Imagine, then, the disappointment of being so close to victory — the Americans squandered leads late in regulation and late in extra time to force penalty kicks — and having to watch Japan celebrate.
There was no anesthesia for that pain either.
But there Wambach was, congratulating the Japanese, showing the class that many other world-class athletes have lacked in the aftermath of their greatest disappointment. LeBron James stormed off the court in his last game as a Cleveland Cavalier. Peyton Manning left the field without shaking anyone's hand after Indianapolis lost to New Orleans in the Super Bowl. Dirk Nowitzki even added a new chapter to the postgame storm off, running off the court after winning the NBA Finals earlier this year.
If you want to see some athletes at top speed, wait until the end of a big game. They bolt for the locker room so quickly that you'd swear they were being timed.
Heck, one of Wambach's own teammates was less than gracious after the game Sunday. U.S. goalie Hope Solo made a beeline to the stands after the loss. She was seen hugging either family or friends as her teammates huddled on the field.
I understand that all of these athletes are disappointed — or in the Dirk Devil's case, overcome by emotion — but there's no way that their emotions were any greater than Wambach's on Sunday.
Athletes and coaches everywhere should take a cue from her. You can be super competitive, you can be unabashedly passionate, and you can still have great sportsmanship.
That's why I'm a fan of Abby Wambach.
It's why everyone should be.