Monday, July 11, 2011

USA Women’s Soccer Team Deserves Props

We are going to take a short respite from Blazers related posts today to address a major issue with American sports: female athletes don’t get enough respect.

In case you missed it yesterday, the United States Women’s soccer team defeated Brazil in what could be considered the single greatest American soccer game (men’s or women’s) in history.  Below is a brief overview of the game.  For a full recap see link here.

The US scored off an own goal in the second minute.  They hold onto their 1-0 going into the half.  Brazil came out of halftime determined, but they can’t get through the US defense.  In the 65th minute, the referee calls a ridiculously controversial penalty in the box on Rachel Buehler (who was battling Marta, the best player in the world, for the ball) and gives her a red card, reducing the US to ten players.  Hope Solo blocks the penalty kick, but the referee says she illegally moved off the line (which she didn’t), resulting in a second kick, which Brazil made.  Despite having 10 players, the US out-hustles Brazil and escaped regulation with a 1-1 tie. 

Two minutes into overtime, Marta scored a brilliant goal off a pass where her teammate was offsides.  The US continues to attack, but has no success.  In the last minute of extended time, Abby Wombach heads in a perfect pass from Megan Rapinoe to tie the game, the latest goal in Women’s World Cup history.  The game goes to penalty kicks where Hope Solo makes a perfect save on the Brazilian sweeper, and after converting on all 5 penalty kicks, the US walked away with the most improbable win in US soccer history.

Riding the subway in New York into work today, I looked at the front page of the different papers people were reading.  I was excited to see the crazy headlines they would come up with for this historic victory.  Something like, “The US Never Lost Hope” or “Wambach That Brazil.”  Instead, I saw coverage of Derek Jeter’s 3000th hit, which occurred Saturday.  No disrespect to Jeter, who deserves the accolades, but the US Women earned front page news.  Their win should be remembered just as much as Jeter’s big hit.  If Jeter had achieved his milestone hit on Sunday (the same day as the women’s game), I would understand local New York papers favoring Jeter coverage over soccer.  However, that wasn’t the case.

Rewind one year and the US was overtaken by USA soccer mania.  Newspapers, television stations, and the internet were barraged with coverage of the US men’s team’s quest for World Cup glory.  Every game was followed by page upon page written about their successes and failures.  Yet, how many Olympic medals do they have?  How many World Cup trophies do they possess?  Zero. 

In contrast, the US Women’s Soccer team has two gold medals and two World Cup championships.  They have made at least the semifinals in every World Cup (including the one I saw in person at PGE Park 8 years ago).  They have been ranked number one in the world consistently.  They have dominated the sport.

Therefore, why have the women not garnered the same support as the men’s team?  One simple reason: they are women. 

Our society needs to take a closer look at how we value success and achievements.  We no longer live in the 1950s.  Today, women have an equal right to vote.  They hold powerful political positions.  There are more women than men in universities and graduate programs.  They control Fortune 500 companies.  Yet too many people in our society still see women as “not quite good enough.” 

It might be too late to convince local and national media to cover the Women’s World Cup with the same enthusiasm with which they cover the Men’s World Cup.  However, the more people start to challenge the status quo and support the phenomenal female athletes we have in our country, the more women will be accepted as equals in our nation.  For example, Jackie Robinson breaking the color line was a key event that was a catalyst to the Civil Rights Movement.  Sports are influential and they can affect real social change. 

If people start to give our Women’s soccer team the props they have earned, it could be a giant leap for women as a whole in our evolving country.

Go USA Women!


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