Dure: Abby Wambach and her ironically memorable “Forget Me” ad
Pregame hype: We can’t wait to see what Abby Wambach does next. And check out these comments about firing Jurgen Klinsmann and relying less on “foreign” players!
Postgame: Wambach wants us all to forget her. To let us know she’s serious, she deleted her Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts.
The “Forget Me” ad was more memorable than her last game. That’s more ironic than anything in the song Ironic.
And it’s impossible. We don’t forget legends, no matter what happens next. The New York Yankees have won 24 World Series since Babe Ruth retired, and his name is still synonymous with baseball.
In soccer, we’re actually going backwards. The historians of the Hall of Fame and the Society for American Soccer History — particularly Colin Jose and Roger Allaway — have dug up long-forgotten leagues, teams and players. We know more about Archie Stark now than most people did in the 1950s, a couple of decades after he retired and his league collapses. Few people followed Michelle Akers’ goal-scoring exploits as they happened in 1991, but we know all about them now.
And we never forget the people who shaped our sports experiences growing up. The Atlanta Braves were better after Dale Murphy retired. I don’t even like baseball any more. I still remember going to see Dale Murphy play. (And I still think he should be in the Hall of Fame.)
We especially don’t forget them if they’re outspoken. People might not remember Joy Fawcett as well as they remember Julie Foudy. Fawcett needed three tries to get into the Hall of Fame. Yes, she was a defender, but Foudy was a midfield cornerstone, not a flashy goal-scorer.
Part of Wambach’s legacy, of course, will be what she does next. She won’t be U.S. Soccer president, a role that requires difficult diplomacy to navigate all the competing interests at stake.
She’d also be problematic as a TV commentator. If Hope Solo and parts of the women’s soccer community turned on Brandi Chastain for comments akin to “that was a bad turnover,” imagine what they’ll do when the Abby Wambach who played for Dan Borislow and not Laura Harvey talks about someone’s effort in an NWSL game. Or when the Abby Wambach who was a master of gamesmanship (yes, there is diving in women’s soccer) and dissent starts talking about the refs.
She would probably make a great coach, her own protests to the contrary. Her ability to inspire teammates was more valuable to the U.S. women in the last World Cup than her actual play. And she may be a powerful advocate for any cause she chooses.
But in doing so, it’s important to remember her as she is. She’s not a nun. She’s a warrior. She’s the player who trots off the field to get her head stitched together, she’s the player who exuded calm when she suffered the broken leg that kept her out of the 2008 Olympics, and she’s the player who defied critics to wring enough soccer out of her aging body to win that elusive World Cup.
And that’s not a bad thing. That doesn’t make Wambach’s legacy any less worth celebrating. It’s simply who she is, and it’s a big reason she was so successful and inspirational.
Who knows what she wants to do next? I don’t. And I’m interested to see the answer. She might be in the public spotlight, or she might fulfill her long-standing desire to hike the Appalachian Trail before settling down to start a family. She might return to Twitter and leap into controversy like Akers, or she might be quiet and anonymous like Fawcett.
But whatever it is, we won’t be forgetting her in our lifetimes.