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September 09, 1999 - Image 48

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The Michigan Daily, 1999-09-09

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22B - The Michigan Daily - Thursday, September 9, 1999
World Cup victory heightens attention for women's soccer

By Robert Cohn
Independent Florida Alligator
(U-WIRE) - It took a matter of seconds,
but it has been a long time coming.
It was a left-footed thwack and a moment
of jubilation.
A moment that saw Brandi Chastain tear
off her No. 6 USA jersey and reveal her black
Nike Inner Actives sports bra.
But while she was unveiling, Chastain also
was revealing a new excitement for women's
athletics.
It was a moment then-heaa coach Tony
DiCicco described as a "storybook ending."
But it was not an end...
In fact, it was a new beginning.
,From globally to locally, the ripple effect
of the U.S. World Cup win has traveled from
the Rose Bowl bleachers in Pasadena, Ca., to
the young athletes in Gainesville who are
vying to be like Chastain.
"I think that the World Cup will give
younger athletes a lot more enthusiasm about
(soccer) now," said UF defender Heather
Mitts, who was in the stands in Pasadena as
part of the under-21 national team. "I think

they will want to play soccer and want to get
better. And I think that in the future there will
be more soccer players carrying on the tradi-
tion."
Despite Chastain's celebration being a 15-
yard penalty on the other football field, it was
a long time coming. And it may have been the
kick women's sports needed.
"I think the World Cup win was a great
moment in women's athletics," UF Athletic
Director Jeremy Foley said. "I think it will
help (UF) in terms of fan interest. I see the
enthusiasm growing everyday on this campus
and the way people are reacting toward our
national championship soccer program."
Combine the U.S. win with the 1998
national champion Gators, and what isleft is
an increased vigor for women's athletics.
In addition, former Gator Danielle
Fotopoulos finished her career last season as
the NCAA Division I all-time leader, male or
female, in goals with 118 and points with 284.
Fotopoulos passed the previous record of
103 held by Mia Hamm, who played at North
Carolina and Tiffeny Milbrett from Portland.
Fotopoulos then joined the two on the U.S.

National Team during the summer, giving the
Gators more national recognition.
But as quickly as the hysteria began, it
could just as easily come to an end.
To prevent that from happening at UF, the
University Athletic Association is continuing
its community outreach programs.
Programs such as "Kids Club" and "Meet
the Players" bring fans from off the sidelines,
into the stands and closer to UF's athletes.
Thus, evoking continued public response and
enthusiasm.
"If the size of our crowds have anything to
do with some of the publicity and coverage
from the World Cup I think that is great and I
hope it continues," said Associate Athletic
Director Ann Marie Rogers, who is in charge
of women's sports at UF. "We have poster
signings for all of our sports trying to get
young girls in the community involved with
their families and our programs.
"We have the 'Kids Club' where we invite
children to our games. So we do a lot in trying
to keep the community involved. The 'Kids
Club' has grown to over 600 members, so it is
a great time in women's athletics. And I think

the World Cup can only help."
The media magnified the World Cup. And
the media will have an impact on the after-
math and longevity of that event.
"Certainly media coverage will have a pos-
itive impact on Gator soccer," said Michael
Hill, director of marketing and commercials
for UF. "Our thinking here is that there will be
further growth in the interest of women's soc-
cer. I think because the World Cup had such
tremendous initial support and the fact that the
nation was galvanized behind the women's
cup
effort this summer that the sport will have
a long lasting effect.
Gator fans who have never attended soccer
matches before, but who watched the World
Cup match on television and found totally
wrapped up in the thrilling championship-
final, will have more chances to view Gator
excitement.
The Sunshine Network will air four soccer
matches during the 1999-2000 season, includ-
ing the Nov. 7 Southeastern Conference
Championship match.
Putting faces to the names of athletes is

always a key in the development of any sport.
For the verve of women's athletics to have an
enduring effect, the media will be key just a'
it was in the World Cup.
All tolled, the television audience wath-.
ing the World Cup was the highest for a
women's-only sport in history.
"The Gator connection to championsh
success, with the national title a year ago and:
the fact that Danielle Fotopoulos was on the
World Cup team is very pertinent to this mar-
ket," Hill said.
"So the national byproduct is going to beat
the local level for a lot of schools. There ill
definitely be a lot more people interested in
the sport that otherwise might not have been.,'
It was a mere mopient on the tite scale.
But Chastain's heroics will be remembered as
a small rock pushed down a large snow co
cred mountain.
Whether that rock will become a powerful
force will depend on continued excitement,
community involvement and the media.
"It always remains to be seen how well a
sport is able to capitalize on one shining,
maoment," Hill said.

