Soccer….Family Style


Did You Feel It?
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This is my blurry photo of Rapinoe’s greatness. You won’t need crisp edges to feel that unbounded joy and accomplishment.

Could you feel it? At home, or in the bar? Could you feel it in the upper decks of the stadium? This USWNT was different, and I didn’t fully feel it until they were right there in front of me. The relentless force of a group of women who refused to stop, refused to listen, refused to behave. They would not stop celebrating and be less than they are because their critics were made uncomfortable by their unabashed awesomeness. They kept scoring goals, and they mocked those who said they celebrated too much and then went right on celebrating.

They were clinically well planned out, and well coached through the entire tournament. Every team they faced was met with their own special branded Kryptonite. It didn’t matter what the opponent’s style of play was, Jill’s got an attack for that, and a team that would steal soul after soul with devastatingly beautiful touch.

But what I loved most about this team was how intensely they played their game as themselves. That’s what we tell our kids, right? Be yourself, do your best, stand up for others. Go dye your hair purple and bring home an armload of trophies. Never make yourself smaller because someone else can’t dream as big as you can. Go wear your shorts a little goofy and who cares if you look nothing like a professional soccer player. You go teach THEM what a championship soccer player looks like and make them regret they ever told you no when you streak down the field and bury it in the back of the net.

I could run for weeks on the focus in Alex Morgan’s eyes every time she ran toward us with the ball on her foot. Her look was a thousand years of silencing “smile more” dudes. It was absolutely terrifying and ferocious, and I will remember it forever. There are lessons in this team that I will love forever, and I’m gratefully inspired to live my life more relentlessly, authentically, my bodacious self for the rest of my days, and I hope you felt it too.

 

PS EQUAL PAY NOW!

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The Best Mistakes Are Made In France
July 6, 2019, 5:35 am
Filed under: Uncategorized
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Tanya and Mr. Tanya in Frankfurt, en route to Lyon, France for the Women’s World Cup Final.

I make my best mistakes in France. At the 98 World Cup, we accidentally bought a first class rail pass thanks to my complete lack of French language skills. I was broke and out of work, so it was money we didn’t have to spend, but it got us on trains with all the press, which led to my first soccer press gig of being the Midwest stringer photographer for San Francisco Bay Soccer. It got me field press access to the Chicago games of the 1999 Women’s World Cup and field access to a couple USMNT matches, and more than paid for itself.

This year, we purchased conditional semifinal and final tickets for the USWNT in France, not knowing if we’d be able to swing the trip for our family of five. When we looked this Spring, flights were over $1000 per person, and after my concussion related work setbacks for the past 14 months, we decided it was not in the cards. BUT NO ONE BOTHERED TO CANCEL OUR CONDITIONAL TICKETS.

You’d think that would be the first thing we’d do, right? Nope. We’ve been juggling our well established roles as my husband has been heroic in picking up the slack left by my post concussive syndrome unpredictability. Plus, he had purchased the tickets, but he had done it via my account, so the responsibilities for the tickets were a bit up in the air. By the time we realized what we had done, it was way past the deadline to turn the tickets back, and only hours away from the deadline to transfer the tickets to a friend.

Thank goodness for our Sammers Supporters Club family, who stepped up to help claim and sell our semifinal tickets. As we scrambled to deal with our mistake, I proposed an idea: what if instead of going through this again for the final, we planned to GO TO FRANCE and use/deal with the tickets ourselves?

By this time, we realized that 2/3 of our children had expired passports (peak parent fail), but at least that meant that we could only worry about two flights to Europe. This is why Mr. Tanya and I are so well matched as a couple: I come up with the crazy ideas like a last minute trip to France, he does the analysis and research for travel deals that make my wild dreams possible without bankruptcy. The Dude found round trip flight to Europe for under $700 a piece, which is a decent deal for Summer flights even if we had planned and a total bargain for a last minute trip.

48 hours later, I’m sitting in a hotel room in Frankfurt, getting ready for the trek to Lyon for my second Women’s World Cup Final!! (I was in the nosebleeds in 1999). Eternal gratitude for family that can watch our kiddos and kids that can drive themselves to camp (we can discuss the miracle that our 3 kids ages 4, 11, and 16 are all going to or working at the same camp later). Life is crazy as ever, but I’m enjoying the ride 100%.



BIG NEWS!! New Book Due Out for Holiday 2019! Soccer Bios for Young Adult Readers
July 6, 2019, 4:13 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

I was working my way through concussion recovery. I did a power lifting competition in April (took 2nd place!) and I’d been working on the houses I’m rehabbing, going to soccer games as I could tolerate them, when I got an email via my first book, Passionate Soccer Love’s, website: “[pleasantries] In reading that you possess incredible passion for US Soccer and have written extensively about the sport, I thought you could be a potential author for a new book…”

Wait. What?

