The announcement was made late in Saturday night's National Premier Soccer League championship match at Finley Stadium, where the Chattanooga Football Club suffered a heartbreaking 3-2 overtime loss to the New York Cosmos B.
The United States women's soccer team will indeed hold an open practice at Finley on Tuesday, Aug. 18, it said. Free of charge, it said. From 5 to 6:30 p.m., it said.
And that's unquestionably a good and generous thing for U.S. Soccer and the World Cup winners to do. It guarantees that thousands of young people in this community whose families couldn't cough up the $35 or more a person to see the U.S. team's exhibition "friendly" against Costa Rica the following evening will now get an extended glimpse of their ftbol heroes.
It means countless others who could have afforded to go but didn't apply online in time will get the same memorable experience.
It may also mean that both entities — U.S. Soccer in general and the World Cuppers in particular — appreciate that the opportunities to turn all of us— young, old and middle-aged alike — on to soccer are far more finite than other team sports we embrace in this country: baseball, softball, basketball and American football.
And given that, the old line about striking while the iron is hot is never more accurate than now. College football will still be more than two weeks away on Aug. 18. Pro football a week further out than that. Baseball pennant races will still be lukewarm.
With ESPN2 set to televise the Costa Rica match, more eyes figure to be on Finley that week than at any time since the stadium first opened in October 1997.
But your humble scribe's original idea to raise money through an open practice for the families of the five military personnel killed in the July 16 terrorist act remains unfulfilled. U.S. Soccer never responded to this newspaper's email to charge a small fee — $5 for an adult and $3 for kids 6-12 — to watch such a workout, and that idea now appears finished, at least from U.S. Soccer's end.
Said one person familiar with U.S. Soccer during the CFC final: "They're supposedly afraid that they'll agree to something like that, then someone will run off with the money, never to be seen again."
OK, it's a little far-fetched, but, hey, self-imposed rules are self-imposed rules, so if U.S. Soccer never gets involved with charity, so be it. But actively refusing to promote charity and passively looking the other way while others seek to help those five families is a completely different dynamic.
So here's a slightly revised plan, assuming Finley Stadium and CFC would be willing to help.
Set up donation stations around the stadium in the early afternoon on Aug. 18. Begin pushing for a goal of $100,000 raised, with checks to be presented to individual representatives of the families or one check to a military representative (to later be divided among the families) during the ESPN telecast the following night.
Think that moment wouldn't make SportsCenter's Top 10?
You could even give it a name. Something along the lines of "Fill Finley for our Fearless Five." If 20,000 showed up, a donation of $5 a person would deliver $100 grand. How much personal financial pain is involved in that? Five dollars a person for the fearless five servicemen who made the ultimate sacrifice for the rest of us.
And, yes, it would still be nice if the women's team — especially Carli Lloyd and Abby Wambach — would all sign 25 #NoogaStrong T-shirts to be auctioned off to raise more money for the families. But the World Cuppers' schedule is tight. They will play their first friendly against Costa Rica in Pittsburgh this Sunday, visit the White House on Monday, then fly to Chattanooga on Tuesday.
Yet Chattanooga is also the last time the team will be together for a month. Seems like they could spend 10 minutes or so signing a few T-shirts to help a worthy cause. And if U.S. Soccer has a problem with that, perhaps U.S. Senator Bob Corker, our former mayor, could look into the organization's 501 (c)(3) tax-exempt status.
The important point here is that we all want to do something to help the five families who lost so much on our soil. Whether it's holding concerts, placing flags, flowers and messages of hope in the hard ground, or just writing a check, we all want to help.
(A personal thought about erecting a memorial in the shadow of a strip mall where the first shots were fired at the recruiting center on Lee Highway: Nothing wrong with that, and that site has appeared to be ground zero for the public's need to honor the fallen. But the loss of life occurred on Amnicola Highway at the U.S. Naval and Marine Resource Center. And given that Amnicola backs up to the Riverwalk, arguably the most peaceful public site in our entire community, why not erect a memorial there? Perhaps a circular fountain, almost a pit, filled with both fire and water, with giant bronze numbers 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 on its back half? Just a thought.)
But with the one-month anniversary of the shootings now less than a week away, our main thoughts should remain with those five families and how to help their lives be as painless as possible going forward.
Filling Finley for the Fearless Five on Aug. 18 with the goal of raising another $100,000 for the Chattanooga Heroes Fund that Peyton Manning and Corker helped start would certainly help. If U.S. Soccer can find fault with that, it would seem to have some very public explaining to do.
Contact Mark Wiedmer at firstname.lastname@example.org