After a year as the women's soccer writer for Fox Soccer, I got the call last week that the gig is up. In the sweeping way that media sites stop and start initiatives because it costs so much dang money to produce content, my contract was canceled. For me, it was a blessing in disguise, because after a year of amazing travel covering the U.S. women's national team, I had written just about everything I cared to write about this amazing team. Also, as a contract writer, my termination was far less painful than the layoffs of my boss, Jamie Trecker, the soccer guru who had worked for Fox 12 years, among others given their pink slips.
In the past year, I covered the U.S. women as they played through and won the 2015 Women's World Cup in Canada, and then stayed on to write about their Victory Tour. Having covered the team in 1996 during the Atlanta Olympics, and during that amazing 1999 World Cup win at the Rose Bowl, then in 2004 in Athens, it was very interesting to see the U.S. women finally regain their footing as the No. 1 team in the FIFA rankings. The world of international women's soccer has nipped the U.S. in the heels, but the U.S. women's national team program has all the ingredients to stay ahead of the world, especially now with amazing, technically skilled soccer players. The knock against the U.S. has been that they relied on athleticism and size and sheer competitive determination to dominate. Now they have youthful talent like Mallory Pugh and Lindsay Horan to add a new dimension for the next era.
But creatively and journalistically, it was time to move on. It's been one week or so since I got the call from the Fox honchos. In that time I have started to realize why this past year has seemed very hectic -- a literal whirlwind. (aka: world wind) Here is where I traveled since January 2015:
San Jose, Santa Cruz, Los Angeles, Lisbon & Algarve Coast in Portugal, St. Louis, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Vancouver, Ottawa, Montreal, back to Vancouver, Seattle, Pittsburgh, Chattanooga, Birmingham, Atlanta, Detroit, Seattle (again!), Orlando, Portland, Hawaii, Seattle, Phoenix, New Orleans, Dallas, Austin and Houston.
That is merely a list of cities. There is no way, sitting here after this is all over and done with, to begin to describe the hundreds of experiences I was able to have traipsing around the country and world. Travel is both immeasurably enriching to the human mind, eye and palette, and challenging to the central nervous system. I tried to make the utmost of every place I visited and feel pretty good that, with all my experience over my many years as a sports writer, that I made some pretty cool decisions about where and how to explore each place I went. But I feel grateful to be back home, with my family, and have a new sense of calm about creating a schedule and work life that is not so far flung.
What I loved about the travel, in addition to seeing things, was coming home with something new to think about or try. In Houston, my last trip, the art museums, barbecue and southern Texas culture turned out to be a lot more compelling than I had imagined. I fell hard for the West Alabama Street Icehouse, among other icehouse beer joints that dotted street corners in Houston's outer ringed neighborhoods. Like New Orleans, where the weather and climate dictates lifestyles so different from New York, it was a revelation the way people slowed down and weren't all hyped up like the way they are up North. I brought that feeling home with me, and a new obsession with how those Texans can smoke their brisket and turkey to taste so much like, well, Texas!
My life on the road is over, but so far, I have already turned my Weber grill into a Houston smoker. On the first 68-degree day of 2016, I procured some lump coal and applewood chips and lit the thing on fire. If I can't go on the road anymore, the road has come home. Hopefully, the neighbors didn't mind the smell of woodsmoke firing up the Long Island evening sky.
Is a former political and sports columnist who worked great cities like Albany NY, Seattle, Baltimore and Harrisburg PA. She lives New York.