I’m still at the stage where I’m pleasantly surprised when people find my work. Even better when they like what they read. But as I continued to read the email about how they were interested in an author for a book aimed at MY SON’S age group, I was pretty much over the moon by the time I got through the first of three delicious paragraphs in this opening email.

Several weeks of video interviews, writing submissions, torturous waiting, contract negotiations, and copious anxiety later, my contract is signed, my editor has been met and is another soccer parent who is equally excited about the project, and my Summer is officially devoted to writing!

I’d love to have your thoughts in the comments. Who are the soccer stars, mostly current, but also people who changed the game, who you want to share with kids 10-14? I’m focusing mostly on the Men’s side (with the hopes of a Women’s side edition later) and particularly interested in players with inspiring stories or learning experiences attached to them.

This book is going to move pretty fast, so watch this space for updates!



Concussion Recovery: Back to USWNT
November 14, 2018, 6:42 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

My concussion happened at the start of PDL season, and right before the World Cup 2018. It broke my heart to break my World Cup streak, but we took a previously planned trip to see my parents in Boston, and that flight wrecked me for days. Airports are full of motion, sound, and bright flashy lights… basically a Concussive’s worst nightmare. The trip to Boston was my first sign that something was really wrong. I slept for half a day and still didn’t feel right. There was no way I could handle an international flight and weeks coping with a foreign language. It was only once I started concussion therapy that I began to take account of all the fabulous things brains do, filtering all the noise and allowing us to function and focus.

Even watching the World Cup on TV was too much for me most days. On days of triple games, I’d prioritize one game to watch with the sound off, and the other games I’d watch if I could, but often I was too exhausted for the third match. I spent a solid portion of the Summer in a dark, silent room. I would watch Des Moines Menace games from my car to block most of the sound and shield from the lights and scoreboard, and still left most games in pain, overstimulated.

Attending the USWNT game last night was a huge victory for my concussion recovery. I was able to enjoy the full 90, without ever having to retreat to first aid with a scarf over my head. I was able to meet and talk to other fans. It was all the things. Next step: attempting to sing for 90 with my Sammers family vs England.



Concussion
November 12, 2018, 10:14 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Even as an informed soccer fan, I had no idea how devastating one concussion could be until I sustained one earlier this year. On May 17th, I was on my way to pick up my toddler from preschool on a bright sunny day when my car was rear ended at a stop light on a 30 mph road in suburban Des Moines. I know many of you read this blog for my travel adventures, so I will include that I was hit by an unlicensed 18 year old gang member who was high, and had a machete in the car and a gun that spilled out of his car onto the pavement as the police were questioning him. So peak me.

But I was barely processing that at the time, because moments earlier, I had entered my new, permanent home, the world of the post concussed. I didn’t hit my head, but the jolt of being hit at almost 30 mph at a full stop was enough to slosh my brain into my own skull. I remember the officer who happened to be standing 10 feet from the accident telling me to sit down because there was apparently a sizable difference between how stable I looked and how stable I felt.

I felt dazed. I was perplexed that I couldn’t seem to operate even basic functions of my phone to text my husband and call the preschool. I managed to tell Google to call them after repeated failures at texting. But I was speaking clearly in general, and I was able to drive myself home. Yet, I was confused enough to go to the ER to get checked. They diagnosed me with a mild concussion and sent me home with orders to take it easy for a couple weeks. As I write this, I’m chuckling at how much my definition of “taking it easy” has shifted since that day.

On the day, I thought concussion was something you didn’t want to do repeatedly, but generally, I expected a couple weeks of headache and not much else. My house was on the home tour that weekend, and I didn’t see any reason to cancel. My friends rallied to help with last minute cleaning and gardening, and I felt confident I could sit in a chair and talk about my house.

But I was wrong. I struggled with balance, because of damage to my vestibular system. I found myself getting stuck on words. I tried to use the words “stair tread” at least three times, and each time, two different words would come out of my mouth. I’d know they were the wrong words, but I could not get my brain to connect with the right ones. Word finding was a challenge for months.

My symptoms got worse over time. Around the four week mark, when I was starting to think I was losing my mind, a friend finally connected me to someone who said the magic words: Post Concussive Syndrome (https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/post-concussion-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20353352). She gave me a name for the dizziness, confusion, light and sound sensitivity, vision problems, and anxiety. Even better, she connected me to On With Life Brain Injury Rehab, where I spent the next five months trying to pull my life back together.

