CARSON - This was supposed to be their day. For once, their day and their's alone. We were supposed to talk about super goals and World Cup wins, Brandi's abs and Nomar's twins.
And yes, there were a fair amount of those conversations Tuesday morning as Mia Hamm and Julie Foudy were formally elected into the National Soccer Hall of Fame at Home Depot Center.
But it wouldn't be them, it wouldn't fit who they always were, it wouldn't fit their legacy if this day was only about them. For Hamm and Foudy and the other women of the U.S. national soccer team who caught lightning in a bottle at the Women's World Cup in 1999, it was always about something bigger.
It was never just about winning. It was never just about Mia's brilliance or Foudy's leadership. That was part of it. But 90,000 people didn't show up to the Rose Bowl that July, not so many years ago, to watch a soccer game.
They showed up because the team always showed up ... to sign autographs until every last light in the stadium was turned off, to every news conference or photo shoot, summer camp and speaking engagement.
It seemed fitting then, that they shared their day Tuesday with an announcement that a new women's professional soccer league, this one thankfully partnered with MLS, will launch next year, and a press event for a nonprofit organization called "The Century Council."
Neither Foudy nor Hamm will play in the new league, but both happily answered questions about it for over an hour Tuesday.
"We had to sell the game we have to continue to sell the game," Hamm said. "We took that to heart and every opportunity we had. ... For us, it was natural because we loved this game so much and in the end, it gave us so much more."
Hamm, who is expecting twins with her husband, Dodgers' infielder Nomar Garciaparra, in April, was elected with the highest percentage (97.16 percent) of any inductee in the Hall of Fame.
Foudy, who gave birth to her first child Jan. 1, was selected on 83.69 percent of the ballots. She edged out teammate Joy Fawcett, as well as men's stars such as Marco Etcheverry, Carlos Valderrama and Mauricio Cienfuegos.
The new league, which may take the name of the defunct WUSA, which folded in 2003 after plowing through approximately $100 million of its investors' money in just three seasons, will begin with teams in LosAngeles, Dallas, Washington D.C., St. Louis and Chicago. A sixth team is still being placed.
The new league is tentatively set to launch in April of 2008, to capitalize on publicity from the Women's World Cup in China this September.
It was a decidedly soft launch compared to the splash the WUSA made in its first year.
Foudy said that was by design, as league leaders wanted to learn from the mistakes of the WUSA.
"Our biggest problem was the expense side and containing that," Foudy said. "That's really the lesson we've learned going forward with this relaunch. You don't have to start with this huge 50million dollar launch and dig yourself this huge hole the first year. You want to start sensibly and not feel like you have to compete with these major sports leagues that have been around for decades."
You shake your head as they carry on, patiently answering every last question about the new league, the future of women's soccer and their place in it.
Just imagine if all the questions at Cal Ripken Hall of Fame news conference were about the state of Major League Baseball, if Tony Gwynn took more questions about promoting his sport among little leaguers, than about how he developed his sweet swing.
It's different for female athletes.
They have to build their sports at the same time they build their r sum s. Hamm and Foudy have probably spent as much time on grass-roots marketing as they have playing on grass.
This is not a bad thing. Just reality. Title IX, the landmark gender equity legislation, was passed in 1972, the same year Hamm was born.
It's only been 21 years since the United States women's national team won its first international game.
As a major sport, women's soccer is barely old enough to drink.
It's often written that Hamm and Foudy played in the Golden Era of women's soccer. But doesn't it seem a little early to break a 21-year history up into eras?
"Somebody once asked me: `Were you guys pioneers or an anomaly?"' Foudy said. "I thought, `Oh God, I sure hope we're pioneers and not just a blip on the map.'
"With this (new) group of players, people say, `You don't have a Mia, you don't have some of the names.' But people didn't know Mia in 1995. Stars are created, names are created.
"Look at all the great personalities and names they have on the team now. There just hasn't been a World Cup yet, where they weren't under our shadow. It just takes some time."
Marla Messing, the CEO of the 1999 FIFA Women's World Cup, was on hand Tuesday for Hamm and Foudy's news conference. She, more than anyone, understands how much they meant to the sport.
The original plan for the 1999 World Cup was to play the games in small stadiums on the East Coast, where teams and media wouldn't have to fly to get to the different venues. After Messing attended the 1996Olympics in Atlanta, where women's soccer sold out its semifinal and gold-medal games, she knew the sport was capable of a boom.
The players weren't just good players. They didn't just score a lot of goals. They just got it, the big picture. So Messing and her team signed them all to contracts. Every event, from the debut of the World Cup logo to the naming of a mascot, was a news event. Every photo op was a chance to promote their sport.
"Their personalities were the cornerstone of our marketing," Messing said. " And they did a great job of leaving a legacy for the sport and not just capitalizing on that particular moment for themselves."
Some things never change.