A folk hero (heroine) is someone who exhibits qualities that are desirable. Hard-working, ethical, honest, clever, witty, and funny are examples of characteristics that folk heroes and folk heroines exhibit in the course of their daily lives. When push comes to shove in difficult situations, they do what is best, what is right and they often do so at seemingly personal sacrifice. And this is how and why they touch others.
As a soccer player Katie Parucha, who was a student intern, writes here about one of her sports heroes, Brandi Chastain:
I strived to be just like her as a young soccer player, even choosing her number (#6) as my own whenever I was to wear a jersey on the field. She was so composed and calm when on the field, but there were moments when her fierceness took control and no one could stop her athleticism and drive to excel. It was these qualities that I admired and hoped one day to emulate.
Yes, it was apparent that Brandi was an awesome person and player, but there was one moment in time that made the world recognize this amazing athlete. It was July 10th, 1999 and the Women’s U.S. National Team was playing Japan in the finals of the Women’s World Cup. The Olympics were held in the United States at the Rose Bowl, which some might say gave the U.S. an advantage. Knowing that Japan was a team to reckon with, I knew that we had a great challenge ahead of us.
The game went back and forth, both teams neck and neck competing for the world’s greatest honor in soccer. Feelings of anxiety, hope, and adrenaline filled my body as I watched this intense match. Regulation time left the score at 0-0 which only meant one thing, penalty kicks. The world waited in anticipation as the players took their shots. Brandi was the fifth kicker to take her penalty, meaning that if she was to score this goal, the U.S. would win the World Cup.
She walked up to the penalty spot setting her ball down exactly how she wanted to place it. For soccer players, placing the ball down can be a very important and superstitious ritual before taking a penalty kick. After setting the ball down, Chastain stepped back and took a deep breath. Although there was an extreme amount of pressure placed upon her shoulders, she looked as though she had a confidence and ease about her that no one could tap into. The whistle blew giving her the signal that she was clear to take the kick. As the entire world watched her, she lunged forward to take her kick. The ball was placed in the lower right corner of the net….. GOAL!!!!!!
The entire U.S. Women’s team raced up to Brandi who had fallen to her knees and began swarming her. The feeling that I felt after that goal was scored was indescribable and will remain one of the fondest soccer memories of my life.
In just seconds Brandi Chastain went from being an intricate member of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer team, to a sports hero- a folk hero- who will go down in soccer history. Not only did she bring attention to women’s soccer (which was hurting at the time with fan base), but she also brought attention to women’s sports in general. It was that amazing day in America that Brandi Chastain rose above adversity and changed the world of women’s Soccer.