Time is a funny thing. We always think we’re going to have more of it. That we can do more with what time we have. In sports time is everything. American football, basketball, hockey, soccer, they all have clocks controlling when it’s time to end the game and declare an outcome.
When it comes to players’ careers the clock is still there, tick, tick, ticking away. We just can’t look up at the top left of our screens and see the seconds passing. We don’t know if Alex Morgan is in the 41st minute of her career or the 65th. There is no clock over Lucy Bronze’s head that ticks slowly by to tell us when she might take her final turn on the pitch.
But sometimes the writing is on the wall. While there is no clock over their heads there is a sense that we’re getting close to the 90 minute mark. Will they get one minute of stoppage time or seven? Will there be last minute heroics or an uneventful whining down to the final whistle?
I wish we had more time with some players. It doesn’t feel like we should already be nearing the end.
I wish Christine Sinclair had more time. I wish she was nearing her halftime mark and not inching ever closer to the full time’s three whistle blasts. But we thought we had more time. We’re human and she is an all-time great. We let what we wanted cloud over to what we may otherwise have seen. We took for granted that Christine Sinclair would break the all-time goal scoring record at the World Cup. We assumed without looking at the clock, without knowing how much time there was left that there was more of it. And we were wrong.
I don’t know if Sinclair will play in another World Cup for Canada. If she is fit and able to contribute in 2023 I would love to see her out there. But Father Time? He’s undefeated and his sense of timing is not always one we can understand. And like it or not he is coming in on Sinclair before any of us are ready to see the collision.
Every World Cup this happens. And every World Cup we feet a little sting at what it means to never to see Lauren Holiday play again or Célia Šašić lace up her boots or Abby Wambach to put in another header. Win or not we see players who use the World Cup as their last bow; that last moment to turn their face toward the sun and just try to stand in the warming rays. We see the tears from players in federations that have not supported them who know they may never return to this stage. We see giants in the game know their time has come and they must go from a player on the field to a supporter in the stands as those who came before them did.
Time moves on if we’re ready for it to or not. Players go from the next big time to elder stateswomen of the game. Marta goes from lighting the world on fire to impassioned pleas to the next generation. Sinclair goes from being in the shadow of those who have come before her to the giant who supports the next generation on her shoulders. Why did time have to move so fast?
The World Cup is the greatest event in sports. Every four years like clockwork it shows up and puts on a show for us. The truth is the clock has already started ticking on players who haven’t gotten their first senior cap yet who will play in 2023 or 2027. Time does not work on our schedule but on one we cannot control or predict.
“How did it get so late so soon?” Dr. Seuss once asked.
That’s a very good question.