In preparation for the Women’s World Cup that begins this evening, I just watched the 1991 final between the U.S. and Norway, which is available in its entirety here. It was televised on the now-defunct SportsChannel via tape delay, so there are commercials throughout the broadcast, but one never misses any game action. Unsurprisingly for an American soccer broadcast from the 1990s, the announcing is terrible, not least because both announcers continuously refer to the women as “girls.” The play-by-play man also keeps using the word “defensing” instead of “defending,” as in “the U.S. did a good job defensing that corner kick.”
I must say that I enjoyed watching the video for its early-1990s quaintness almost as much as I enjoyed watching it for the game action (the match itself is a typical overly-cautious final, with the U.S.’s winning goal coming off a misplayed back pass to the Norwegian goalkeeper). There are classic commercials for products such as Chia Pets and The Clapper, as well as several commercials each from Sprint and AT&T, as this was the heyday of the long-distance wars. The broadcast must have been recorded from a Chicago station, as there are commercials for a Blackhawks game and a Bulls game, and one for the Northern Illinois University women’s basketball team (go Huskies!).
Although 1991 was not that long ago, the match shows that it was a very different era in women’s soccer. Each half was only 40 minutes long, as apparently FIFA was worried that women couldn’t handle a full 90, and the extra time periods would have been 10 minutes each instead of 15. Each team was only allowed two substitutes (this was also the case for the men’s game at the time), and there was a male referee (from the Soviet Union)! The site of the 1995 tournament had also yet to be decided. Similarly, late in the game the color announcer urges viewers to write to the U.S. Olympic Committee to request that women’s soccer be included in the 1996 summer Olympics. Finally, the official name of the match (if the telecast is to be believed) was the FIFA Women’s World Championship M&M’s Cup, not the FIFA Women’s World Cup, which is how everyone refers to it now (just like people now refer to “Super Bowl I” when it was actually called the NFL-AFL Championship Game at the time).
It makes me happy that someone has taken the time to put the full match online. One sign that soccer is becoming more and more popular in the U.S. is that Americans are beginning to care more about the history of the game, not just what is going on now, and this video is one example.
I taught my final class of the school year on Wednesday, and for the past two days have just been relaxing and letting my mind wander. It hasn’t hit me on a visceral level yet that I don’t have to teach another class until late August, but my brain is already going on all sorts of tangents. Here are a few that are rattling around this afternoon:
Sometimes I have dreams that people have statistics for their lives just like athletes have sports statistics. Usually these dreams center around me having a low “life average” (akin to a baseball batting average), somewhere below .250. I’m always very worried about this in the dream until I realize that there’s no such thing as life averages. But it would be kind of interesting if there were. It would be fascinating to compare oneself to other people numerically like it is possible to compare one athlete to another. For instance, basketball-reference.com has something called “Similarity Scores” on each player’s page (scroll down to the bottom to see Patrick Ewing’s) that compares the player to other players (past and present) with similar statistics. If it were possible to do this in real life, it would be helpful because then one could see if one’s life was headed in a good direction or not based on those with similar life arcs.
I bought a regular-sized candy bar at the college bookstore this afternoon that cost $1.25. I realize that the bookstore is not the cheapest place to buy such an item, but even so, it points to how candy bar prices have exploded over the past decade or so. For all of my teens and into my twenties it was common to be able to find candy bars on sale for $0.50, and sometimes even less. Nowadays it is hard to find one for less than $0.75 even at stores that claim to have “low prices” (at least in Salt Lake City, and this was the case when I lived in Illinois, too).
Conversely, I also bought a pack of two Bic red pens for $0.99. What a deal! A pleasing quality product for under a dollar. Good office supplies are always exciting. The way things are going, though, they are an endangered species.
This afternoon I was reading Elizabeth McNeill’s Nine and a Half Weeks, and of course I found the depiction of her relationship fascinating, but something else that struck me was her description of the various shops she and her lover visit on the weekends. The book takes place in the mid-1970s, and they go to all sorts of (generally high-end) businesses, most of which no longer exist.
I’ve thought about this before in thinking about how cities and towns change (when I lived in DeKalb, Illinois, the only business in photographs from thirty years ago that was still around was the town’s adult bookstore), and every time I think about it, it makes me a little sad, and it fills me with questions. What happened to these businesses and the people who ran them? Did they retire and simply close the business, feeling satisfied that it had run its course? Did the shifting economy claim the store as a victim, leaving its proprietors bereft? My guess is that this was primarily the case with the various department stores which McNeill names.
Change is inevitable, but the amount of history that gets lost as the memory of all of these mostly small shops fades is terrifying. The human element of our purchases often gets forgotten in light of the excitement surrounding the objects that we’ve bought. Thinking about this is a good reminder for me of the importance of shopping at local businesses rather than at faceless chain stores.