Twitter, more than any other player in the league–and she knows how to use it. She isn’t just going through the motions. I don’t think I’m giving her too much credit when I say she understands what she is doing when she writes, blogs, tweets, and launches a damned magazine. I think she knows exactly what she’s doing, I think she wants to do this, and honestly, she is precisely the player I expected this of.

So, for once,  I have high hopes. I have faith that if anyone can make a difference and deliver with a media initiative like this, it’s Tiff Weimer and whatever team she puts together. And I’m more than willing to give this magazine a chance even if the first issue has its flaws. I’ve been on the ground floor of a magazine, and I have the patience to see Our Game Magazine grow.

Coin toss, flip throw.

The semester isn’t over yet here, but I just caught this blog entry (via Girls With Game) in my reader and decided to take a break from revisions. I’m excited to talk about narratives, the way article-writing software is proving my point, and the academic crush I have on Lindsey Meân. For now, I’m willing to settle for giving my two cents on the flip throw. Quick disclaimer: my partner in crime at the Cross-Conference disagrees with me on the usefulness of flip throws. Scroll past, my friend.

Last year, FSC commentators were wetting themselves over Natalie Spilger’s flip throw, as though they had never watched an NCAA game, or even that U-20 World Cup tournament that they referenced in today’s broadcast. (Texas’ Leah performed it for Brazil.) Obviously, Kiki Bosio’s  flip throw is the one getting talked up a lot right now, and I have to wonder whether Michele Weissenhofer is ever going to have a chance to use hers. (None of them actually does it for every throw in, although Bosio did in today’s game.) Having played for Notre Dame, Weissenhofer would have one of the most televised (or webcast) flip throws in women’s soccer right now. While hers was good and not over-utilized, I don’t think her flip throw was the most impressive part of the arsenal when the Irish were still a team that capitalized on very exacting set plays. Overall, I think Bosio’s throw has been the most effective in terms of creating scoring chances–both in the NCAA and WPS–but I wouldn’t begrudge any team a gimmick. I certainly wouldn’t begrudge Chicago a scoring chance, if they could find a way to make the flip throw work for them. I don’t think they have so far.

So I’d caution against simply asking who is going to bring the flip throw, unless the aim of that is PR and marketing. Who is going to bring a dangerous one? might be the better question. For me, the question is whether I’m going to have to follow the Australian W-League more closely than I did last season, because if Bosio signs with a team down there, I sure as hell will.

A loss for FC Gold Pride isn’t disappointing; it’s normal.

I want to preface this entry by thanking the friend that went with me to today’s game. Not just because soccer is not her thing, but because she ended up having to drive us in my car. My team lost and we both probably got sunburned. I appreciate that she went along and helped me feel comfortable enough to get growly at the end.

Over the years, I have developed a ritual with games that usually involves arriving an hour before kickoff, staking out a seat, scoping out the stadium, watching warm-ups, switching seats at least once during the first half, wandering at the start of the second, and finding a new seat during the second if I don’t just decide to stay on my feet. Today, we were “late” (my fault) and completely missed warm-ups. There was also some kind of snag at the ticket booth, but it’s interesting to note that the Athletica takes credit or debit! Is $15 general admission still the cheapest in the league? Also, a question: why does Athletica charge $10 for parking when there are so many free options nearby?

Obviously, there is not a whole lot I can say about the game since I wasn’t taking notes (I usually do). I was surprised that Kaley Fountain got the start over Becky Edwards. I wasn’t unhappy, though. They both got to play and did decently. It’s hard to say who performed better–Edwards earned the yellow card, but Fountain did not. Depends on how you take that. I was happy with Edwards’ yellow because we were at that point in the game where FCGP needed to show they were still awake and on earth. Thanks for your efforts, Edwards.

I thought Ali Riley had a good game and is clearly WPS-ready. I think the backline was sorely missing Carrie Dew, though. I was incredibly disappointed with the forwards. During introductions, I commented to my friend that Aluko is the only one that can really score for Saint Louis. Sure, I was being snarky, but ain’t that the truth? It was today.

I saw some good possession and good, connecting passes all over the field for the Pride, but barely any reason for Solo to earn her pay. You have Marta, O’Hara, Milbrett, Sinclair, and Abily, and you let them make runs one at a time without support? Something is wrong there. Especially when the forwards disappear for long minutes at a stretch. Bosio came in for Milbrett late in the second half and put in decent minutes. Kelley O’Hara did score (off a throw in, I think) in the final minute, but the ref called it offsides. I really should not need to rehash WPS reffing for anyone; it hasn’t changed. The only good that comes of it is that Marta throws temper tantrums, and that’s good entertainment.

