We're three games into the NWSL Fall Series, and if I'm being honest, I've barely thought about soccer during that time.
The first, and most immediate, reason is that it’s honestly hard for me to have smart thoughts about soccer when I can't watch it live. I know that feeling is informed by being lucky enough to live in a city with an NWSL team and to be able to go to Thorns games on a regular basis; although I know many people write about this league remotely, I haven't figured out how to sustain that yet.
If it were just the remoteness, though, I'd spend a couple hours feeling uninspired and then put something together anyway. But I don't think that's the only reason I've been so detached lately.
Given the fact that pretty much every aspect of covering soccer can be done over Zoom these days, moving to Eugene shouldn’t make much of a difference in my approach. But somehow, it does; it feels like those 100 miles are an insurmountable distance, like there’s an impossibly wide chasm between where I am now and the version of me that clings to women's soccer with the same intensity as I would my best friend or my sister or one of my cats.
I think some of that feeling of separation is due to the fact that, as someone without a car or the ability to drive, I very genuinely can't go back to Portland right now. (Normally, I'd take a bus or train, but living in a global pandemic doesn’t really inspire me to spend two hours on public transportation.) Although it's not a long ride, the logistics of actually making the trip creates a sensation of a physical distance that I didn't have when everyone was in Utah.
Then there’s the other part of moving: physically living in a new place with new people and – if you're me and 19 and in your own house for the first time – learning how to do all the adult responsibilities that didn't exist when you were with your parents or in a dorm. I haven't quite figured out where covering soccer exists in alongside all that, alongside trying to establish myself as a transfer student while everything is done virtually, alongside figuring out what I'm going to do with a journalism degree – because writing about women's soccer isn't a real job and I won't be able to keep doing it forever.
I'm having a lot of trouble with keeping it from my mind when I try to think about soccer. I think it comes down to making a space for the NWSL in my life; I just have to figure out how to do that when said space is no longer a physical place like Providence Park.
I don't think the fires are helping either; it's kind of hard to care about anything other than the immediate present when a bit more bad wind could mean evacuation, when you're watching your state go up in flames, when even your home not burning means eight days (and counting) of consistently hazardous air quality. Katelyn Best captured the feeling pretty well in a preview-ish article this week, for a game that was recently postponed for a second time due to the smoke.
The fires are less of an immediate threat now – the wind has changed and the one closest to me is a whole 6% contained – so I think it's time for me to answer, or at least work towards an answer for, the questions I have for myself. And along the way, there will be time to watch some NWSL, support the league's Black players, and hopefully come up with some story ideas in the process.
But if there isn't room in your life for sports right now because of the daily existential threats around you, that makes sense. Don't feel bad. We are all living through this.
Saturday, September 19
Sunday, September 20
- Chicago Red Stars vs Sky Blue FC, 1:00 PM Eastern on CBS All Access, Twitch for international viewers
- Portland Thorns vs Utah Royals, 3:00 PM Eastern on Twitch (air quality permitting)
(Photo: Bonnie Moreland/Flickr)