Nothing to Prove: A Story of Soccer, Success, and Self-Worth

“I have nothing to prove to you.”

Those words were said earlier this year by Carol Danvers (aka Captain Marvel), but they could have just as easily been said by Megan Rapinoe (aka captain of the World Cup winning USWNT).

Superheroes think alike, I suppose.

In fact, there are many comparisons that can be drawn from one captain to another. Both have short, eye-catching haircuts. Both speak with a commanding presence. Both have no time for people who abuse power. Both stand up for what they believe is right, even when it makes them a target. Both became their most powerful selves when the world needed them the most.

And both are fiercely, beautifully, and unapologetically confident.

When I first started noticing the backlash directed at Rapinoe and her USWNT teammates, it reminded me so much of that small but vocal chorus of whiners after Captain Marvel who thought both Carol and the woman who plays her—Brie Larson—came off as “arrogant” and “unlikable.” Both sets of critics are cut from the same cloth—an unyielding fabric that doesn’t seem to want to bend and mold to a new era for women, an era in which we no longer have to downplay what makes us special, treat our skills with a sick kind of self-deprecation, or stand in the shadows because the world isn’t ready for what we look like in the sunlight.

On Sunday, when Rapinoe stood in her now iconic pose—arms spread wide, chin high, chest out—after scoring the first (and ultimately game-winning) goal of the World Cup final, the world saw what we look like in the sunlight. And it was breathtaking.

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NGN’s Best of 2018: TV, Movies, and More

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

As 2018 draws to a close, it’s time once again to highlight the best of pop culture from this year. In previous years, I’ve stuck to television, but one of my goals for 2018 was to expose myself to more of a variety of media, so I watched more movies and read more books than I have in the past. That, coupled with a slight dip in the amount (and, frankly, the quality) of TV I watched this year inspired me to expand my year in review post to include movies, books, and sports in addition to television. I also hope this inspires you to share all of you favorite media from 2018, because one of the best things about these posts over the years has been all the wonderful recommendations I’ve been given in the comments. (I never would have fallen in love with The Americans without my NGN Family championing it in these posts years ago.)

Looking back on this year in media, it’s no surprise that so many of my favorite things revolved around female characters. The books, movies, and TV I loved this year almost unanimously dealt with women learning to define themselves on their own terms as brave, strong, and—most importantly—kind people. The media I gravitated toward this year often celebrated a kind of radical goodness—a message of light pushing back against the darkness, of love surviving even the most painful things life can throw at us, and of hope existing in that quiet corner of our souls that allows us to keep getting up when everything around us seems determined to keep us pinned down. This year in media taught me that we all have choices to make and those choices determine who we are. And when we choose to believe in ourselves and our capacity to love—that’s when we become our best selves. That’s the message I’m taking into 2019, and what an empowering message it is.

Without further ado, let’s take a closer look at my favorite television, movies, and more in 2018!




Best Show (Drama): The Americans
The Americans changed me in ways I never could have expected when I first started watching it. It changed me as a writer; it changed me as a TV viewer. It forced me to look more closely and think more deeply about the media I consumed, and it challenged me every week to find the words to talk about its brilliance with others. Although I was sad to see it end this year, I couldn’t have asked for a better final season for what I consider the best show I’ve ever watched. The Americans was always a show about marriage and family above everything else, and this final season reinforced that in the most surprising and impressive ways imaginable as it built to a finale that was all about letting your children leave you behind as they grow. From “Don’t Dream It’s Over” to “With or Without You,” this season took us on a journey of self-definition for nearly every character that ended in a way I don’t think anyone expected. Along the way, it gave us heart-stopping chase scenes, romantic axe mutilations, line dancing, and a moment that will go down in TV history simply as “the parking garage scene.” With everyone in the cast turning in top-notch performances and masterful moments of silence balanced by lines that cut like a dagger (“You’re a whore!”), The Americans turned in one of television’s most complex and unique final seasons by staying true to itself until the very end.

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Fangirl Thursday: Olympic Withdrawal Edition


Source: The Denver Post

The 2018 Winter Olympics, are officially over, and I have no idea what to do with myself.

