Women's World Cup still worth the watch

PLAYING AROUND

Howard At Play

October 12, 2003|By LOWELL E. SUNDERLAND

A LITTLE bit about several things being talked about, or that should be noted, in Howard County's amateur sports community:

SOCCER: So what if it's Sweden vs. Germany for the 2003 Women's World Cup championship and not the United States national team? Watch the game today on ABC-TV, 1 p.m. The sport is what matters most of all, as can be attested to by all those thousands of girls and grown women who play it almost year-round in Howard County.

The American women - role models for all those female players and a lot of boys and men, too - lost honorably (3-0 officially, but 1-0 when it mattered) last Sunday to the Germans. It was a terrific game.

This afternoon, maybe it'll be your TV set tuned to the game in suburban Los Angeles that persuades someone in American business to pony up enough money to keep the Women's United Soccer Association in business.

The pro league's initial backers, in retrospect more funny-money telecom and cable barons than one suspected in 1999 and 2000, botched the promotion of the WUSA in just about every way. And, so strangely, the remaining backers announced a "suspension of operations" just before the World Cup began.

We hope it was at least part ploy to attract new money and leadership to refloat a pro league. Surely, there are products and services that can benefit from associating with pro women players.

But there is a disturbing element to this folding of the long-sought league, too, and it is this: Too many potential fans, including many locally, yawned.

We hear, for example, that the WUSA's Washington Freedom provided ticket vouchers to this county's largest soccer club as a way of reaching out to fans - but not one of them was claimed. None.

Still, if you love soccer but fear the American women's game is dying with the forthcoming retirements of Julie Foudy, Mia Hamm, Joy Fawcett andBrandi Chastain, buck up. There's no lack of exciting young talent to root for: Abby Wambach, Cat Reddick, Shannon Boxx and Aly Wagner, with colleges cranking out even more.

So watch. The Redskins won't beat the Buccaneers, and the Ravens don't play until 4:15 p.m.

GOLF: The initial Howard County Amateur Golf Championships, which were supposed to be decided at Timbers of Troy in Elkridge this weekend, were canceled by the Department of Recreation and Parks.

The rec people say they promoted the county-residents-only event for 40 days at all local courses, but only 19 golfers signed up - not enough for a meaningful competition.

Kyle Warfield, Timbers of Troy's general manager and head pro, said the vote internally at rec headquarters was to try again next fall.

"We may have to open it up to people from outside the county, too - that's something we'll be talking about," Warfield said. "But we want to try it again."

LIGHTS FOR ALL: Many said it couldn't be done, including some on this newspaper's staff. But the school board, finally, after years of ducking the subject, approved stadium lights for county high schools last week.

No doubt we'll have to tolerate a few more NIMBYs whining about lights likely to cause declining property values, crime and disruption to their lives, but none of that will happen. Really. That's simply not been the experience in other school systems.

Meanwhile, let's give a collective nod to schools Superintendent John O'Rourke, who apparently never spoke publicly about lights but, unlike his predecessor, didn't play obstructionist, either. Then, let's give loud applause to athletics supervisor Don Disney, who has hung in there on righteous side of this subject for years.

FOOTY: That's what Aussies call one of their national sports, Australian Rules Football, which is seen occasionally on cable TV here. At its highest levels, footy is one of the planet's roughest sports, a blend of our football, Gaelic football and rugby played on a huge field.

We mention footy only because it got some chat a few weeks ago at the YMCA in Ellicott City. And you might hear rumors of someone trying to drum up interest - for next year. Check with Peter Sontag at the Y if you'd like to know more.

SOCCER, TOO: Maryland Soccer News, published by the Maryland State Youth Soccer Association, thinks "Columbia soccer may be back," meaning as a state and regional youth power.

Writer Jerry Langdon observed that the Soccer Association of Columbia/Howard County "was a power in Maryland soccer until 10-15 years ago. In recent years, the dominant clubs have been Bethesda and Baltimore, and Columbia has struggled. ... Area clubs have poached on Columbia stars for years, depleting the talent."

But, Langdon wrote, "This drought may be over. Columbia teams this year won two state cups in young age groups and earned two other regional wildcard berths."

Call the writer at 410-332-6525, or send e-mail to lowell.sunderland@baltsun.com.

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