Megan Rapinoe has had a rough couple of days.
Ever since her penalty kick miss played a significant role in the USWNT’s elimination at the FIFA Women’s World Cup, a seemingly endless online troll parade has made her into the symbol of the team’s failure this year.
If you search “Megan Rapinoe” on Twitter, it’s like asking, “Hey Siri, show me what it looks like when the internet’s worst people are happy.” I never knew so many eagle avatars rooted for the USA to fail.
As I wrote a few months ago, when Pride pisses off the right people, that means it’s doing its job. Based on the type of people who are celebrating one of Rapinoe’s few public defeats, she’s one of the greatest representatives of Pride in sports history.
Instead of destroying her reputation, the alt-right backlash only serves to affirm it.
These politically motivated attacks were inevitable after Rapinoe willingly accepted the mantle of athlete activist, fighting back against Trump during the USWNT’s victorious World Cup run in 2019, advocating for transgender rights, and kneeling during the national anthem to protest systemic racism.
That it took these agents of hackdom years to find a single opportunity to attack Rapinoe is a measure of just how dominant and brilliant her career has been. The Olympic Games happen more frequently than Rapinoe failures.
Which is why now is the time it’s important to remember and celebrate all the greatness she’s given us over the course of her career, even as we grieve the USWNT’s loss.
At a time when Rapinoe’s harshest critics are proclaiming their vindication, the best way for her fans to fight back is to choose gratitude.
Yes, the USWNT’s lackluster play was dispiriting to watch over the last month, and the results of this World Cup were alternately depressing and maddening. It’s OK to feel those emotions in the wake of such a stunning disappointment.
But that one moment can’t be allowed to overshadow Rapinoe’s record of athletic brilliance or the incredible joy she inspired through her legendary play on the pitch.
Indeed, if you search “Megan Rapinoe top plays” on Youtube, you’ll find there are even more inspirational highlights than there are soul crushing trolls on Twitter.
There’s so much to be grateful for. Start with one of the greatest assists in US Soccer history from the 2011 World Cup Quarterfinal, when Rapinoe rescued the USWNT with a cross sent from heaven that set up Abby Wambach’s game-tying header against Brazil only seconds away from defeat.
The very next year, Rapinoe helped the USWNT to the gold medal at the London 2012 Summer Olympic Games with the first-ever Olympic olimpico. With one alliterative corner kick, she made history and poetry…
As if that wasn’t enough, at the Tokyo Games, she did it again.
Of course, it’s impossible to speak of gratitude-inspiring Rapinoe moments without mentioning her rampage through the 2019 World Cup. From the moment she unveiled The Pose after a goal against host nation France to her penalty kick score that gave the US a lead it would not relinquish in the Final, the Golden Boot and Golden Ball winner put her signature on the tournament like few players before or since.
When it comes to assembling a montage of Rapinoe’s greatest accomplishments on the world stage, the most transcendent moments are easy to find and hard to narrow down.
One of the paradoxes in sports is that the more accomplishments a star athlete accumulates in their career, the more fans become jaded by additional greatness and infuriated by any defeats. It’s one of the least-fun parts of watching games and makes being part of a fan community an exercise in frustration with the worst parts of human nature.
Add in the backlash she’s now facing largely from conservatives and it’s understandable that this is a very difficult moment for Rapinoe. That’s why choosing gratitude is not only better for our mental health as fans but also the best way to shout down the cacophony of howling nonentities who are trying to dim her light.
Fortunately, it’s not difficult to find reasons to be grateful for Rapinoe when her entire career is a gratitude journal.