I am pretty sure the weather report said it was supposed to be in the upper 70s today, but it was easily 85 out there. My friend asked me whether that could have factored into FCGP’s loss, since Saint Louis has been really fortunate weather-wise this year. But I don’t think so. FCGP didn’t look fatigued or emotionally worn like they did last year. The team looked good, except for the forwards. And we had to wonder–inconclusively–whether FCGP will suffer from their poor preseason schedule. Probably not, right? Because a loss for the Bay is normal.

So, as an FC Gold Pride fan, I have to say this was a good game. O’Hara did score. The team showed that they were capable of passing! I feel good about the possibilities for this team. I’ve been a fan of Bay Area teams for long enough to know that, sometimes, you do have to bank on possibilities. Be patient, say a prayer every night for the players’ ACLs, if they still have their ligaments.

Speaking of ligaments, I took a chance on trying to talk to Kiki Bosio after the game even though my friend and I both had things we need to get done tonight. I pulled my usual “Can I talk to you about the Broncos?” as I do with SCU alumni, and I appreciate that the Bronco graduates I have talked to are willing to fill me in on their college team. Apparently it’s not a mistake that Poach is still listed on SCU’s roster. She could still play for them in the fall, since she hasn’t played in the WPS. If she’s healthy, she might even play with the U-23s. Lindsey Johnson is definitely taking her red shirt eligibility. Yay!

I tried to express my happiness over how well SCU did last year, and in that final game against Stanford–and I’m sorry, Bosio, I got caught up in that and didn’t tell you that I’m glad you’re in the league and got minutes today. But hey, thanks for being patient and indulgent. You’ve always been one of my favorite Broncos.

Algarve wrap-up: Is Joan wrong?

So, Carli Lloyd scored in the Algarve Final. Have I been proven wrong yet? I’m not sure. It was her first goal since the 2008 Olympics Final.  Is there some way we can insert her into final games ONLY?  And make sure she never takes a set piece?

Lauren Cheney scored four goals in the tournament.  It’s nice to finally see a Bruin make something of all that potential.

FYI, our podcast is now on iTunes. So very many ways to subscribe to the most important monthly women’s soccer podcast in the world.

To answer the question posited in the title: no. I’m never wrong.

“She’s not a puppy midfielder. She’s a puppy forward.”

Back when we started working on this Cross-Conference project, we tossed around the idea of a podcast. I am much more of a textually-oriented person, but my partner here has radio experience and I am always up for learning new media. So we have finally gotten this part of the project together.

Our first run with the podcast has been a learning experience. The final cut was our third time recording. We went from 20 minutes in our first try to 50 in our third (which was then edited down, fortunately). We would like to apologize for first time mistakes and the background noise. When you don’t have a decent internet connection at home, you go where you can for that, even if it’s not the best place to be recording.

In this episode, we expand on our draft thoughts, the USWNT and Algarve, and recent USWNT veterans. The national team commentary is dated now, as this was recorded on Saturday. Can’t wait to improve in the next run!

[Editing to add that we would appreciate feedback. We are already talking about what we need to change and smooth out, but we can stand outside input.]

If we give it time, it will make itself known to us.

So, a really great PitchInvasion profiled former Portland Pilot and current Chicago Red Stars goalkeeper Kelsey Davis. The article touched on a lot of things that I think are relevant to both women’s sports and soccer fans, as my cohort has mentioned. Yet you wouldn’t really know it by taking a gander at the higher-profile women’s sports blogs. Andrew Guest obviously understands a lot about soccer and college athletics and was also well-read enough to pick out a Merton quote which I believe was the driving force behind the most interesting part of the article.

Plenty of bloggers want to jump on an athlete when they cite faith as a motivating factor for almost anything.  They seemed particularly gleeful at tearing Tim Tebow apart for his Focus on the Family-funded ad. (As a disclaimer: I dislike both football and FotF.  Both have deceiving names, to different, somewhat negative ends) Yet when a great article (both for writing and the athlete it profiles) appears and the athlete is at once intelligent, thoughtful, compassionate, generous and religious?  Heaven forbid we make note of it.

I’m not going to pass judgement on this… non-practice?  In fact, I could be entirely off-base, but I felt it worth mentioning.

