There’s a rule: no cheering in the press box (at the Olympics, though, this rule is often broken, especially by non-U.S. journalists. No national bias here – that’s just fact.) But there are no regulations about putting your hand on your head, slapping a table in disbelief, leaving your jaw agape, or yelling “whooooaaaa” when something really cool happens. I found myself doing these things, more than a few times, during the U.S. women soccer team’s thrilling 4-3 win over Canada in the Olympic semifinal.
First of all, the game was played at Old Trafford, the historic stadium that Manchester United calls home. And though the upper bowls were empty – women’s soccer hasn’t really caught on in Great Britain – the fans showed great passion. The U.S. women’s team, in particular, travels well. Each goal was a surprise. Ohhh, Christine Sinclair strikes first for Canada. Can Canada hold the lead and pull off the upset? Then Megan Rapinoe, of the U.S., curls a corner kick directly into the net. Whoa, had anyone seen that one? Sinclair – scores again. Rapinoe – scores again. Sinclair – HAT TRICK!!
Um, soccer is not boring.
The U.S. gets a few lucky breaks, enraging its northern neighbors. The Canadian goalkeeper is whistled for holding the ball too long – the refs never call that one. And on the indirect free kick, Canada is hit with a questionable handball call. Abby Wambach nudges the penalty kick just inside the post. All tied, 3-3.
We go to the extra half-hour session. No one scores, and just as the final minute of injury time ticks away, just as everyone starts mentally preparing for penalty kicks, Alex Morgan, just 23 and heir to Mia Hamm, heads in a beautiful cross from Olympic vet Heather O’Reilly. Ball game. “Whoooaaaa.” There’s shouting in the press box.
The hardest part of being an Olympic journalist is choosing the right event. With so much going on at the same time, you can bet that the track race will yield a world record – but then it’s a dud, while that basketball game you missed was the upset of the century. The pangs of regret are painful. A trip to Manchester was particularly risky: four-hours on the train, round trip, from London, and no late train back after the game. So you had to stay overnight. I could have missed a lot in London. Instead, I got lucky, and saw a fortnight’s worth of drama in Manchester.
These being the social media Olympics and all, a reporter kind of has to use Twitter at the Games. And as a reporter, you’d like to occasionally tweet about the sporting event you’re seeing. But with NBC showing so many major events on tape delay, I was well aware that some people tried to stay away from the web, in order to avoid finding out the live results. But every tweet, every Facebook or blog post, always risks winding up in front of someone.
Like so many back home, I thought the worst part of these Olympics were the tape delays. For the most part, I erred on the side of reporter and shared surprising results from the live action. If I spoiled someone’s day, I apologize. But please don’t blame me, and the thousands of reporters over here in London doing their jobs. Blame NBC.