I spent the last two days planning on writing on the MLB All Star Game and then the ESPYs Awards. I figured one is a “Summer Classic” and the other includes major sports stars from every sport, so it must be great. But after two majorly disappointing nights, I realized that all I really wanted to write about was the Women’s World Cup, and my newfound love of the American squad (or the USWNT).
Here are my actual notes from the All Star Game:
- Where are all the stars?
- I remember this not sucking when I was a kid…
- Home run. Good for Gonzo.
- Seriously …this sucks.
Now here are my actual notes from the ESPYs:
- Seth Meyers did okay; I thought he was better last year.
- Jimmer and his girlfriend really are adorable.
- The USWNT just accepted an award. This is the most excited I’ve been all night. Hmmm …
I battled with myself all morning whether I should write my third women’s soccer blog in two weeks (first two are here and here). And after finally convincing myself not to, I saw a bright pink ribbon, which of course reminded me of Alex Morgan’s patented pink hair band, and her excellent goal yesterday to seal the victory over France. How once again, it appeared like the Americans were headed towards a loss, and once again the Americans simply refused to accept that fate …And once again I was left feeling inspired and excited about women’s soccer. So here I am, writing about female soccer …again.
Yesterday’s match lacked the drama of the Brazil match, no question. And last minute heroics were not necessary. But that’s not to say I didn’t thoroughly enjoy every minute of the action on the pitch. Cause I did. I love watching this team play in a way that feels eerily similar to the way I feel watching teams I have supported since I was small child. And I’m left asking one question: Why?
Why do I enjoy watching this team so much? Is it because of the steely determination of Abby Wambach and Hope Solo? Is it because of the creative brilliance and flair of Megan Rapinoe? Or is it because of how cute they all are? (Note to angry feminists reading this: Please just accept that last sentence as a half joke, half compliment on their good looks. I mean nothing else by it.)
As I watched the waning moments of the utterly blah ESPYs last night, I thought about this question. And as I watched mega-millionaire athletes applauding the end of the “show,” getting ready to party with their large entourage and sleazy women, it hit me: This is why I love the USWNT so much. Everything these guys are, the USWNT is not (at least not now).
I am jaded by men’s sports (Will I keep watching men’s sports? Of course. But still …). I am jaded by their arrogance, their bloated salaries, their promiscuous lifestyles. In fact, I think I’m jaded towards men in general. But it’s not just men, I realize as I recall the moment during the show when Serena Williams talked about female sports rising above the ashes thanks to Title IX, all the while dressed like she was getting ready to ride a stripper pole. I think maybe it’s mainstream sports in general. (By mainstream, I simply mean the sports and athletes that have been corrupted by too much wealth, too much fame, and too much privilege.)
And that’s why these American soccer players are so special to me. They play professional women’s soccer, and frankly there isn’t much money or fame to be had when you play women’s soccer (The average player makes about $40,000 a year). They seem to have a certain innocence that can only be found in youth leagues, yet they have the skill of pros—which is clearly what they are.
I literally spent half of my lunch break today looking up info on the Women’s Professional Soccer (or WPS), the women’s pro league here in the U.S. I was thoroughly determined to start following the league, and pick a team to support (I was leaning towards Sky Blue FC because of their star midfielder Heather O’Reilly). But after half an hour I eventually left with the sad impression that I will have no access to their league games, and without being able to watch any games, it would be pointless to follow them.
But even if I could get access, what would happen next? Surely nothing good. I mean, what if everyone else was thinking the same thing? If Hope Solo went from having 10,000 twitter followers to 100,000 in the last week, who’s not to say pro women’s soccer couldn’t take off (relatively speaking)? And if that is the case, and these ladies get the respect I am discovering they deserve, what’s to prevent them from getting corrupted like everyone else in the sports landscape by too much fame, too much wealth, and too much privilege?
The mere thought suddenly makes me sad. It’s almost as if the USWNT is a symbol of all that once was good in sports, and I am terrified that it will be ruined. I am a romantic when it comes to sports. I can’t help it (and my wife can’t stand it). I watch movies like Field of Dreams and bawl like a small child when Kevin Costner says, “Dad, wanna’ have catch?” Heck, I just get teary eyed typing that line just then. I can’t help it.
So when I watch people like Tiger Woods go from symbolizing a lone minority blazing a trail in the PGA, to one of the greatest athletes ever, to one of the biggest sleaze balls ever, I actually feel a little heartbroken. When I watch a baseball all star game and they talk about a player being great, but then feel obligated to point out that there is strong evidence that he is not taking steroid (“I mean, his new batting stance really is great!”)—something that happens any time Jose Bautista is ever brought up—I feel cheated.
And when I watch Serena Williams at the ESPYs, a woman who should be applauded for her athletic prowess and greatness, but instead gets catcalls because she’s showing enough cleavage to host a skateboarding half pipe event, I suddenly feel like a defensive dad.
“Oh no,” I think, “Please don’t let Alex Morgan pose in a bikini in some sleazy magazine someday. Please keep the American soccer girls clean and innocent.” Suddenly in my mind, the USWNT literally represent my daughter, and I am mad at men everywhere. “Please protect them from the Tiger Woods of the world.” And then my thoughts slip to what I really want …
“And please, please, help them win the World Cup Final on Sunday.”
Bryson Kearl is the editor of this blog. He is a newly christened fan of women’s soccer, and he really hopes feminists don’t hate this article.