Not that everything has changed for Milbrett, who still lives up to her nickname, No Tact Tiff, on occasion. She's not afraid to say that the Americans played "like Scheisse" in the World Cup, even though they won. Nor does she recoil from confrontations. While taking a walk through Melbourne last week, Milbrett and Chastain came upon an open-mike forum for antiglobalism protesters who had congregated at the World Economic Forum. "Raise your hand if you're wearing Nike shoes!" shouted a chap over the microphone.
Milbrett raised her hand—and put a target on her back. A woman standing next to her immediately unleashed a verbal barrage. "Well, who makes your shoes?" Milbrett fired back.
Clearly the protesters didn't realize that Milbrett and Chastain, who were dressed in street clothes, were soccer players. "You're probably a bloody f—-ing American, too!" the man at the mike yelled. "Yeah," Milbrett screamed, as Chastain hustled her away, "I am a bloody f—-ing American!" Say what you will about her rhetorical skills, it's instructive to note: It was Milbrett, and not the voluble Chastain, who engaged the hecklers head-on.
In any case, the exchange should hardly displease Milbrett's shoe sponsor, which is finally beginning to act as though she exists. Next spring Nike plans to market a T-shirt bearing the likenesses of Hamm, Chastain and Milbrett, and in May it did a test run on Milbrett jerseys at a U.S. team game in Portland, selling 18 at $70 a pop. Though that may not presage a national campaign, at least Elsie no longer has to pay $30 to have a print shop stencil her daughter's name and number 16 on a blank jersey, as she did before the '99 World Cup.
In the meantime, Milbrett's torrid first week enhanced the prospects for a gold medal rematch between the U.S. and China, which has become one of the most compelling rivalries in sports. So mark off Sept. 28 and keep this in the back of your mind: The U.S. has only one victory against its foil in their last seven games. But if there's gold at stake, take note: The Americans do have a feisty, 5'2" secret weapon to call on.