The Red Wagon raced like a fire engine around the Raleigh soundstage early on the morning of Nov. 21. In one corner photographer Mark Abrahams was shooting 20 portraits, player by player, of the U.S. women's soccer team, our 1999 Sportswomen of the Year (page 46). But an equally revealing snapshot could have been taken of the wagon's passengers. As forward Shannon MacMillan pulled the daughters of defender Joy Fawcett—Katey, 5, and Carli, 2—along the slick white floor, the kids threw back their heads and screamed, "Wheeeeee!"
They were celebrating a reunion: the first time the World Cup-winning team had been together since it took the victory stand at the Rose Bowl on July 10. "Photo shoots can take forever, but this one was fun," said U.S. midfield matriarch Michelle Akers. "It was a great chance to catch up on people's lives, play with the kids and give each other a hard time again."
The logistics of putting together the shoot were worthy of a summit meeting. "When I first heard we were doing this, I remember thinking, How are we going to get all 20 players there?" says SI photo coordinator Linda Bonenfant, who spent two weeks calling agents, reserving hotel rooms and arranging a charter flight for the occasion. "The players were shocked that everyone could make it."
The American women weren't the only candidates for our 46th yearly award, which is being given to a team for only the second time (the first: the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team). So join us in saying thank you to Lance Armstrong, for his majestic cancer-be-damned Tour de France triumph; to John Elway for concluding a magnificent career by leading the Denver Broncos to their second straight Super Bowl title; to Joe Torre, another cancer survivor, for deftly managing the New York Yankees to their third World Series title in four years; and to Pedro Martinez, for his awe-inspiring work on the mound for the Boston Red Sox. Ultimately, though, the soccer players won us over. As senior editor Hank Hersch says, "It was their ability to create a moment that will last in a lot of people's memories for a lifetime—in a sport that gets little attention, by a gender that gets little attention for sports. That women soccer players could produce this transcendent an event is amazing."
So we award the American women our highest annual honor, not just for the way they filled the Rose Bowl with 90,185 fans, and not just for the way they enthralled another 40 million Americans on television, but also as a token of our gratitude for making us feel like Katey and Carli Fawcett on that wagon, for taking us on a. three-week-long joyride that had us throwing back our heads and screaming as a nation, "We!"