By Michael Lewis
The Goodwill Games were a sporting present to Long Islanders in the summer of 1998.
I don’t recall the last time we had so many Olympic-type events here.
Reuters asked me to cover the women’s swimming competition at Eisenhower Park in East Meadow, N.Y. for three days (like I said, I can write about other sport besides soccer).
And speaking of soccer, I was also able to write about the U.S. women’s national team two wins in the competition at the Mitchel Athletic Complex in nearby Uniondale, N.Y.
On the day of the final, I learned that Azi Khan, the original publisher of Soccer magazine, of which I was the editor from 1993-2000, had passed away from a heart attack. He hired me five years prior and gave me a chance of a lifetime to shape of a fledgling magazine (more on Soccer Magazine in another Taking A Pass column.
After recording a hat-trick in a 5-0 drubbing of Denmark in the semifinals two days prior, the fabulous Mia Hamm put on yet another one-woman show, tallying twice in the 2-0 triumph over China in the final (in a rematch of the 1996 Olympic gold-medal match, which the U.S. won) before 11,307.
Hamm lifted the USA into the lead with a 16-yard shot in the 66th minute before finishing the game off with a 35-yard effort from the left side over goalkeeper Zhao Yan. “I hit it as hard as I could,” Hamm said. “Thank goodness it went in.”
Added U.S. head coach Tony DiCicco: “Mia turned in a Michael Jordan-like performance tonight. In fact, I think China took the game over and had more quality chances than we did, but then Mia scored that brilliant goal.”
Earlier in the day, I had some quite sad news that Azi Khan, a really great guy, had passed away from a heart attack. I knew that Azi was quite friendly with Michelle Akers and I figured I had to be the one, to be the Debbie Downer, so to speak, and tell her the bad news.
After the game, the media was able to go onto the field. I don’t remember the exact reason why. Perhaps we were allowed to interview the players quickly.
Before she entered the locker room, I managed to catch up to Akers and told her the sad news about Azi. After winning a game and a competition, I felt weird having to tell a player this news.
Fortunately, as it turned out, Akers learned about Azi’s passing earlier in the day.
I felt relieved, but it didn’t relieve me of my sadness over his death.