Part I is here. As I was taking photos of Ali signing autographs, I noticed how typical the crowd was. Many young girls and their parents were trying to get an autograph. I once waited in an autograph line after a women's sports event and regretted it. Being the only male between 20 and 40, surrounded by screaming little girls and their parents, made me feel out of place. However, as I kept clicking away, something interesting caught my eye...
Two young guys ran up the steps to go get an autograph from Ali.
They started taking photos of her as they waited for their own autographs. You can also see a little boy at bottom left reaching up for an autograph, just as the girls are doing.
What is different about this photo than the others? It's dominated by men and boys. These guy fans wore pink headbands in honor of Alex Morgan, and I saw another guy who had his own handmade Alex Morgan t-shirt. In my opinion, the WPS needs to have this happen more and more often in order to survive. A cynic might note the rather crestfallen little girls waiting for their turn. But overall, I think a more diverse crowd will legitimize the WPS and keep it financially healthy.
In the end, you can see that the fans and player alike have joy from the interaction. Is it tedious? Did Ali Krieger's wrist hurt from signing so many autographs? Yes. But this is how leagues are built, unfortunately; one interaction at a time, multiplied over and over again until grassroots enthusiasm meets polished product and sophisticated marketing. Hopefully the wait will be rewarded for the WPS.