The Beautiful Game is a musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber that opened at London's Cambridge Theatre on September 26, 2000 and closed on January 9, 2001.

The musical was about soccer, um, I mean football, but not American football. However, of course, it's not really about football/soccer, it was about Protestant/Catholic friction in Ireland, but it was enough about football/soccer that it never made it to the United States.

The Beautiful Game

Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber
Lyrics by Ben Elton

Directed by Robert Carsen

Josie Walker as Mary
David Shannon as John
Hannah Wassingham as Christine
Michael Shaeffer as Thomas
Alex Sharpe as Bernadette
Jamie Golding as Daniel
Ben Goddard as Del
Frank Grimes as Father O'Donnell
Dale Meeks as Ginger
Dianne Pilkington as Protestant Girl
Oliver Segal as Sean Kelly

I had planned on watching the United States/Brazil Women’s World Cup game yesterday but instead fell victim to peer pressure and wound up playing eighteen holes of golf.

We teed off at around 9:45 and by 10:00 after taking a fuckin’ nine on the first hole I was already in no mood to go on. The temperature was already creeping into the mid 90’s and there wasn’t a breeze to be found. To top it off, we were waiting on every hole and as most golfers will tell you that only adds to ones frustration when one is having a shitty round.

After about five hours of this torture it was time to go back to the nineteenth hole and square up some bets and drown our sorrows and lament our fate. I got to our bar and after getting a much deserved frosty one placed in front of me inquired about the state of the United States Women’s game.

”You mean you didn’t fuckin’ watch it? Dude, best game I ever saw and I’m not even a soccer fan, especially women’s soccer.”

From there is it was only a short time before I saw the highlights of the game being replayed endlessly on ESPN and realized what I missed.

To put things in perspective I’ve been watching my daughter play soccer since she was about five or six years of age. I remember watching those kids have no clue about positioning or ball movement and they seemed to all move like a herd or a hive in one group as they pursued the ball. I remember watching disinterested kids that couldn’t care less picking dandelions or chasing butterflies or standing there with some sort of blank expression on their face as the “play” went on about them. I remember thinking to myself “Dear Lord, how much of this am I going to have to put with” and silently praying for rain on the weekends so the games would be cancelled.

But then, funny things started to happen. As the girls began to age they began to take the game more seriously. They became “coachable” and as some of the less talented or less interested players dropped by the wayside they were replaced with girls who showed a passion for the game and began to understand the finer points of heading the ball and tackling.

I was sold.

My daughter, now going on seventeen is still at it. She was the captain of her junior varsity team last year and seems to have inherited my competitive streak and a fearlessness that other players seem to envy. She’s known as “the enforcer” on defense and I’ve seen her take and deliver clean hits that fill me a sense of both pride and fear. The pride comes from her commitment to the game, the fear comes from her reckless abandon and willingness to never back down to the threat of injury.

School’s out for the summer but the team still practices each day, sometimes twice a day. They start out with conditioning and move on to weight lifting and then will watch tapes and study games and past performances. To me, it sounds exhausting but I think the exercise and the sense of camaraderie that the girls developed will last them a lifetime. It’s also nice to know that they aren’t just hanging out on the streets or sitting at home playing video games while the rest of the world goes on around them.

So last night, after belting down the obligatory beers after golf I noticed that ESPN2 was going to replay the USA/Brazil game in its entirety beginning at midnight. I set the alarm clock, settled back in the recliner and watched one of the most amazing comebacks I’ve ever seen in any sport that I’ve ever seen.

If any of you know my penchant for sports, that my friends, is saying an awful lot.

So when the United States scored on an incredible cross/header during stoppage time in the last session to even the game at 2 and send it to penalty kicks and even though I already knew the outcome, I was reduced to tears.

The pure joy on the faces of the American players reminded me to a time way back when my kid decided to take up the sport in earnest and to the pure joy she takes in playing it to this day.

Whatever you want to call it, whether it be soccer here in the states or football to the rest of the world, it is indeed, the beautiful game.

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