I make no secret of the fact that I am an Olympics junkie. I’ve been watching both the Winter and Summer Games religiously since Atlanta in 1996 (Magnificent Seven 4Ever!), but my full-blown obsession began in 2002. That year, thanks to a little Canadian pairs skating magic to the score of a little movie called Love Story, 13-year-old Katie fell into the kind of love that lasts well beyond two weeks and even well beyond four years. Sixteen years later, I’m still staying up way past my bedtime to watch Canadians tell love stories on the ice and win gold medals in the process.

There have been plenty of memorable Winter Olympics moments since those Games 16 years ago, but none completely captivated me the way the moments of these Games did. It seemed that every night, something happened that made me cry on my couch from the pure joy of watching someone achieve a dream, make an incredible comeback, or live out what felt like a chapter of a fairytale.

If these Olympics felt special to me, maybe it was because of that fairytale element—and maybe it was because we all could really use some fairytales right now. There were so many moments during these Games where it felt like even Disney couldn’t make up a story more inspiring or compelling than the one playing out in real time right in front of us. Night after night, we were treated to scenes that made us believe—even just for a moment—that good things can still happen amid all the bad things we’ve grown accustomed to seeing all around us. For two weeks, the athletes at these Olympics gave us something fun to talk about and to tweet about; it was such a welcome change of pace to scroll through Twitter and see excitement, joy, and hope instead of the usual dread, anger, and pessimism that the world we’re living in seems to generate in overwhelming quantities.

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Suddenly the World Seems Such a Perfect Place (or Help, We’re All Obsessed with Two Canadian Ice Dancers!)

Once upon a time…

A nine-year-old boy and a seven-year-old girl became ice dance partners, and in the boy’s own words, “Something really changed in my life when I started to hold onto the hand of a beautiful little girl.” The boy gave up his early dream of being a professional hockey player, and the girl gave up a spot in a prestigious ballet program—all because even as children, they were committed to each other. The girl was the boy’s first kiss; the boy became the girl’s best friend.

As the years went on, they faced highs and lows. She endured painful surgeries to keep skating with him, and while she recovered, he trained with sandbags because he didn’t want another partner. They won Olympic gold in their home country, becoming Canada’s sweethearts in the process, but four years later, they came home with a silver medal instead of the repeat gold they were chasing.

They took a couple of years away from the sport, but they couldn’t stay away from the ice—or from each other—for long. As the boy said, being close to the girl was “the whole reason [he] wanted to come back to skating.” They decided to return to the sport they loved with a new mindset and a new focus on telling their own story, on making it “personal” this time around. They fought to choose their own music—music that reminded the boy of the girl whose hand he first held 20 years before. And they fought to become the best once again—to bring home the gold medal that eluded them in 2014.

They faced tough competition, and despite winning a gold medal with their teammates, they needed to have the skates of their lives to win individual gold. They began with a world record, but their fiercest rivals set the bar high with one of their own. Stepping onto the ice as Olympic competitors for the last time, they knew they had to do something magical in order to win. But instead of waiting for a fairy godmother, they created their own magic—the boy singing their song to the girl as they danced across the ice, capturing the hearts of everyone in the crowd, captivating the world, and catapulting themselves to the top of the standings and the medal podium.

And they lived happily ever after…

Or so we all hope, right?

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10 Reasons Why You Should Be Watching Pitch



This has been an excellent year for rookie television shows looking to make their mark right away. And in this strong crop of first-season shows, it might be easy for a good one to slip through the cracks.

Pitch is one of the good ones. FOX’s drama about the first woman to play for Major League Baseball (MLB) has been getting lost in the Thursday-night shuffle; it’s on a night that puts it in direct competition with NFL games and ABC’s monster TGIT lineup—not to mention actual MLB games at this time of year.

Luckily, Pitch is going on a one-week hiatus while FOX airs its version of The Rocky Horror Picture Show this Thursday night. That gives you plenty of time to watch the first four episodes (which are all available on Hulu or FOX’s website) before the next one airs October 27 at 9 p.m. I know there is a lot of television to watch nowadays, but Pitch is something special. It was one of the shows I was most looking forward to watching this season, and it has so far surpassed all my expectations to become one of the new shows I’m happiest to recommend to anyone who will listen. So whether you’re a diehard sports fan or someone who doesn’t know a screwball from a screwdriver, here are 10 reasons you should give Pitch a chance to work its way into your heart—and your TV schedule.

