Printer Friendly

NO SMALL TEAM PARTS, ONLY SMALL PLAYERS?

Byline: KAREN CROUSE

Guard Latrell Sprewell says he wants to be traded from the New York Knicks if he can't start.

Texas outfielder Juan Gonzalez says he wants nothing to do with the All-Star game if he can't start.

There are athletes who can't see the funhouse for the mirror and then there's Tisha Venturini, a reserve midfielder on the U.S. Women's World Cup team who doesn't distort the big picture just because she can't appear in every frame.

Second-stringer Shannon MacMillan is the same way. Both Venturini and MacMillan are richer for the perspective that the Sprewells and the Gonzalezes must have misplaced a few million dollars ago.

As if anybody needed another reason to latch onto the Nice Girls, there's Venturini's take on Gonzalez's gripes and Sprewell's perceived slights and their reflexive flight response.

``That doesn't make any sense to me,'' Venturini said Tuesday as she absently adjusted an ice pack wrapped around her tight right quadricep following practice. ``I don't understand that thinking. You are one of the best athletes in the world. You're doing the sport you love and you're getting paid millions for it.''

Just to be part of an All-Star team or a squad that advances to the NBA Finals or the World Cup Finals, ``is such an honor in itself,'' Venturini said.

As Dave Letterman would say, from the mouths of Babes.

Don't misunderstand. You can be a super sub without being a satisfied one. Venturini and MacMillan ache to start. They were collegiate stars not so long ago, at North Carolina and Portland, respectively.

Venturini, 26, was the college Player of the Year in 1994, the Elton Brand of her sport and time. She has appeared in more international matches than anybody on the U.S. team save stars Kristine Lilly, Mia Hamm, Michelle Akers, Joy Fawcett, Julie Foudy and Carla Overbeck.

Once you've grown accustomed to a lead role, it's hard to accept a bit part, no matter how prestigious the production. Venturini and MacMillan will grant Sprewell and Gonzalez that.

``I've been a starter all my life,'' Venturini said. ``So it took me a little bit to get used to (coming off the bench).''

MacMillan, 24, didn't merely get bumped to the bench, she was shown the couch. Never mind Sprewell, MacMillan is the Avery Johnson of the U.S. team. She was dropped from the national squad before the 1995 World Cup and might have hung up her cleats in 1996 if Adidas hadn't signed her to a contract to wear theirs.

Given a new lease on her life's calling, MacMillan made the 1996 Olympic team after originally being left off the squad. Using her signature submarine shot, she went on to sink Norway in the semifinals by scoring the game-winning goal in overtime.

After the win against China in the gold-medal match, MacMillan retreated to the background, behind Mia Hamm and Tiffeny Milbrett and Cindy Parlow. There she stayed until last week when it came time for the U.S. to play North Korea in a first-round game.

MacMillan, given a rare start at forward, scored the first goal and assisted Venturini, who also started, on two others in the U.S.'s 3-0 win.

Venturini celebrated her second goal with a double somersault. Since then, fans have been flipping over her. The other day a young man paraded before the team bus wearing a T-shirt that said, ``I love Tisha. I'm your biggest fan.''

Her teammates gave Venturini good-natured grief over that one.

``It's flattering,'' Venturini said of the attention. ``It's kind of fun.''

It scares her now, to think how close she came to not giving fame a chance. It's true. Venturini had her own Juan Gonzalez moment a while back. She wasn't playing much and she wondered if it was worth it to be such a small part of something so big.

Her teammates kept her going, spouting encouragement, saying things such as ``way to bust your butt.'' They made her feel she was contributing and pretty soon she stopped relying on starts and stats for confirmation.

The validation is coming from all sides now. Little girls sprint after the team bus and little boys beg for the players' autographs and nobody walks away looking the least bit disappointed if the signature on his or her T-shirt or program or piece of paper doesn't read ``Mia Hamm.''

While watching fans surround the team bus the other day, Venturini had an epiphany. She realized the World Cup isn't about individual moments, it's about 20 women making history.

``It made me feel really, really grateful to be a part of this team,'' Venturini said, and there could be no mistaking her sincerity.
COPYRIGHT 1999 Daily News
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1999, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:SPORTS
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jul 7, 1999
Words:786
Previous Article:SOBRERO FOR THE DEFENSE; EX-NOTRE DAME STAR REGAINS CONFIDENCE AFTER EARLY INJURY.
Next Article:YOUTH BASEBALL: IT'S A BIG DAY FOR T.O. ALL-STARS : `MAJOR LEAGUE' FACES MOORPARK.


Related Articles
In These Girls Hope is a Muscle.
A general theory of professional sports leagues.
The Market Structure of Sports.
STILL SHORT OF THE GOAL.
THINKING SMALL, WALKING TALL; THESE TINY SCHOOLS PACK PLENTY OF ATHLETIC PUNCH.
OFTEN, IT'S LIKE TALKING TO A WALL : VENTURA-BORN PLAYER IS HOPING U.S. FANS LEARN ABOUT HIS SPORT.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters