This isn’t an ode to Megan Rapinoe’s career. At least, not yet because we still have a World Cup to witness and her professional career doesn’t end until the end of her club season with OL Reign. Instead, this is a moment for us to pause and think about how Megan Rapinoe has brought this game forward throughout her time as a player. It gives us a chance to collectively take a breath, think about all phases of her game from start to finish and then reconcile that with what we’re about to witness in a few days’ time.
Rapinoe has had a lot of her career delayed with massive injuries which prevented her from truly evolving as a player should when they’ve been playing for almost 20 years. That doesn’t mean we didn’t see an evolution though. For as much time as she missed while injured, when she stepped onto the pitch? We witnessed a player who truly not only loved the game, but loved to entertain us too.
It’s rare for a player to be equally as talented as they are charismatic but Megan Rapinoe has that in spades. And it’s never waned. No matter your age or demographic, you’d have to be a true “stick-in-the-mud” to not enjoy everything that Megan Rapinoe brings to the stage whenever she steps over those white lines.
Whether it was by grabbing a mic and singing ‘Born in the USA’ or by trying an improbably Olimpico in high pressure moment, Megan Rapinoe aimed to make sure that anyone watching her play, enjoyed the football and enjoyed the person that she was as a whole. Who could ever forget ESPN’s Ian Darke commentating on that goal from the 2011 World Cup? I haven’t. It was my introduction to women’s football and the USWNT. Had it not been for Rapinoe’s pitch perfect service to Abby Wambach’s forehead, I don’t think I would be where I am today with regards to women’s football and I know many who could say the same.
There are those out there who believe her social and political stances should tarnish her legacy but I don’t. We, as football viewers, would not truly engage with the USWNT as we do know if it hadn’t been for players like Rapinoe; players who fully engaged us with exactly who they are at all times, no matter the consequences.
There will be time in the near future to truly navigate everything that Megan Rapinoe has brought to this sport. Now isn’t it. She, and the USWNT still have a World Cup to win, and OL Reign are still looking to win a NWSL Championship. Let’s save our goodbyes for then. For now, let’s enjoy what we can from this final leg in her journey while we still can. After all, Rapinoe would still want us to be entertained and she’ll make sure of it whenever she gets to play.