1. There’s nothing else like it on television.
Sometimes flipping through TV channels or scrolling on streaming services can feel repetitive: procedurals, superhero shows, “tough guy/girl with a heart of gold” dramas, comedies about dysfunctional but loving families…But Pitch is something totally new. It’s a show about a woman doing something that’s never been done before, and, as such, it’s something we’ve never seen on television before. From the diversity of its cast to the topics it tackles to the realism that comes from its partnership with the MLB, Pitch is something truly unique.

2. It’ll remind you why you love sports…
Pitch realistically presents problems professional athletes have—the way their bodies break down; the way they are often at the mercy of groups of rich, old, white people who could trade them or fire them any day; the sacrifices they make for the game when it comes to their personal relationships—but it never loses sight of the fact that there is something beautiful and mythic about sports, especially baseball. To love baseball is to appreciate it as part of a uniquely American mythology, so Ginny Baker is more than just a baseball player to those who watch the show and love the sport; she’s a mythic hero. It’s impossible to watch her record her first strikeout without getting goosebumps and remembering why you first fell in love with sports and all the hope and excitement wrapped up in sports fandom. The details of the game are fun to notice in each episode, but what really makes Pitch a treat for sports fans is the way it gets to the emotional core of why we love the games we love—because they give us heroes, they remind us to dream big, and they make us feel like we can be part of something special.

3. …But it still has a lot to love if sports aren’t your thing.
If you don’t like sports, Pitch may not seem like the show for you, but that’s where you’re wrong. The great thing about sports movies and television shows is that they remind us that the thrill of victory and agony of defeat are universal concepts; you don’t have to be an athlete or even a sports fan to know how great it feels to achieve a dream, how painful it is to fail, or how much fun it is to be part of a team. Pitch is about more than just baseball; it’s about the triumphs and tragedies that transcend sports. It’s about what it means to be a woman in a world where everyone wants a say in your life. It’s about getting older and being afraid of an uncertain future. And it’s about relationships—old ones that made us who we are and new ones that show us who we can become. You don’t have to care about Ginny’s ERA (or even know what an ERA is) to care about her story.

4. You’ll fall in love with Ginny Baker.
If you’re looking for a new female character to admire and adore, look no further than Ginny Baker. In order for Pitch to work, Ginny had to be a character audiences could instantly love, and I think it’s physically impossible not be utterly captivated by Kylie Bunbury. But what’s especially great about Ginny—especially considering the show is only four episodes old—is that she’s not just a one-note, “strong female character.” She is incredibly complex. In the pilot, she described herself as “a robot in cleats, and I’m malfunctioning” (with heartbreaking desperation by Bunbury), and that one line had me hooked; I had to know more about her. And I have loved seeing every layer exposed so far: the pitcher who just wants to play ball, the public figure who speaks out about rape on national television, the daughter forced to choose between two parents (and between her dreams and a normal life), the face of a brand who has to carefully control everything about herself—from what she says to who she loves, and the young woman who dances with abandon to her favorite songs and smiles from ear to ear when her catcher makes her laugh. Ginny feels like a real woman already, and that’s what makes her story even more inspirational.

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Fangirl Thursday: Hope, Happiness, and Hockey


I love sports. March Madness is one of my favorite times of the year. I celebrated my 25th birthday at Yankee Stadium. And I love Sunday afternoons spent watching my beloved Buffalo Bills.

Although there are several sports teams that I love beyond reason, there’s only one that holds the top spot in my heart. And that’s the Buffalo Sabres, whose regular season happens to start tonight.

Hockey is a passionate game that inspires passion from its fans. And I’ve never been as passionate about another sports team as I’ve been about the Sabres. I’ve cried more tears over them than I have over any TV show or fictional character. I’ve spent more money on them than I’ve spent on probably all of my other fandoms combined. Being a Sabres fan led me to start my first blog, so I give them credit for being the first to really get me out of lurking around fandoms and into becoming an active participant. The Sabres taught me about communities of fans, families of blog commenters, and the importance of the connections we make with others based on the things we love.

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The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week (7/27 – 8/3)

This week in television was filled with emotional highs and lows. The roller coaster began with Monday’s finale of The Bachelorette, which was both uncomfortable (with Nick confronting Andi over sleeping with him despite choosing Josh) and adorable (with Andi and Josh finding what seems to be genuine happiness together). It continued on Wednesday with an emotionally-charged episode of So You Think You Can Dance and what was possibly the most depressing episode of Suits in a long time. And it concluded with Saturday’s inspiring speeches by this year’s Pro Football Hall of Fame induction class.

