One of my most poignant memories of high school came from a game that we played in my grade 12 high-school PE class. In retrospect we sat in chairs for an hour and I didn’t break a sweat, but it taught me a life lesson that I have carried with me ever since, that’s been as applicable in soccer as its been in life. It seems aptly relevant in light of the WPS news that will unfold later today.
In this PE class fifteen years ago, we were divided into three groups, and were explained the rules of the game.
There would be ten rounds. Each round, the whole group, consisting of these three teams would be presented with an amount of money each round, for example, $100. We would go back to our groups and decide if we wanted to pick the “Team” option or the “Individual” option. The three groups would confer in secret, write our answer down, and then hand it in to our teacher.
If all 3 groups picked “Team”, then every group would be presented with the (hypothetical) $100. If one group picked “Individual”, then that group would get double, $200, while the other 2 groups would get 0. If 2 groups picked “Individual,” then all three groups would get 0. We played this game through ten rounds with different amounts of money each time.
In the end the teacher tallied up our totals, and there was a winner, let’s say they came away with $4000, while group 2 had $3000, and group 3 had $2000.
Then the teacher presented what would have happened if every group picked the “Team” option every time, and thus all groups would have gotten money, and how much money we would have had. And it ended up being something like $8,000, or double what the winning group received in the end. The lesson was, if people worked together, and put their own interests aside, and did what was best for the group, instead of trying to get ahead individually, all three groups would have “won”.
So how does this relate to soccer, MagicJack and the WPS?
Last week, I was lying on the trainer’s table, getting some ultrasound, and killing some time flicking through twitter. I saw that someone had posted about some of the most decorated national team players deciding to opt out of WPS, and join MagicJack, thus continuing the saga that is WPS and Dan Borislow.
I tweeted my first thought, “The players call the shots in the WPS saga. If no one plays for Borislow, he has no team. For those that do, questionable ethics and integrity. Its not about the WPS, its about taking a paycheck from a guy who blatantly mistreated some of their teammates, and is a proven bully.”
One person took offence to my “harsh” words, and questioned, would I rather these players work as a barista at Starbucks, instead of having the opportunity to play pro soccer. I responded that I would take a barista at Starbucks with honor and integrity any day, than people receiving a paycheck from a bully, and someone who has proven to be absolutely toxic to the growth of the women’s game.
I say the word bully, with first hand knowledge from friends who played for MagicJack last year. Friends that have come from professional environments, and were horrified on every level about what they experienced last year. The fear of even talking about what they experienced, was palpable. One friend was particularly fearful, as she was truly convinced that he could make bad things happen to her, and that his power extended far outside the confines of the soccer field, should he hear her say anything negative about her experience.
This is why when I heard high profile names, being thrown around as potential members of Borislow’s 2012 team, players who witnessed this mistreatment of their teammates in 2011, I was even more disgusted. These are the very players that have power in the women’s game. For them to support this guy, and take money from him, (and let’s make no mistake about this, unless I’m way off base here, this is about money, and not because Dan Borislow the person, made an incredible impact on their lives) is like watching my PE lesson from grade 12 and its consequences, play out in real life.
Those players chose “Individual,” got their hypothetical $200, while everyone else and the sport itself got $0, when everyone could have won. Friends that I have been training with all winter, fantastic people and players, who turned down great offers in Europe to play WPS, now may not have a chance to play soccer this year. And let me make this clear, this isn’t about these influential players having to support the WPS, or even play in it, if they didn’t agree with how it was run. But by supporting Borislow, they were working against the league and against the growth of the sport, putting their own selfish interests and bank accounts in the short term ahead of giving a pro league for women in the US a chance to flourish in the long run.
The legacy of these players in my mind, is not as champions, no matter how many trophies and medals they have carried home. In picking the hypothetical “Individual,” they played a crucial role in bringing down a league, when they were the very ones who could have lifted it up. In my mind, these players have left a far more powerful and memorable legacy than any on-field moment could provide.