Celebrating the USWNT: A Parade to Remember

The US Women’s National Team, or shortened as USWNT, secured their third World Cup Victory with a 5-2 win over Japan on July 5, 2015. The final wasn’t just watched by soccer fans, whether diehard or casual — it was watched by those who wanted to watch team USA be the best in the world, those were excited to see women’s sports in the forefront of America, and those who simply wanted to be a part of the conversation the next day. This highlights that when it comes to sport we aren’t just tuning in to watch the actual game; we are watching to root for something that represents us. Throughout my entire life I was always reminded that I was lucky to be born and raised in the USA. The World Cup is a time for us to prove that on the field. The final was the perfect moment for people to tune to see the US being the best team in the world.

Once the women’s team had secured their victory, the US fell completely into a (much deserved) USWNT loving frenzy which included, among many other things, a rally in LA and a ticker-tape parade in NYC on Friday July, 10th. Luckily, I live close to NYC, and I knew I had to make it to be a part of the fun.  The weather leading up to the parade was pretty terrible, so when Friday rolled around and the sun broke through it was a welcomed surprise; it gave us pretty much the most ideal weather you could think of for July.

I wasn’t going to go to a parade celebrating our National Team in just normal clothing — I had to wear everything red, white, and blue I could find. I had on a crazy Uncle Sam hat, eight strands of red, white, and blue star bead necklaces, a blue shirt with white stars, and my favorite red shorts. Also important to my outfit was a my big American flag light spring scarf that I used to drape around myself like a big flag. Last but not least, I had a miniature American flag to carry around and wave in excitement. Needless to say, I was completely decked out.

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It only took me about an hour to get into the city the morning of the parade (after a three hour drive the night before). I arrived at the World Trade Center around 9:30 a.m., and there were already swarms of people in wearing the Stars and Stripes. I walked about two blocks to the parade route at the Canyon of Heroes – so called for the manner in which the tall office buildings line lower Broadway. For the most part, it is an ordinary New York street, but a few granite strips give away the historical events that had passed through, such as the statue of Liberty’s initial celebration, the V-J day homecoming, and now the USWNT victory parade. The route commemorates many important moments in our nation’s history, and I can now say that I was a part of it, along with all of those around me who at that point, were more than 5 people deep already.

History was happening (it was the first parade for an all women’s team!!), and I was excited to be a part of it! Championship parades are one of my favorite things ever (no seriously, if it wasn’t for the astronomical plane ticket prices, I would have been in Chicago in June for the Blackhawks’ championship parade). I had been to one other championship parade before this one which was the 2008 World Series Parade for the Philadelphia Phillies, and I had one of the best times of my life. Although, by definition, it was a ticker tape parade, the only real ticker tape parades take place in NYC – they always have and always will. It’s a part of being New York. So, I was very excited to go to my first real ticker tape parade. The parade would live up to everything I imagined; including the completely ridiculous amount of confetti.

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Once I got to my spot along the parade route, I took some time to just take everything in. Take in all the smiles from the crazy outfits, goosebumps from the loud and non-stop USA chants, and excitement from the energy of every person there. Obviously, it was loud. Even before the parade started there was a lot of cheering and USA! USA! chants. Still, the crowd managed to get louder once the parade started. People seeing their idols and heroes made sure to cheer as loud as they. The noise level was downright impressive during the parade; you are in the middle of this huge city in open air— not in a stadium— and it is so loud you can’t even hear yourself think.

The parade was a sea of red, white, and blue. It was exciting to see all of the people who were decked out just like me. One of my favorites was a girl who had her entire body painted like an American flag. She was not messing around. Many people simply draped in red, white, and blue; and a lot of people with a small patriotic flag painted on the check of their face. People loved seeing those who spared nothing to dress up, and were snapping lots of pictures and asking to take pictures with us, including Metro 1 News. People were definitely trying to take as many pictures as possible to capture as many memories as possible of this day. I am 100% positive that there was more red, white, and blue, patriotism, and USA chants on July 11th than there were less than a week prior the 4th of July. The amount of pride and patriotism was astounding.

Oh hey, rest of the world, America doesn’t care about soccer? Well, I found thousands of people who disagree….

It was also fun to look up at all the crazy spots people were choosing to watch the parade. I personally love looking up at the businesses overlooking the parade route; with the employees having a fantastic view out their windows. I was by a Chase building, and it was adorable to see the businessmen in suits and business attire join the celebration. I am sure their boss didn’t love the dip in work productivity, but that is what happens during a parade. The real world stops, and regardless of where you are it is fun to be a part of it.

It should be no surprise that thousands of people made it a point to be a part of the historic celebration; including the two people next to me. It was a dad and his son, who were in town visiting from Arizona. When they arrived, the son was complaining: Why did we wake up early to come to this? What are we doing here? When his son couldn’t see, I gave up my spot on the ledge for him so he could get a glimpse of the route. I wanted to make sure he was able to see the celebration. His dad continued to tell his son that years down the line people will be showing pictures of this parade, and he will be able to say that he was there. He then gave him a history lesson about the iconic images from the 1999 USWNT victory and Brandi Chastain. Maybe the image of the incredible mid-field goal by Carli Lloyd isn’t as iconic, but this 2015 USWNT will be one that is talked about for years to come.

 

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This parade was more than just a celebration. It felt like it was a symbol of the push for soccer and women’s sport in America. Many people have been talking about how the team has inspired a new generation of young women. This sentiment fails to do justice to what I saw firsthand: The USWNT is inspiring not only young women, but also young men. While many young men could have worn a Clint Dempsey or Tim Howard shirt, I saw a large number who were opted for Alex Morgan and one who looked to have taken his mom’s Wambach jersey for the day. Seeing how these young people are growing up with female athlete idols and heroes showed what a truly momentous occasion in our history this celebration represented.

After the parade made its way to City Hall, the Sanitation Department began to clean up the streets, and massive piles of confetti were the result. I saw someone jump into the pile, and then felt an immediate need to follow suit. I pushed myself towards the street, and as I was about to run and jump, NY1 saw my sequin hat and asked for an interview. There was another man who was also asked to come and be interviewed, and he was decked out in red, white, and blue from his afro wig down to his patriotic shoes. I immediately asked him if he wanted to jump in the pile of confetti as badly as I did. His response: a full fledge sprint into the confetti. While waiting to be interviewed we enjoyed running into piles of confetti, all the while recording videos and taking pictures, while continuing to keep the crowd pumped up and cheering. This video is probably my favorite from that time.

You know how when it snows it brings out everyone’s inner child? Well, that is exactly what it was like all along the Canyon of Heroes that Friday.

In a few years, after the hype of this tournament has died down, it will be interesting to see where we have come with women’s sports and soccer in America. If history is to tell us anything, is that we do continue to make progress. We have come a long way since when the women won the World Cup in 1999, and this year, the fact that we are excited to celebrate women athletes on such a large scale is important. In 3 years, the men’s World Cup will be taking place, and it will be interesting to see whether we forget about this as quickly as they cleaned up the confetti on the streets in NYC, or will this have a lasting impact on the US similar to 1980’s Miracle on Ice? That is still to be determined, but things like the gentlemen standing next to me said to his son reminding him that “in 20 years, when you look back and people are talking about this day, you can thank me ’cause you can say you were there and a part of it” give me hope. Hope that this USWNT has created an effective cultural movement of women athletes, women’s sports, and soccer in America, and I am ecstatic to what happens next.

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