There were a lot of great things that happened on TV this week. I know many people will roll their eyes at me for saying this, but I loved seeing Josh and Andi so clearly happy together on The Bachelorette. It’s always a beautiful thing to celebrate love, and that’s why I’ll never stop caring about that ridiculous franchise. And I’ve already talked at length about how much a few routines on SYTYCD moved me. But the best of the best this week was the Buffalo love fest that happened last night in Canton, Ohio.

I’m a Buffalo Bills fan. I have been since birth, and no matter how terrible they are, I’ll always love them. I grew up during the Glory Years of four consecutive Super Bowl appearances, so seeing Andre Reed get inducted into the Football Hall of Fame last night was like revisiting a childhood I can barely remember. But no matter how long it’s been since those Glory Years, the bond between those players and the city they represented is so strong, and it made me incredibly emotional to see the love between Reed and the Buffalo fans that came out in full-force to see his enshrinement.

What also stood out to me during that speech was the bond between the players on that team. It’s impressive to see the depth of their brotherhood after all these years. And it was especially touching to see the deep respect and genuine love Reed has for Jim Kelly, his quarterback, who is battling cancer. Nobody was sure a couple of months ago if Kelly would even be able to be there for Reed’s enshrinement, but there he was, throwing one last pass to his best receiver and making Buffalo fans around the country cry in the process. In a week where emotions ran high on television, that was the moment that got to me the most.

What was the best thing you saw on TV this week?

Life Lessons from Sochi

davis white

I love the Olympics. I’ve loved them since I was an 8-year-old girl fawning over the Magnificent Seven in Atlanta. And while the Summer Olympics still captivate me every four years, I obsess over few things like I obsess over the Winter Olympics. I can remember the exact moment I lost my heart to the Winter Games: It was 2002, and I was watching Jamie Salé and David Pelletier skate their “Love Story” pairs free skate. They made 13-year-old me cry, and, as most of you know, if you can make me cry, I will feel an emotional attachment to you forever. Figure skating (every kind of it) makes me cry. Hockey makes me cry. A particularly great bobsled run makes me cry. Maybe I’m just more emotional during the winter months, but few things on Earth get the waterworks going for me like the Winter Olympics.

The Olympics are special because they showcase what sports can be—unifying, compelling, surprising, and about so much more than who puts the puck in the net or lands their triple Axel. The Olympics are about people—real people with real stories, real sacrifices, and real lessons to teach all of us watching about the ways to handle both incredible success and unfathomable failure.

Today I want to take a moment to look back on the 2014 Winter Games in a way that celebrates what I’ve always believed about the Olympics: They’re about the stories. We may not always remember who won gold, but we remember who made us feel and who taught us something more than just the rules of curling or the correct way to execute an ice dance twizzle.

Without future ado, here are seven valuable life lessons put into practice by the athletes of these Winter Games.

1. There’s no place like home.

Medal Ceremony - Winter Olympics Day 6

Maxim Trankov and Tatiana Volosozhar were two of Russia’s biggest stars at these Olympics.

As an American girl whose favorite sports movie is Miracle, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that I wanted our U.S. teams to beat their Russian counterparts whenever we had the chance. However, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t moved to tears more than once by a Russian winning a gold medal in Sochi. There’s an undeniable bond between a person and the place they call home. That bond was on display when pairs skaters Maxim Trankov and Tatiana Volosozhar reacted with an overflowing of emotions in the face of the crowd’s jubilant response to their gold-medal-winning performance. And it was there when Adelina Sotnikova became the first Russian to win gold in women’s figure skating, finding strength and overwhelming joy in the cheers of her fellow Russians. Those moments reminded me that we all carry the places we’ve called home with us, even if most of us will never play for our country in the Olympics.

2. A little kindness goes a long way.

This may be the most popular photograph to come out of these Olympics.

This may be the most popular photograph to come out of these Olympics.

Years from now, will I remember Gus Kenworthy for his silver-medal performance in men’s slopestyle skiing? Maybe not. But I will remember Kenworthy as the skier who saw the plight of stray dogs in Sochi and did something to help those animals. By taking home a group of stray puppies (and their mother) and finding good homes for them back in the U.S., Kenworthy became a star of the Sochi Games for far more than just his performance on the slopestyle course. Kenworthy’s act of kindness made him a household name, proving that sometimes success is measured more by the things you do to help the people (and animals) around you than by professional achievements.

