Before The Million Dollar Marching Band plays its pregame set...
Before the 92,000 fans fill Bryant-Denny Stadium...
Before College GameDay airs on ESPN...
Heck, probably before most college football coaches and players even wake up...
The most important game on Saturday will already be under way.
I'm talking about the U.S. Women's soccer team.
In case you've missed it, the top-rated American women have already played three games and won their group in the 2007 Women's World Cup in China.
They struggled early, laboring to a 2-2 draw in their opening match against fifth-ranked North Korea.
The U.S. then rallied, and proceeded to reel off two shutout victories over fellow Group B members Sweden (ranked third) and Nigeria (ranked 24th).
Now, the Americans face England in the quarterfinals—the first elimination round.
If you're like me, you enjoy watching college football with a passion. My personal ritual, if I'm not attending any games, is to watch GameDay until the first slate of matchups begins. During halftime of those opening games, I'll shower up and change into my gear for the day: orange Tennessee hat and orange Tennessee shirt (unless I'm headed to another college campus, of course—I'm no dummy).
I even go so far as to make sure I have a box of Cheez-Its close by. When your team's primary color is orange, you find yourself religiously snacking on orange-colored food.
Its a perk of being a Vol fan.
Don't worry—oranges, orange juice, candy corn, and peanut butter-and-cheese crackers aren't ignored.
I'm getting hungry...and sidetracked.
Point is—I know how college football fans operate; I'm one myself. I know we all have our Saturday traditions and rituals.
This Saturday, though, I'm breaking my habit to watch the American women.
Now, I'm not exactly expecting many college football fans to enjoy the minor facets of the game, as I will.
I just expect them to tune in.
I can't keep some of them straight myself, because they keep going and getting married, rather than just keeping their maiden names forever.
I never understood why women athletes don't take our feelings into account before saying, "I do".
Other than to test my memory skills with new names, I'll be watching to see if the U.S. can get one step closer to regaining their title from 1999.
So if you're an average college football fan—watch for national pride. Watch to support the American women play on perhaps the biggest female athletic stage in the world. Watch to see exactly how talented our U.S. side is.
Hell, watch because these women are in peak physical condition and happen to be running around in short shorts—I don't care.
As long as you watch.
If you do, you'll find yourself glued.
You may have noticed the recent Nike commercials calling the U.S. Women's National Team "the greatest team you've never heard of."
The ads are quite funny—but they also have some truth to them. This team isn't well known, and it's because players like Julie Foudy, Heather Mitts, and most notably, Mia Hamm, aren't participating in this year's World Cup.
Don't let that fool you, though—this American team is dynastic.
I'm not even sure if that's a word, but they're definitely a dynasty-in-the-making.
The U.S. hasn't lost a game in 50 consecutive contests. That's impressive.
What's more, they have their share of world-class stars—like Hope Solo and Abby Wambach.
You'll secretly wish that England could keep the ball on the American side of the field, just to give you a glimpse of Solo, the American goalkeeper (she's attractive, there's no way of getting around it).
Then, when she makes a diving save, your jaw will be on the floor.
You'll be even more impressed when you see her effortlessly punt the ball 80 yards downfield—better than anything you'll see any college football punter pull off in Saturday's games.
And what about Wambach? I guarantee she'll impress you. She's America's biggest scoring threat, and arguably one of the best in the world. You'll find yourself holding your breath whenever a ball is crossed in front of England's goal. Wambach is the world's best finisher in the air, no arguments about it. She's aggressive, and will gladly sell out to get to any ball that's even remotely within her reach.
Dare I say she shows more effort to make big plays than many college receivers do?
She certainly has the drive and "want-to," as you hear college coaches commonly refer to it.
Whether its American pride, athleticism, beauty, or simply programming convenience (no college football will be on), make sure you tune in. You won't be disappointed.
As long as you watch.
You can see Saturday's U.S. vs. England match on ESPN2 at 8:00 am, EST.
Bonus reason to watch: When else is it appropriate to chant, "U.S.A....U.S.A...."?
Unless you're a University of South Alabama Jaguars fan, you don't get many opportunities.
My advice: Take advantage of this one. You can thank me later.
(U.S. Staring XI photo: isiphotos.com)
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