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Traveling around the weird wide world of sports

July 18, 2011
Weirton Daily Times

You can easily use one six-letter word for what the United States women did in Sunday's World Cup loss to Japan - they "choked."

They twice blew one-goal leads and lost in penalty kicks.

Instead I choose another six-letter word - they didn't "finish."

I hear high school soccer coaches every fall talk about how their team either did or did not finish their opportunities and that one thing usually earns a win or a loss.

That was never more evident Sunday.

The Americans dominated early in the first half and had nothing to show for it.


They did not finish their opportunities and when Alex Morgan scored in the 69th minute off a beautiful ball from Megan Rapinoe.

But, after that, the Americans struggled, looked disheveled and Japan took advantage.

As good as the United States looked after being down a player against Brazil is as bad as it looked after taking the lead.

Nine minutes from lifting the trophy, the Americans gift-wrapped Japan the equalizer.

Rachel Buehler tied to clear the ball in front of goalie Hope Solo and knocked it to Ali Krieger, who completely blew her attempt to clear the ball and Aya Miyama found the back of the net to tie the score.

In overtime, an Abby Wambach header off a Morgan cross in the 104th minute gave the Americans a 2-1 lead.

But, again the ladies in white didn't finish.

Homare Sawa slipped one past the U.S. defense in the 117th minute off a corner kick to send it to penalty kicks, where Shannon Boxx, Carli Lloyd and Tobin Heath went 0 for 3 and it was game over.

Just because you have the best goalie in the world does not mean you present her with opportunity after opportunity to bail you out.

The Americans were the better team, but Japan persevered and played better soccer with its collective backs against the wall and now the tsunami-ravaged nation are the World Cup champs.

"We ran and ran," Sawa said. "We were exhausted, but we kept running."

"Evidently, it wasn't meant to be," Wambach said.

Look, I am not a big "it wasn't meant to be" fan. If the Americans played with the focus they had against Brazil a player down then they would have hoisted the gold trophy for the first time in 12 years.

I can hear high school and college coaches all over the nation saying, "remember the Americans" as their teams are trying to preserve a one-goal lead or tie up the one-goal deficit.

So, the kids who wanted to play baseball, the other kids on the team, got the short end of the stick, or, the bat in this case.



Kind of hard to have a team when three kids show up for the team picture.

Surfing the Internet the other day I found this fun one.

A 16-year-old in Nebraska tried out for the cheerleading team and didn't make it. Julia Sullivan scored low on the "jumps and kicks" category of the tryout.

She was born with no arms or legs, so scoring high in those categories would be rather impossible.

Still, a judgment was made and she will not be a member of the Aurora High cheerleading squad.

Because of being turned down, according to the story, "she and her parents felt that she had been discriminated against because of her handicap."

"For us, it's the basic principle," Julia Sullivan's father, Mike Sullivan, told the World-Herald. "Any handicapped child in Nebraska could be kept out of activities."

I will tread lightly here because I do not have children with disabilities and really do not want to make anyone mad, but Mike Sullivan is right.

And ...

Kids around this nation are kept out of activities for a lot of reasons.

I do not know where the line is as a parent when you try to raise your child with disabilities to be a normal part of the world and when something normal happens, like not making a team, claim it is because of the disability.

I am thankful I do not have to make those decisions at this time, but I do not that we all have to live with disappointment and adversity and we do not always get what we want.

Devonta Pollard is ranked No. 6 in his class by as a basketball player and is being recruited by most of the top college programs.

At a recent high-profile tournament Pollard made a two errors in a row and was pulled out of the game - by his mother. And, she did so without being quiet about it. She did so in front of many of those same college coaches.

Jessie Pollard, the mom, all 6-foot-2 of her, at one time was the No. 4 pick of the Women's Professional Basketball League.

She sent in the sub for her son, not the coach.

There are so many questions revolving this.

Why was mom allowed on the court? Why didn't the coach pull him first? Why would a college coach continue to recruit him?

How bad is the kid going to get it at a gym where he is the visiting player? Can you imagine heading into Cameron Indoor as the visitor?

How many more times is she going to do that? Why is that acceptable? Would you ever do that to your child? When will the high school coach expect this to happen?

I'm all for a parent making sure the child is not a prima donna, but....

The recent troubles of Branko Busick have nothing to do with WVU, Big Red, Weir High, who recruited him, where he grew up or how he was raised.

It has everything to do with choices he has allegedly made. If he is convicted of what he has been alleged to do then he will pay for his choices and, unfortunately, will be looked at in a completely different light.

If the charges are eventually dropped and he walks, he, unfortunately, will be looked at in a completely different light.

I tell kids all the time that their choices will affect people - regardless of the choice they make with the talents they have been given - and those people are family, coaches, teachers, teammates, friends, etc.

The Busick family, very simply, needs prayers.

(Mathison, a Weirton resident, is the sports editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and can be contacted at

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