Dierker provides inspiration for Astros.'
After collapse, Houston manager will remember how much his team cared the most

AP PHOTO
the Houston Astros have reemerged as the leaders in the National League Central
after manager Larry Dierker returned to the team.
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By Richard Justice
The Washington Post
PHILADELPHIA - In the days
before he collapsed, Larry Dierker
was planning to call the Houston
Astros together for a team meeting.
He knew what he wanted to say, but
he was still coming up with the right
words and the right moment.
He wanted his players to know
that he cared. Tommy Lasorda might
race to the mound for a group hug
after a victory. Lou Piniella might
destroy office furniture after a tough
loss. Jim Fregosi might curse a
reporter while defending a player.
Dierker did none of those things,
but he wanted to say that none of
those managers wanted to win more
or had any more regard for his play-
ers than he did.
Three years earlier, he'd taken
over as manager for the authoritarian
Terry Collins.
With his Hawaiian shirts and
loosening of the reins, Dierker had
been a pleasant change. Dierker said
his approach would be simple and
that he had no intention of orches-
trating every move.
The Astros responded by winning
back-to-back division champi-
onships and seemed on their way to
a third when Dierker, 52, began
thinking about calling a meeting.
"I don't even know why I'd started
thinking about that," he said Tuesday
afternoon as he sipped a cup of cof-
fee. "It certainly wasn't the way we
were playing. That wasn't a problem.
It was just that the players didn't see
a lot of emotion from me, and I
wanted to call a meeting to tell them
I did care."
Dierker never got around to it. On

June 13, he suffered a grand mal
seizure during the eighth inning of a
game against the San Diego Padres
at the Astrodome. The seizure was
so fierce that 220-pound outfielder
Derek Bell was thrown back while
attempting to pin Dierker's arms.
Two days later, Dierker underwent
surgery to remove a tangled mass of
veins from the front of his brain.
The next morning he woke up
alone in the hospital room and
remembers "feeling wonderful." He
recounts how he slowly got out of
bed, walked for a bit, then sat down
and had coffee while reading the
paper.
"It was the most wonderful thing
I'd ever done," he said. "I learned
something about taking things for
granted."
A few days afterward, Dierker saw
something that moved him as much
as any of the cards and letters he
received.
Watching a videotape of coverage
of the seizure, Dierker saw his play-
ers fight back tears as he was attend-
ed to.
He saw them gather for prayer
after he was taken to the hospital. He
heard the emotion in their voices
and saw the worry in their eyes dur-
ing interviews.
"Watching those guys on televi-
sion told me everything I needed to
know," Dierker said. "I didn't need
to tell them I cared. They knew it
already"
Three months later, their reaction
is one of the things he remembers
most, along with the hundreds of e-
mails and prayers. He will eventual-
ly respond to every letter.
"I've just been amazed by the
reaction," he said. "So many of the
letters came right from the heart.
They reminded me how important
what we do is to our fans. That's
been the biggest change for me - to
appreciate how important what we

do is. I know if I got a thousand
cards there were probably 100,000
who didn't write. It made me feel
awfully good about myself."
In the 1 1/2 months since return-
ing to the dugout, Dierker has been
asked again and again about how a
life-threatening experience changes
one's perspective on his work and
his life. Some of those who know
him best laugh at such questions.
They say his perspective hasn't
changed because it was never out of
whack.
"What you see is what you get,"
Astros hitting coach Tommy
McCraw said. "He's not one of these
guys consumed with ego. On this
team, he knows the best thing to do
is get out of the way and let the play-
ers play.
He's not going to go trying to get
credit for what the players are
doing."
Dierker said: "I think I had a rea-
sonably good perspective on what's
important. I still appreciate all the
wonderful things that have happened
in my life - both in baseball and
family. I've been blessed."
Dierker's perspective may have
been fine because he became a man-
ager only after succeeding in every-
tling else he had accomplished.
He pitched 12 of his 13 big league
seasons for the Astros, then became
a popular broadcaster for 19 sea-
sons.
Three years ago, lie was as
shocked as anyone when owner
Drayton McClain stunned Houston
by announcing that his broadcaster
and former 20-game 'winner, was
now his manager.
Dierker immediately set about
showing that every manager wasn't a
chain-smoking control freak. He
acknowledged that the Astros might
win regardless of who was managing
them because they had a pair of all-
stars - first baseman Jeff Bagwell

and second baseman Craig Biggio
- who set the tone for every other
player. He had terrific starting pitch-
ing.
And he had a competent you
reliever, Billy Wagner, on his way
becoming a dominant closer.
"I've known him for 13 years,"
Biggio said. "The thing about Larry
is that he's a straight shooter,-and
he's up front with people. That goes
a long way where a baseball manag-
er is concerned. He lets the players
play. It's like it was when he played,?
Dierker said: "I wanted guys. to
have the latitude to do things their
way. I didn't want to be a puppete*
and try to command every player pt
the field."
Two division championships later,
his way has worked. The Astros have
stayed ahead of Cincinnati this seal
son despite being decimated by
injuries.
They've used the disabled list 16
times this season. Of the eight posi-
tion players who started on Opening,
Day, only Biggio and Bagw ,
haven't spent time on the disable
list.
And they keep going. Three
starters - Mike Hampton, Jose
Lima and Shane Reynolds - coahlg
win 20 games, and Wagner has
team-record 34 saves.
Bagwell - hitting .310 with ,3,r
home runs and 112 RBI - may,.I
the National League's most valtglhc
player.
"I have no idea how we've doneir
this season" Dierker said.
"Our goal was to create a situation
like the one in Atlanta, where the
players feel it's their birthright. to
win a championship. Look at the
Dodgers. They have a lot of good
players, but they don't have the unity
and the commitment to do what it
takes to win. Atlanta just has that
aura, and I feel we're beginning tp
get that."

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September 9 and 10
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