Kristin Russell entered my lexicon of favorite athletes Sunday.No, the St. John’s goalkeeper didn’t add another shutout to her legend and come one step closer to the St. John’s all time record. She didn’t take matters into her own hands to leave her post and take on Cincinnati herself for the ever-so-rare goalkeeper goal, either.
In fact, had the Red Storm not lost the game, 1-0, to me she’d still be another college keeper on a very good women’s soccer team.
It was what Russell did after the game that sealed her fate in my book.
After the team’s postgame meeting, I asked Russell what the looming shutouts record means to her. She told me the record doesn’t enter her mind; that she doesn’t think about it.
Great, the St. John’s keeper is humble. Fine. Always a good character trait for an athlete to have, even if it leads to a boring quote.
But later in the interview, I asked her what she could learn from her counterpart in net, Cincinnati’s Andrea Kaminski, who shut out the Red Storm and made eight saves.
This time, I got a far different answer.
Russell looked at me and chuckled. She began a statement, stopped, and thought for a second. She looked at her Sports Information Director, then back at me, and began another thought. Again she stopped, chuckled again, and said this: “To be honest, I have nothing to say about that. To be honest, I wouldn’t want it to be written.”
With that, Russell’s interview was over, and she jogged off the field at Belson Stadium to join her teammates in the UC parking lot.
I was completely stunned.
Not only did Russell not answer my question, she didn’t give her opponent any credit, even though credit was due.
She took an early-October conference loss so personally she couldn’t bring herself to say anything positive about the Bearcats team that just beat her Red Storm.
And it was just the answer I was secretly looking for.
Sure, I didn’t get Russell to praise an opposing player nor could I coax one bit of self-praise about her own accomplishments. I got something better.
Kristin Russell literally said nothing, but in reality said everything.
It is for that reason I now see the women’s soccer keeper in a different light. It is a light I have always wanted to view the athletes we watch on the field and write about in our newspaper.
Far too often we hear athletes sounding like political diplomats, giving the bland postgame quote that barely answers the question out of fear that their words will cause controversy or be misunderstood. Some athletes are just too afraid to pour gasoline on a fire that isn’t really there.
Then you get athletes like Russell, athletes who aren’t afraid to say exactly what they think – or in this case, imply how they truly feel. The ones who wear their emotions on their sleeves for the world to see, then get those sleeves as dirty as possible on the field.
I think Russell didn’t say anything because she didn’t feel the Red Storm should have lost. She certainly thought she was the better goalkeeper in that game, and was truly angry the results weren’t in her team’s favor.
That kind of attitude could become infectious. Plant the seed in the minds of other St. John’s athletes that they cannot be defeated and they will have nothing but confidence once game time rolls around.
At most they’ll elevate their games to Russell’s level. At least, well, we’ll get honest, unfiltered quotes after their games.