After giving their country a month’s worth of excitement and thoughtful patriotism, the U.S. Women’s National Team deserved a massive party. Back in the locker room after their World Cup–clinching victory over the Netherlands on Sunday, the players celebrated with Champagne, confetti, and singalongs to early 2000s hip-hop. They chanted chants, danced around in ski goggles, and shot silly string all over each other. It looked like a great time, with gigantic bottles of Veuve Clicquot for spraying around and normal-sized bottles of Budweiser for chugging.
While a few photographers and videographers were on the scene to capture the euphoria, none of their work captured the goofy, high-on-life-and-also-totally-wasted quality of the locker room celebration. For that, we have Ashlyn Harris’ Instagram Stories.
The second-string goalkeeper blessed her followers with more than three dozen dispatches from the team’s night of victory parties, plus a few from the morning after. They are manic, gleeful, and un-self-conscious, and they become increasingly hilarious as the night progresses.
“Gimme a Bud heavy!” someone, possibly Harris, screams in an early, comparatively tame clip. One clip later, co-captain Alex Morgan is bent over, wiggling her butt for Harris’ camera while the goalie yells, “She dirty!” Rose Lavelle, the World Cup’s breakout star, gamely gyrates on a bench, waving her phone around, her goggles covered in silly string. She looks absolutely ridiculous. It’s impossible to look cool or composed or ready to star in inspirational commercials about women’s empowerment while dancing to Lil Jon in soccer socks, on a tarp, in a ski mask. No one on the USWNT seemed to care.
If you watch sports with any regularity, you’ve seen a lot of men celebrate championships by chanting chants, dousing each other with bubbly, and pounding their chests. It may be heartwarming if it’s your team, but the spectacle itself is unremarkable. Men pound themselves and each other, spill alcohol, and chant things at plenty of college parties and sports bars, often enough that the very performance of drunken merriment, at least in this mode, has become a signifier of masculinity. But because women’s sports rarely get the attention the USWNT has earned over the past two decades, and because women bear the additional burden of conforming to expectations of modesty and mass-appeal femininity, we rarely get to see female athletes in the uninhibited act of raucous self-celebration. When we do, as we did on Sunday night, it’s a revelation to see what can be threatening signifiers when wielded by men (gigantic egos, too much alcohol, strong bodies) used in service of pure joy and communal pride among women.
Ashlyn Harris, and I say this with an enormous amount of affection, is the exact opposite of a “respectable female athlete.” In Harris’ world, everyone, including herself, is a “bitch,” as in, “You’re fuckin’ welcome for this content, bitch,” which she bellowed into her phone while filming on Sunday night. At the end of the night, she brought her phone into her bed, where fellow gay Megan Rapinoe, still wearing her FIFA medal, appeared to have snuggled up in between Harris and her fiancée, defender Ali Krieger. The three of them spent a few minutes making giddy, incomprehensible jokes before presumably passing out. The camera next catches them in the morning, when Rapinoe plops onto Krieger’s lap, holding a comically large beer. “Oop, sorry ’bout it,” she says with a grin.
Much has been written about the chemistry and camaraderie of the USWNT and how it’s strengthened their play on the field. The joy that they feel when they’re together also makes them easy to root for and hard not to love. It’s not just that they’ve overcome gender-based inequities, political attacks, and worthy opponents from around the world to bring the U.S. another World Cup victory. It’s that they brought their full selves—celebratory, silly, gay, political, foulmouthed—to the endeavor, and seemed to have fun doing it.
If there is justice in this world, these lovable characters that have captivated so many during the World Cup will boost interest and financial investment in women’s soccer. When we watch the players get drunk and goof off together, we come to feel like they’re our friends. Players with big personalities make us more excited to watch games and build emotional allegiances to our favorite teams. Now that the tournament is over, fans of Harris’ antics can follow her to the Orlando Pride, where she’s a heck of a goalie, too. Instagram views are nice, but as Harris said on Sunday night, just before feeding an apple to a voracious Kelley O’Hara, “Bitch gotta eat!”