People don't have these tidy little redemption arcs in reality the way they do in movies.
Did you know she used to be a stripper? Then she wrote Juno, which was so good.
In the world of sports narratives, redemption is not just a trope, it's a sub-genre, mined for and (often erroneously) assigned because redemption stories are the rarest of sports gems. They're so valuable that Hollywood basically refuses to make any other kind of sports movie. Here's their formula, this is what they do, watch:
- Create an underdog: skilled, but plucky and probably undersized or a step slow.
- Present them with even more adversity: this can take the he form of a heartbreaking loss. Or age. Or youth. An injury to a star player is also acceptable. Alternatively, internal strife is okay if your protagonists are relatable (though this tends to change the arc--more on that in a bit)
- Send them on a journey of self-discovery: this often involves finding a hidden talent, or unlocking a special skill (see: Adam Banks, Kelly Leak, the knucklepuck)
- Watch them overcome their adversity due to the lessons they've learned
- Cut the Freddie Mercury estate a big ol' royalty check
Congratulations, you've just written a Hollywood sports movie. There are several variations to this formula. In fact, there are precisely three, and often (but not always) depend on if the movie is standalone or part of a series.
First, you've got the "franchise" arc: Plucky underdogs band together to overcome (see: Rocky, Major League, The Mighty Ducks, Bad News Bears).
Next, you've got the "sequel" arc: the protagonist(s) have already proven worthy, but some internal element is holding them back, often pride or complacency (see: Major League 2, Bad News Bears 2, Mighty Ducks 2 and, to some extent, Rocky 2 & 3).
Finally, you've got the "trilogy" arc: This arc is meant to scare white people. The protagonist enters a foreign land. Conflict, such as there is any, is derived solely from the scariness of other cultures. Redemption is found when, at the end when: 'Murica (see: Bloodsport, Bad News Bears Go to Tokyo, Mighty Ducks 3, Rocky 4).
Seldom do real life sports present us with such neatly packaged redemption stories, but I'll be damned if the United States Women's National Team isn't smack dab in the middle of the Mighty Ducks 2 arc. Four years removed from a heartbreaking loss to Japan, the United States, having overcome a mountain of internal strife, has entered its third act in the second movement of its FIFA trilogy. The only thing standing between our women and redemptive glory are Gunnar Stahl, Olaf Sanderson and Wolf Stansson('s Japanese counterparts).
For chrissakes, we even have a player, our emotional leader, (Abby Wambach), who has gracefully stepped to the side so that our heretofore injured star (Alex Morgan), could have the spotlight. Hello? Charlie Conway gave up his spot on the roster so Adam Banks could dress for the Iceland rematch!!!! "It's what's best for the team." You remember. Throw in Julie "The Cat" Gaffney (Hope Solo) in net, and I don't know, I sort of feel like this becomes a referendum on the entire sports movie industry. If our women lose, all these movies sort of become propaganda, do they not--because art imitates life?
I don't think it's going to happen, though. Here's how I see this playing out. Iceland I mean Japan jumps out to a three-goal lead. America is deflated. The half time whistle blows, and this is the scene in the American locker room:
"Jesse, that's not pride."
"Yeah, well, those aren't 'points' we're down. They're goals. You're a hockey coach."
Inspired by Jan's skulking around with a bunch of jerseys that he, for some reason, thought to make but didn't bother to mention before the game, our women will quack their way back, tying the match, and at the end of 120 mintutes (after 90, they'll play two additional 15-minute halves), the match will go to a shootout. Check it.
Thirteen year old me agonized over the merits of triple deking if you were going to stop and take a slap shot from the faceoff dot.
I digress. Cut to: