It's an emotional time for Chastain family

There's a time to mourn, a time to heal. With everything that has been happening to members of the Chastain family over the past year, there's still a sense of mourning while they go on with the healing.

Roger and Hazel Chastain, who live in Carson City, have one of the nation's most famous female athletes as a granddaughter in Brandi Chastain. It's been a tough year for the grandparents and their granddaughter.

On Sept. 7, 2002, Brandi's mother and the Chastain's daughter-in-law, Lark, unexpectedly died in her sleep. She was 56. Seven months later on April 6, 2003, the Chastain's son and Brandi's father, Roger, died of a heart attack. He was 58.

So it's an emotional time for the Chastains as Brandi and the United States Women's Soccer team prepares to defend its title this week in the World Cup. The U.S. begins play on Sunday in a game against Sweden that will be televised by ABC at 9:30 a.m.

"That was a terrible shock," said Chastain's grandfather, Roger, when Lark died. "Everything was just in complete chaos. It was just chaotic all the way around."

Then came the death of Brandi's father, who died of a rare heart condition involving the aorta, the same condition that killed John Ritter last week.

"It's a hard thing to go through, but life goes on I guess," the elder Roger said. "You never expect to lose one of your kids.

"It's been a rough road. You don't get over it, I don't want to get over it.

"You get to where you can handle it. It's been a shock to the whole family. We've always been a pretty close family."

Brandi has received plenty of support from her U.S. teammates. "The team really sticks together," Roger said. "They're just like a family. All the girls on that team they just couldn't be better people."

Roger said he tries to stay in contact with Brandi as much as possible, but admitted it's "not really enough. I talk to her pretty often on the phone, depending on how busy she is and she's awfully busy."

The Chastains plan to attend the semifinals in Portland, Ore. and the finals at the new Home Depot Stadium at Cal State Dominguez Hills in Carson, Calif.

"Hopefully they're playing in it," said Roger about the U.S. team, which has received a tough draw in its round robin play. "There's no guarantee. It's a pretty rough road to get there."

The popularity of the 1999 Women's World Cup led to the formation of the women's professional soccer league, the WUSA, but league officials said this week the league is folding, saying it didn't have the television ratings and attendance needed.

"I hate to see it," Roger said. "That was a shock to everybody. It's a rough road to get started."

Brandi played for the San Jose CyberRays and the Chastains attended their granddaughter's games. Roger said the CyberRays had "pretty good crowds. They could have been bigger."

Roger said there's still a need for a women's professional soccer league and the folding of the WUSA has left a void. He also said the folding of the WUSA takes nothing away from what the U.S. Women's team has done. "It was quite an accomplishment what they have done," he said.

Soccer continues to grow nationally and locally, Roger said. He said for its size, Carson City has some of the nation's best facilities, noting the 10 soccer fields at Edmonds Park.

Brandi is the reason that the U.S. is defending its title. It was her goal in a shootout against China that won the crown.

But it's been well-documented ever since that what Brandi will always be remembered for is what she did after when she ripped off her jersey in celebration, showing her sports bra.

It's a moment that many say was blown out of proportion, especially since it wasn't all that uncommon for female athletes to be seen publically in their sports bras.

When asked if the celebration was blown out of proportion, Roger said, "Some people did and some people didn't."

When trying to explain what she did, Roger said Brandi told him she didn't even know what she had done, saying, "'Grandpa it was just temporary insanity.' She couldn't write a script like that."

Brandi isn't the only athlete in the Chastain family who is busy right now. A grandson of the Chastains, Chad, who lives in San Jose, is in the middle of a fund-raiser for the Children's Cancer Research Fund in which he's playing 50 rounds of golf in 50 days in all 50 states. "He's as hard to get a hold of as Brandi," Roger said.

It's not surprising that a man from Oklahoma who was raised in the San Joaquin Valley in the small community of Chowchilla north of Fresno, has such accomplished grandchildren.

Roger said he's proud of Brandi for two reasons: For what's she's accomplished and "the person she is.

"She's had a hard time since her folks have passed away. It's hard on her. It's hard on all of us."

Charles Whisnand is the Nevada Appeal Sports Editor.

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