Is Women’s Soccer About To Take Off? (I Hope Not)

Please keep her innocent

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.

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10 Responses to Is Women’s Soccer About To Take Off? (I Hope Not)

  1. cj says:

    “Or is it because of hot cute they all are?” Is ‘hot’ supposed to read ‘how’?

  2. Monica says:

    This was a surprisingly good article (typos beside). As a female I appreciated the honesty and as a fellow sports fan I understand the sentiments. I both want the WPS to get their well-deserved attention and funding yet at the same time dread the corrupting influence of the media and fame. I also realize that these women have a strength of character not seen in their male counterparts and frankly it’s not even seen in some of their female counterparts (Serena Williams and the like). Perhaps that strength is born from anonymity or perhaps they labor in obscurity because they refuse to sink to depths which other athletes quite willingly descend. Perhaps it is their desire to be known for their victories and not for their bikini ads (Danica Patrick) that keeps them from having mainstream appeal. If that is the case then I am not worried for them in the future. These woman want to win as a team first through grit, determination, and desire. That is the reason they have so many new found fans and that is the reason that they continue to captivate a nation that has become jaded by the Lebrons, Serenas, and Danicas of the sports world whose desire to win at all costs, whether on the court/track or off (endorsements and fans), sacrifices everything that these women stand for.

  3. thegeeman says:

    ESPN is a joke. This hype happens every four years or so if the women are on the verge of winning the world cup. It is just the ESPN hype. ESPN are bunch of clowns who hype anything until they get tired of them. If you want to see great futebol check out the Copa America. The Copa can be seen on any Spanish channel. Great futebol. I have two blogs defutebol.net is my own website that I own.

  4. Hil says:

    I am really happy they are having their moment of fame because it only comes every few years if that for certain sports. You get the sense they are regular people and you as a fan are lucky enough to see them at their best moment. The time when everything pays off for them. You don’t get that feeling when you watch the mainstream American sports because those people are typically millionaires living a lifestyle far removed from your own and are often in the headlines for some of the problems that come from that kind of life. Some remain down to earth but others are making people sort out all the yellow m&ms for them and you realize how far from reality they have drifted. Hard to relate to that. Easy to relate to these players. They completely wreck themselves physically for their sport just like the major sports stars here yet they don’t have millions of dollars to retire on. It’s amazing.

  5. -Nice blog. I really felt your honesty. 🙂
    Hope they win on Sunday!!

  6. Pablo says:

    Nice article and right on the Money! is the Purity and the sense of belonging that makes this team so special..they have dragged us all into the pitch and we are wearing our cleats and are waiting for the whistle to blow and go at it against the world…literally in this case!

    • Wimer says:

      Someone plsaee stop the horns! I tried to give the World Cup a chance, but I’d even turn off the Superbowl if there was the same annoying background noise.

  7. cj says:

    Why is US women’s soccer great and US men’s soccer is merely decent? Is it because the rest of the world is more misogynistic than the USA?

  8. anhtonyward34 says:

    Great article. We live in a world where it’s all about money. Look at the NFL lockout Millionaire players fighting billionaire owners for more money. The USWNT is fighting for a trophy, and the respect from the world on winning one of hardest trophies in the world. They are playing for eachother instead of playing for bonuses on a certain statistics like touchdowns in Football or double doubles or tripple doubles in Basketball. This is what sports are meant to be, not the celebrity status it has become all over the world, and that is why a nation is being held captive by 22 U.S. women soccer players.

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