(As a personal aside, I’ve been lucky enough seen Kelsey Davis play in person. For someone so kind, she is pretty terrifying in front of the goal. As she was shouting direction at her defenders, I overheard opposing team fans say, “Is THAT their goalkeeper?”  You couldn’t hear anyone else in that stadium as clearly as Davis.)

The smaller the story, the more it means.

Since writing my research proposal last semester, I have been meaning to get my hands on some writing by Georgakopoulou regarding “small stories” or narratives. Last year was perfect for looking at the construction and ownership of narratives in women’s soccer. I could go on at length at how angry ESPN’s approach to college soccer made me, but that is too easy and unproductive. A more fascinating and educational analysis would look at Cal Berkeley, but that takes me tangentially to the WPS, which I think can take a lot of credit for pushing the diversity of narratives across various levels of the sport.

I remind myself that, as a responsible academic, I still need to question the filters and PR at work here. Choices are always being made, and agendas are always at work. But sometimes, it’s important to be positive, to look at and encourage (and celebrate) the progress. In feminist/action research, you acknowledge that you are approaching your studies with a bias and intent. It’s a balancing act. I don’t claim that this blog is anything so formal as those labels, but I do acknowledge that I know I have bias and intent. I do try to balance.

I also get really, really excited sometimes and put off the “hard” questions so I can just enjoy media that brings out the fangirl in me.  Nearly a week later, Pitch Invasion’s article on Kelsey Davis still does this for me. This is partly because I really, really like Kelsey Davis–even though she transferred from UCLA to a team that rivals mine, then was drafted by Chicago (again, not my team). I genuinely enjoy what this athlete brings to the sport, both on the field and off. But this entry is not an encomium of Davis.

So the other reason I am so excited over this article is that, to me, it pings on my narrative radar. These are not canned responses and this article is not canned writing–both of which smack of filtering and outside control. There are different threads in this piece: Kelsey Davis, Davis as a student, Davis as a daughter, Davis as a person, Davis as a developing athlete, Andrew Guest, Guest as a fan of soccer, Guest as an academic, Guest as a person. This is an instance where the writer and the subject seem to be giving equally to the piece in a way that speaks not only about themselves, but about this sport and how this level of this sport at this moment in time has something to say about the sport and society.

I get that Tobin Heath was the number one draft pick, that Amy Rodriguez won a gold medal, that Yael Averbuch trains hard and is going to Algarve. I hear that there is this amazing player named Marta, and apparently she’s won some awards and gets paid more than anyone else in the league. I have yet to see anyone care so much about what those players bring to the sport, or give such thought and consideration to their narratives and how they embody what there is to love about soccer.

This level of caring, this depth of character, this degree of relevance and willingness to share that narrative  is something to strive for. That is part of the beautiful game, too.

Carli Lloyd

I know the both of us have more thoughts on the dispersal draft, the national team, this amazing article about Kelsey Davis.

But in the meantime, I just have one question: Carli Lloyd, why?

I am being sincere, here. Is there something I’m just not seeing? Do teams find that aggravating their fans pulls them closer?  Can anyone explain this phenomenon to me?

Aly Wagner retires, or: Nothing can break your heart more slowly or frequently than a Santa Clara Bronco.

Sure, this is a few days old, but she was enough of a figure that it warrants a mention.  Aly Wagner has retired from professional soccer.

I have to admit, that as a US Soccer fan and armchair midfielder, I gave Wagner a pretty hard time. I felt she was inserted into national team rosters, promoted by their media folks, and then failed to make any sort of impact in big games. Her admittedly brilliant passes and nigh unparalleled vision seemed to be reserved for minnows, in games of little importance. I was constantly frustrated by Wagner because I knew what she was capable of, and I wanted to see it.

While she seemed constantly beset by injury during both her collegiate and professional careers, it seemed she bore the worst of it during her later years on the national team all the way through her first (and only) year on the LA Sol.

I don’t know if there are any players that have Wagners skill or vision (Angie Woznuk of the St. Louis Athletica comes quite close) and I don’t know when we’ll see any more. It seems this country develops fewer patient, crafty attackers every year.

ETA: I also include Wagner as probably the last of the much-hyped players who didn’t drink their own kool-aide. She was hyped, but she kept working and never seemed to take herself seriously.

Personally, I find a lot of the young stars out there to be quite full of themselves, getting used to coaches and small-time press kissing their asses non-stop from prep, through college and onto a professional career. I consider this problem to be a big factor in the failure of the 2006 U-20 WNT in Russia, but am keenly aware that I am probably in a minority who believes this way.