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U.S. soccer legend Briana Scurry opens up about the highs and lows of her career
Lisa Desjardins: And now, our weekend spotlight with soccer legend Briana Scurry. Geoff Bennett sat down with Scurry to talk about her new memoir chronicling her historic rise to fame and a life changing injury.
Geoff Bennett: Soccer Trailblazer Briana Scurry is finally ready to tell her story, sharing the highs, the Olympic gold medals and World Cup wins and the lows like an on-field collision that ended her career, all laid out in her new memoir, My Greatest Save: The Brave, Barrier Breaking Journey of a World Champion Goalkeeper.
We recently spoke about her experience at Audi field in Washington D.C., where she's a coach and one of the new investors for the Washington spirit considered one of the best goalies in the world. Briana got her start playing on a boys team outside Minneapolis.
And you ended up in the goal because the coach at the time thought that would be the safest place for you?
Briana Scurry: Bless his heart. Yes, he did. We all know that's not true.
Geoff Bennett: Yeah. So why did you stick with it?
Briana Scurry: I did it for that first year with the boys team. And then I did get onto a girls team the next couple of years. I got into the field I was a forward. And so I split time back and forth. And then I realized I really loved the goal, because I like being able to keep the other team from winning. Not necessarily winning myself, but keeping them from winning. And then potentially, just being the star.
Geoff Bennett: You write about that moment, when you realize you made the national team and the coach at the time posted the roster.
Briana Scurry: Yeah.
Geoff Bennett: Outside the locker room. What was going through your mind at that moment?
Briana Scurry: Well, I wanted to be an Olympian since I was eight years old. And then going through high school, I made a sign that said I wanted to go the Olympics 1996. So I found myself really close to that moment. And then I was on the team starting goalkeeper on a team that had won the World Cup a few years before. So I knew we had a chance. And so seeing that list, I just touched it. And I was like I made it.
Geoff Bennett: On the field, Briana broke down racial barriers. And she was also the first openly gay player on the women's national team.
How did you create space for yourself in all of those different scenarios?
Briana Scurry: I realized that I would pretend -- I might be potentially gay in junior high, I had a little bit of back and forth about it. And then I just realized, hey, this is me, this is who I'm supposed to be. This is how I feel, this feels right. This is who I am. And I never really worried about what other people thought about it. And so through all the teams that I was on, living in a rural town in Minnesota, I was the only black player on every team. I just knew that I was, you know, on my way, and it really didn't hinder me at all. And I also didn't get any outward, you know, resistance from my teammates, or my coaches or from really anyone. And I just realized that this is what I wanted since I was eight years old. I may be a different person looking different, has different preferences. But this is what makes a team great. All the differences.
Geoff Bennett: Her career spanned the globe. In 1996, she earned Olympic gold. Three years later, the women's team won the 1999 World Cup on a now famous penalty shootout.
I imagine that moment has sort of been emblazoned in your brain, if you can sort of walk us through the moment and what was going through your head sort of step by step.
Briana Scurry: I was trying to keep all the information just into what I needed to do. So I would walk into the goal and just get ready and walk back and forth and study myself and prepare to save the kick on that third kicker. As I was walking into the goal, I got ready I got in my position. And sure enough, I dive to my left and there's the ball, but I could see everything in slow motion, like I saw her hips opening I saw how she was going to go inside of the foot. I saw everything. And I dove that way, I exploded and I just knew it. I just knew I had done what I needed to do, which was make one safe.
Geoff Bennett: She and her teammates became America's Sweethearts overnight. But unlike Briana, other players received lucrative endorsement deals.
Briana Scurry: And I thought initially that it was because I was goalkeeper. And then it wasn't until later on, when I when I saw more change and evolution of our game and the way people were covering it and who was interested in it, that it wasn't about being a goalkeeper, that it might be something else.
Geoff Bennett: So what did you come to think that it was?
Briana Scurry: I realized that it might be my skin color. Or it might be my sexual orientation, the fact that I was out that might have made people a little nervous about me, or I'm not quite sure they weren't sure how I looked or how I was and whatnot. And soccer at that point, was a suburban white sport. And it made me sad, because I really didn't want to think that. Because it never had been an issue for me.
Geoff Bennett: Then during a 2010 match, she took a knee to the head, it required surgery that left her deeply in debt and put an end to her playing career.
Briana Scurry: I remember sliding into depression. And I would look at pictures of me when I played to try to pick myself up. And I really didn't see how that could have been me. At the time, I didn't really understand or realize that it was connected to my concussion. And so I was self-medicating with alcohol and Vicodin. And that's obviously a bad idea. But I knew that, I found myself on the end of a platform. There was a big waterfall near where I lived, thinking about jumping over. And then it came to the point where I thought about my mom who would be notified that her baby was gone.
Geoff Bennett: But you found your way back?
Briana Scurry: I did. Yes.
Geoff Bennett: During her recovery, she met her now wife, Chrissa, got back on track financially, and reclaimed the gold medals that she'd been forced upon.
My Greatest Save. How did you settle on that title?
Briana Scurry: Well, it hadn't double meaning, obviously, as a goalkeeper, a lot of people would assume my greatest save was the Penalty Kick in '99, I actually don't consider that my greatest on-field save. 2004 Olympic final was actually my greatest game and my greatest save, in that game.
Geoff Bennett: Yea, it was a good one.
Briana Scurry: Yes, it was, right? But my greatest save was myself was me.
Lisa Desjardins: Great save and a great story.