The possibility of Marta

True confession time: Although trying to maintain a sense of journalistic decorum, I did a poor job of hiding my giddiness.

This excitement was produced in part by the rush of reporting a story on deadline — of tracking down facts and sources and writing against the clock. There are few times when you get to feel like one of those reporters in a 1940s movie. Granted, my use of the Internet and the lack of smoke, alcohol and fedoras in the newsroom ruined the visual, but the feeling of working on a story of significance late at night never changes regardless technology or fashion.

And it was the content of the story which made me giddy — Marta will be playing for the Western New York Flash in Women’s Professional Soccer this year.

For those who need a brief tutorial, Marta recently won her fifth straight FIFA World Player of the Year honor. The 24-year old Brazilian is dazzling on the pitch and is one of the most recognizable women in sport, at least on a global level.

In her two years as part of Women’s Professional Soccer (otherwise known as WPS) she has won two championships. Sadly, each time her team won a title, it promptly folded in the off-season. Such is the economic plight of women’s professional sports in the United States.

Therein lies the opening to lament the absence of money, opportunity and stability in women’s sports. Keeping Marta in the United States opens the debate on the viability of women’s pro soccer and stirs the pot of the seemingly eternal debate as to why Americans are not “football mad” as the rest of the world.

But today, I eschew those issues and debates.

International soccer sensation Marta is coming to my town and her arrival  offers another face of women’s sports.

If you’ve grown up a male athlete, you probably don’t get this. You’ve seen other male athletes who look just like you in the media your entire life. You’ve been given a multitude of story lines, a plethora of images as to what it means to be male and an athlete.

But if you’ve grown up a female athlete, chances are you haven’t always found a counterpart you can relate to while flipping through ESPN Nation. You’ve likely been given a narrow definition of what a female athlete looks like and an equally narrow set of expectations as to what constitutes acceptable and legitimate behavior for a female athlete.

If we never see diversity, never see variety in meaningful ways, it can stunt our ability to dream for ourselves.

Marta not only brings an international face to women’s sports, she brings the persona of a professional female athlete. Will her star power be able to help save a struggling league? Will the Western New York Flash and WPS survive as money-making sports business entities?

Interesting questions which have their time and place. Right now, my thoughts drift elsewhere.

Marta’s legacy will be more than championships, endorsements and supporting fledglings soccer leagues. Her legacy will include the dreams she helps inspire in girls (and women, and boys) who get to see her play. She’s not just bringing her game to Western New York. She’s bringing possibility.

It’s not just about building a soccer platform for women. It’s about inspiring a girl to dream she, too, could be a professional athlete. It’s about girls dreaming a bit bigger than the norm, a bit outside than conventional media standards. It may be athletic related. It may not.

The heart of the matter is all about expanding our notion of possibility. Marta brings a fresh opportunity to be inspired and to expand our ability to consider what is possible in our own lives.

Pardon me, but that possibility makes me a bit giddy.

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