A recent Harris poll had some revealing results. In a nationwide survey asking Americans to name their favorite female athlete,
Hamm, for her part, can only laugh. "It's definitely surprising," she said. "And it's flattering. I promise I don't vote in those polls, but it's nice to get the acknowledgement."
Women's soccer's all-time leading scorer went out on top with a gold medal in the 2004 Olympics, and while Hamm has spent the past six years focusing on raising a family with her husband,
Hamm doesn't have any plans right now to coach full time, but she does some part-time coaching on a Southern California youth team that has ties to two of Garciaparra's sisters. She marvels at her close friend
"I think the level of play in the games I've seen in person and on TV has been tremendous," Hamm said. "There's dynamic play, and you see the diversity that comes from the different coaching styles. I was at a Washington Freedom-FC Gold Pride game recently, and it was an exciting game. You were seeing
But for the most part Hamm is still geared toward her family, one that has some of the best sporting bloodlines you'll ever come across. And while she and Garciaparra don't have their daughters participating in scheduled training sessions -- they are only 3, after all -- they already like spending time with the ball.
"We had a reunion with former Freedom players, and they wanted to chase the ball around," Hamm said. "It made me feel good. I would love for them to play. They don't have to play at the highest level. I just want them to try it, because I think it's such a great game, not just for what it can add to your life physically but emotionally too. For me, it was just a great way to get out and express myself, and whatever happened at home or with my friends, if I had a bad day I could just get it all out on the field."
Now 38, though, Hamm doesn't have any desire to make a serious comeback. Not long ago she played in a game with some friends and understood why. "I took my first shot and got a cramp," she said. "Then watching the WPS game the next day I was like, 'Oh, that's the speed you're supposed to compete at.' We'd been at half-speed the day before.
"I'm on the right side of the chalk."
There was a cool scene in a parking lot outside the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., last Saturday night. A 100 friends and family members of
"I'll always remember this," said Mathis, who was joined by his wife, Tracey, their two children, Maximus and Capryce, and his mother, Pat, among a horde of well-wishers. "To come back to the Rose Bowl where my career started was great."
In the end, Mathis's bum knees just couldn't hold up to play anymore. "I could train, but I couldn't walk up the stairs normally, couldn't play with my kids," he said. "I decided I've had a good career, and after 13 years it's OK to say family is more important now."
One of the most talented players in the history of U.S. Soccer, Mathis didn't fulfill his vast potential, but he certainly had his share of glorious moments, especially when he was at the height of his powers from 2000 to '02. With plenty of good food and drink to go around at the party on Saturday, the memories and the stories flowed freely.
There were recollections of Mathis's signature moments on the field: his
"That World Cup goal is something I'll never forget, no matter how old I get, even if I get Alzheimer's or something," Mathis said, raising a glass. Then Mathis' youth club coach,
He was wrong, of course. As we know now, he's one of a kind.
(My apologies for no commentary on Tuesday's U.S.-Brazil game. I'm on my post-World Cup vacation this week, and by the time you read this I'll be on a boat off the coast of Puerto Rico. The Planet Fútbol column will resume in two weeks.)