Abby Wambach was chosen Female Athlete of the Year by the Associated Press because she prolonged the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team’s run in her sport’s main event. According to the AP, “she changed the course of this year’s World Cup and sparked a nationwide frenzy rarely seen for women’s sports.”
That “frenzy” business feels a little over the top, even for somebody like me, an unapologetic fan of soccer in general and women’s soccer in particular. But that doesn’t mean I’d argue with AP’s choice. Over her career, Wambach has excelled as a scorer and her most spectacular header in the 2011 tournament rescued the shorthanded U.S. team with 90 seconds remaining in the quarterfinal against Brazil.
Of the AP honor, Wambach said “I really appreciate you guys recognizing this team. It helps keep this sport alive.”
Common sense and simple math suggest that Wambach’s honor alone won’t do that.
On the other hand, while she was establishing herself as the national team’s most prolific World Cup scorer, she was also playing for the late and not-much-lamented WPS franchise known as magicJack…a team owned by a fellow who ignored the fragile league’s marketing rules, set a record for number of head coaches hired and fired in a single season, and embarrassed – and allegedly harassed – his players.
Dan Borislow’s excesses during the 2011 season were sufficiently numerous, destructive, and public to provoke the women’s pro league to kick him out in October. The league is now down to five teams, which is either silly or sad, depending on your perspective. How desperate is the WPS? They advertise for owners on their website. How twisted must Dan Borislow have been to get ousted by a league that wobbly and wanting?
As the highest profile field player on the magicJack, Abby Wambach was asked constantly about Dan Borislow’s bizarre behavior. Through no fault of her own, she was the designated spokesperson for a train wreck in progress. That she managed to play brilliantly within the league and for the national team while maintaining her equilibrium under those circumstances probably qualifies her for an award less limited than Female Athlete of the Year.