Akers's days on the national team are numbered. She plans to retire after the Olympics next year in Sydney. (She would consider playing in a professional league, if the time commitment were not all-consuming.) When the national team barnstormed the country in October and November, Akers didn't join it. She accepted no endorsement offers before the World Cup and few since, because she knows endorsements, like barnstorming tours, drain her time and her energy, and she cannot put a price tag on those things. Last month she made a three-hour drive, in her red Jeep Cherokee with 41,000 miles on it, from her modest rented home in a little development in Lake Mary, Fla., to a sprawling church in Tampa, where she spoke to a couple of hundred kids who play in a church soccer league. "There's a guy in the Bible named Paul, and he's a pretty studly dude," she told the kids before dipping in for a read. Spreading the word about her game and her God, those are the things that are important to her. When she was done, the director of the soccer league pointed to Akers and said to the crowd, "Guys and girls, can I say one thing? That's a hero." Akers didn't look embarrassed at all. She looked proud. She's a role model, on a team of role models.
The morning after the title game at the Rose Bowl, Akers woke up in her single hotel room in Pasadena. The room was a mess and she was a mess, but she felt compelled to write something down. She got out her journal and made a short entry. She wrote, "I looked in the mirror last night and saw the weary face of a battleworn soldier-warrior. But the eyes said it all. Exhausted, but fulfilled, satisfied. We did it."
Amen. A beautiful way to end a century of sport.