Dear Women of the World (with exception to Marta),
Today, July 10, 2011, I would like to formally apologize for being sexist, chauvinistic, and flat out stupid. Oh, and also for farting so often in bed (that part is specifically for my wife). Watching the American women today pull out one of the gutsiest victories I have seen in a very long time (in any sport), I am left humbled for my many words (including a recent article) about female sports. So …yeah, sorry about that.
As great as today’s epic World Cup Quarterfinal game between the U.S. and Brazil was, the most unusual realization I had was that the game was better than it would have been if it were men playing, not women. My reasoning is simple. The men’s game, after years and years of evolving (or devolving) has a far higher tendency to bring out theatrics (flopping, milking time, etc.). One of the most refreshing things I’ve observed these past few days about the women’s game—apart from the fact that the quality of play and scoring seems on par with men’s—is that the women’s game is far more straight forward, and thespians are hard to find.
Enter Marta. The Brazilian forward simply looks like a man playing among women. That’s partly a compliment—she’s incredibly talented—but it’s also an indictment on the way she plays. She whines to refs incessantly and, just like the men, always seems to think she is trying out for the school play (see: Mexican soccer). She was in rare form today, so much so that by the end of the game even unbiased observers were lustily booing her anytime she touched the ball. As I watched, I found myself viewing Marta as a symbol for the flaws in the men’s game.
When Brazil’s Erika feigned a back injury in the second half of injury time and was carted off—only to pop right back up and run around (I assume after Marta told her to)—the unaffiliated fans in attendance were in full “Okay, this is enough—Go USA!” mode. (BTW, if Erika were a man, there’s a good chance she would have been on the ground for another few minutes. Sad, but true.)
But by this point, the game was certainly over. Ian Darke—God bless his soul—was already talking about the game in past tense. The thing is you couldn’t blame him. America had been playing short a player for about an hour, they were behind a goal thanks to Marta’s excellent (-ly manlike) goal, and time was only technically still ticking. But somehow the game wasn’t over. The American women just kept battling and scrapping, and fighting (and other tough sounding verbs). Finally, with a gorgeous cross in the dying moments of the game Megan Rapinoe found Abby Wambach, and she deftly headed home the tying goal. And just like that, Landon Donovan’s last second goal against Algeria somehow got trumped. And by a girl, too!
I watched the goal while holding my two month old son. Trying not to scare him, I refrained from screaming and spun around and around at a thousand steps a minute while doing kind of a butt shake move. He started to cry anyway. I guess it wasn’t that great a dance move. But the goal was nothing short of epic. And my two year old daughter made the moment even better by yelling “Goal!” and clapping her hands.
As you know, the rest was history. Ali Krieger shot home the game winning penalty kick and the Americans showed once again that we don’t really care for giving up. It’s a longstanding story in American team sports, but this patriotism-inducing chapter was written by the women.
Somehow, it was women who left me near tears watching a soccer game played in Germany while my son cried and my two year old daughter yelled “Goal!” with perfect elocution. Did you catch that? My male son was in tears while my female daughter captured the moment and made it that much more enjoyable for me.
So, thank you ladies. Really, thank you. I am so sorry that it took such a brilliant moment for me to overcome my gender prejudices. I’m sorry for all the mean things I’ve said. I’m sorry for balking whenever I see female sports on ESPN. I ask that all of you will please accept my apology. Well, all of you except for Marta. She’s the worst.
One Humbled Man
Bryson Kearl wrote this article. He is the editor of this blog and an avid fan of women soccer (as of this posting).