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The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week (2/9 – 2/16)

With the Winter Olympics in full swing, there weren’t a lot of new TV episodes to contend with the hours of sports coverage airing from now until the end of next week. Tuesday was the only night to feature new episodes of shows I watch, and both of them were entertaining. New Girl introduced us to Jess’s sister, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine introduced us to the concept of going “full-Boyle” and the organization AAGLNYCPA.

The real star of the television landscape this week was the Olympics. From T.J. Oshie’s incredible shootout performance in the U.S. hockey team’s victory over Russia to the U.S. slopestyle ski team earning a medal sweep, there were some excellent winning moments for Team USA this week. And Maxim Trankov and Tatiana Volosozhar’s euphoric reaction to winning gold in pairs figure skating on their home ice was a gold medal moment I won’t soon forget.

My favorite moment of the week, however, wasn’t one that led to a gold medal. In fact, it didn’t lead to a medal at all. When Jeremy Abbott took a brutal fall during the men’s figure skating short program, I thought he was going to have to quit. But not only did he keep skating, he finished his program with skill, style, and a huge smile on his face. That emotional performance was followed by a free skate that was truly beautiful. Abbott may not have won a medal in Sochi, but he gave us what was perhaps the most inspiring moment of the games so far. He reminded everyone that true strength comes not from doing something perfectly but from getting back up after you fall down. I might not remember who won gold in the event years from now, but I will always remember what Abbott did at these Olympics.

Because the official NBC website doesn’t like to make embedding Olympic videos easy, here’s a recap of Abbott’s short program skate. 

And here’s his free skate. 

What was the best thing you saw on TV this week?

This Could Be Our Year: What Football Taught Me About Fandom


Are you ready for some football?

I know Thursday was technically the beginning of the NFL season (Thanks, Peyton Manning for those fantasy football points!), but tomorrow my beloved Buffalo Bills take the field for the first time this year. The first day of any season—football season, hockey season, Oscar movie season, a new season of one of my favorite TV shows—always fills me with the same feeling: hope.

I like to compare the start of a sports season to Christmas morning. You have no idea what exactly is going to be waiting for you under the tree; this could be the year you get the gift you’ve always wanted, or it could be another year of getting sweaters that don’t fit. But most of us race to the tree on Christmas morning and open that first gift with hearts beating a little bit faster because it’s way more fun to hope for something good than to expect something bad.

It’s the same feeling I got before the midnight screening of The Hunger Games. It’s the same feeling I got watching Harvey walk towards Donna at the end of this week’s episode of Suits, knowing she was the one he wanted to celebrate his big win with. And it’s the same feeling I know I’m going to have right before each season premiere begins in a couple of weeks.

It’s hope—pure and simple. It’s a belief that a movie, TV show, fictional couple, or sports team has the power to make us happy, and it’s a belief that this kind of happiness isn’t all that far away. Even when things don’t turn out perfectly—when your team ends up missing the playoffs again or your favorite show has a subpar season or Harvey doesn’t get into the car with Donna—what matters most is the reminder that we can still find reasons to hope.

I’m pretty sure sports are what taught me to hope. The Bills went to four consecutive Super Bowls when I was a little kid (I’ll omit all the stuff about them losing all four), and my formative years were spent among fans who—even when we faced heartbreak year after year—never lost their sense of hope. I grew up with family members (especially my dad and grandpa) who always believed that this year could be the year—our year. I grew up around passionate football fans (and passionate hockey fans—but I’ll talk more about that next month when that season starts), and I think that taught me so much about fandom from the earliest of ages.

It taught me that there’s nothing better than talking about the things you’re passionate about with other nerds (because sports fans are our own special kind of nerds). It taught me that it’s okay to overreact sometimes because it means you care. It taught me that shared interests can bring people, families, and whole cities together in ways nothing else can. And it taught me that it’s always more fun to choose hope than it is to choose pessimism.

We’re all nerds about something; we’re all fans. So from this football fan to all of you, it’s my wish that these next few weeks of new fandom beginnings give you plenty of reasons to cheer—and plenty of reasons to hope.