If I had said the name Carli Lloyd two weeks ago, most of you probably would not have known who I was talking about.
But after Sunday, Lloyd will probably supplant Serena Williams as the country’s most famous female athlete and I’m sure her likeness will adorn a Wheaties Box in the near future.
Lloyd scored an unfathomable hat trick just 16 minutes into the United States’ World Cup championship soccer game against Japan, and the Red, White and Blue went on for a 5-2 victory for its first title in 16 years.
It’s amazing how women’s soccer is a non-topic until the World Cup comes around every four years when it becomes must-seed TV. When the ratings are released, I’ll bet this game outdrew every other sporting event over the weekend by a landslide margin.
It didn’t hurt that for once there was some scoring — it was the highest-scoring finals in Cup history. The occasional sports fan who tunes in to watch soccer probably sees a 0-0 score after 70 minutes or so and decides to click to another channel. This game was filled with offensive fireworks early as there were five total goals before it was 30 minutes old.
While Japan did get as close as 4-2 on an own goal, the U.S. scored another goal 2 minutes later and the game was decided. The final 35 minutes or so were an American celebration, as it’s virtually impossible to make up a three-goal deficit.
This U.S. World Cup team is going to have staying power for a while in the public's consciousness. Lloyd is now a household name, while winning goalie Hope Solo is well known as well, unfortunately for some of the wrong reasons as she's been involved in court litigation due a domestic violence case. I’m sure there will be the obligatory trip to the White House, as President Obama is never one to shy away from a photo-op.
If you wonder if the glow will fade away soon, just look at how popular the 1999 World Cup champions still are. ESPN has kept it alive with a documentary, and most sports fans still know who Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy and Brandi Chastain are, even though their playing days long expired.
Lord knows the country needs heroes and fresh faces. I’m sure Lloyd is going to be on every talk show and make the late-night rounds for weeks to come. Abby Wambach and Christie Rampone probably will be requested, too, since this was their final go-around in World Cup play. Rampone now has played in five World Cups and Wambach four. While Alex Morgan perhaps didn’t shine as expected, she’s been the cover girl for the team and will be requested.
Sports can unite a country, just like the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team did when it defeated arch-villain Russia or the 1936 Olympics when Jesse Owens embarrassed the best Hitler could put up against him. When the U.S. plays other countries, it gets our competitive juices flowing. It’s us vs. them and we all know Americans believe they are the best country in everything — it’s the patriotic spirit in all of us.