I hope to share parts of my recovery with you as I rebuild my stamina for writing and soccer travel. Hopefully, I can help others find help for their concussion recovery. I have come from needing a be in a dark room with no sound and sleeping almost around the clock to writing this from London, fighting a little jet lag, but certainly much closer to my old life than I thought possible for the past several months. With a little luck, some wifi, and hopefully a new power adapter later today (our old one self destructed a few hours ago) I’ll do my best to share this journey.

***Reading is still extremely difficult for me. Eye movement is exhausting, and oh the magical things your brain does to read! Sorry, these posts won’t be proofread for a while, if ever. ❤



Be Classy, Soccer Fans
November 10, 2016, 4:35 pm
Filed under: FIFA, Supporter Culture, US Soccer | Tags: , , , ,
I wrote this blog post back in June, and I kept finding reasons not to publish it. As you’ll read in this post, I find it exhausting to be the one-woman clearing house for everything that’s wrong with soccer supporter culture, particularly related to American Outlaws. But today I feel like it HAS to be said. It scares me to go into US vs Mexico on the heels of a political campaign that was so contenious regarding women and immigrants. The way women (and minorities and immigrants) are treated matters to me, particularly in the soccer community. I’m asking all of you to do better for our collective soccer family.

*****

Last night I got the worst news, but at least it came from a friend. Here’s what was posted to my Facebook Timeline:

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Vindication is nice, but at the price of even one more woman’s suffering, it’s also horrible. The flood of emotion I felt staring at this post is pretty indescribable. So sad to hear that another woman was hurt. So relieved AO was FINALLY talking about it. Vindicated that even one person remembered that I talked about this so long ago. Let’s rewind…

In 2013, I reported to AO National in writing that at an AO LA Night Before an AO member who I had photos of had touched my breasts inappropriately and other women at the party had negative experiences with men, and that as a chapter leader, I felt it was important that we deal with the rise of sexism within AO in the interest of protecting all our members. I was told that if anything had really happened, I should have called the police. Which is pretty much THE WORST way an organization could respond to such a report. AO confirmed this was their response in the article by Fusion published March 2015.

I shared the letter I wrote to AO with a Facebook group of all women, asking them to please share their stories. What was meant as fact finding was seen as an attack on AO. I never wanted to attack AO. I was a chapter leader who felt deeply connected to my #AOFamily, but I’m also a mother, and I didn’t want anyone hurting another woman at an AO party, and I thought it was an important discussion to have in 2013. AO was growing fast, and I thought thing could mushroom out of control if we didn’t confront it. My attempts to start that discussion were taken by many as treasonous, and ever since then, I have faced an almost constant barrage of harassment from AO members and sympathizers.

  • A man in chapter leadership of AO Knoxville created Twitter accounts to harass me and release personal information about me. I reported it to AO National and never heard that they did anything to even speak to him, let alone public or private discipline.
  • Supporters from KC seem to have a particular taste for harassing me, one of them even approached my son at a game to try to intimidate him. Again, no response from AO, but I was able to get support from stadium ops in KC so I could feel safe bringing my kids there.
  • I attended the AO party in Canada last Summer after ensuring it was legal to bring my kids to the venue. This was the first event with #AOWatch, and @USAGunnerWalsh tweeted an image of my child at the bar and suggested we call DHS about there being a baby in a bar (which was really a restaurant, and she was in no harm, but hey! Like that matters to a Twitter troll). At this point, I’d lost all faith in AO and their watch, but a friend reported the incident for me with my permission. Neither he nor I ever heard from AO National.

That’s far from all the harassment I faced, but it’s the high points. When I wrote my memoir of following US Soccer for two decades and published it in 2014 my anti-Tanya hate peaked with accusations that I was trying to get rich off soccer fans (writing!! The path to the millionaire life!….said no one ever). It was not that I was hoping to get rich. I wrote a book about my love of soccer and soccer supporters, and I genuinely thought it was so closely tied to AO’s mission, that chapters could use my book in their recruitment (some did and had great events). When I asked National to support the book and back me up, they responded that they get hundreds of requests per year and they can’t support everyone. Really? Hundreds of requests from long time chapter leaders who have written in support of you in crisis? Once I reported my negative experience, I was persona non grata with AO, making it painful for me to read the now hypocritical #AOFamily hashtag ever again. But never quite so much as when I clicked the link posted on my FB and read this:

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That title. I was so happy they were FINALLY standing up for someone. You see, I’ve become the clearinghouse for everything that is wrong with AO. YOU MAY HAVE NEVER EXPERIENCED ONE NEGATIVE THING WITH AO, because in reality, there are so many amazing, wonderful people in AO. But bad things happen, even at AO events. Given the publicity of my story, I’m now the person that gets sent every wrong thing AO does.

A girl gets roofied at an AO event in Portland and National does nothing. Message Tanya.

AO events fall short of family friendly. Message Tanya.

AO screws up a tifo in Chicago? Message Tanya (OK, that one was funny…but I didn’t share it because I really want us all to get along).

You may never have a negative experience at AO, but I hear about everyone’s bad days. It’s toxic on top of toxic for me. So imagine my rage as I read “Standing Up…”

“The safety of all our family, particularly our female members is paramount. This is the way it has always been. This is the way it will continue to be.

Even one incident is too many. Which is why we chose to address this immediately. Every member deserves to feel safe at our events.”

The way it has always been? Um, no. At best, it was the way you wanted it, but it’s not the way it’s been.

Address this immediately? I’ll let a comment from AO’s own page cover this one.

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When something like this happens to a woman, we should not have to wait for AO to get their messaging right. We should be informed immediately and updated as the situation develops.

This is a good start. I’ll say what I wish AO had said. To this woman, and every woman (or man) who has had a bad experience at an AO event, I am with you. I know the pain and betrayal of bad things happening within your AOFamily. I know how hard it is to keep doing the things you love when it just brings you back to a hurt place. I love you, and I am here for you. I am so deeply sorry this happened to you, and I’ll continue to do everything I can to keep it from happening to anyone ever again.

My defense of AO is to say that I’m not going to take the “told you so” bait. One experience is too much. The fact that their post should have come ANY TIME over the past three and a half years should not detract from the fact that they are doing it now. AO National are the soccer nerds who suddenly found themselves at the cool kids’ table, and they didn’t know how to deal with this stuff, but they’re learning, and we should give them the support to create the best possible environment for all soccer supporters.

Full disclosure, I left American Outlaws after my experience at the Canada World Cup. I just couldn’t stand by any longer. I am now working on building Sammers SC. At some in the past three years, Korey Donahoo said something about how AO couldn’t be everything for everyone. We are a big enough soccer family that there should be multiple groups. I want to be a part of that diversity, with no hard feelings to AO. I was Sam’s Army, I was AO, and now I’m Sammers SC…it’s all supporting US Soccer, and that’s what’s important.

It is my hope that we can meet in the bar of our choice in an environment that’s a positive experience for all, then join forces in the stands to create the best possible environment for our teams.

***

 



LET’S DO THIS!
March 28, 2016, 2:27 pm
Filed under: International Soccer, US Soccer | Tags: , ,

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10 hours. It takes 10 hours to drive from our house to Columbus, Ohio and MAPFRE Stadium, not allowing for stops for the Hat Trick Baby. We did it in December for MLS Cup Final (someday I’ll get that blog posted) and we’re doing it today for USMNT. I’m starting to wish rest stops came equipped with paper bags for hyperventilating.

As a US Soccer lifer, it’s a lot of time to think about this moment in our history. My love of Klinsmann is well documented, but even I am having a crisis of faith. Where are we as a nation of soccer supporters if we can’t score on Guatemala, even away? What is happening if we can’t sell out our home of all homes, Columbus?

I got into a Facebook conversation with my friend Bill about the parallels that can be drawn between Bernie Sanders’ campaign and US Soccer at this moment (I know, don’t talk politics, but bear with me….I’m from Iowa, I promise to keep it civil). Both movements have young followers who want to believe anything and everything is possible. I sense a similarity in these campaigns in the rising sentiment of “if we don’t win, I’m done” and a willingness to profess love on social media, but not make it out to the voting booth/game day.

But support isn’t about the fair weather days. It’s about picking up your team when they are down. I wish politicians were talking about the unfairness in rising tickets prices. I get it. It’s a pretty big leap from $40 being the typical, pre-Hex price for a qualifier in 2013 to $60 for tomorrow’s match. I hope we’re getting another round of collectible scarves at this price, but given how fast Columbus has sold out previously, I’m surprised to see “cheap” seats available the day before the match.

A win tomorrow puts us back into “likely qualifying” percentages. A loss puts us into that 10% range that might even get me reaching for the pitchforks. But that is for another day.

Tomorrow is about getting this effing job done. I drove 10 hours with an 11 month old baby and I want my THREE POINTS. I came to sing. I came to yell. I came to love. I hope you’ll come too. Come out and support our boys on the Road to Russia.

Let’s do this.




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