Monday, July 18, 2011

What the Women's World Cup really means in America

Judging by my Facebook news feed, all sorts of people have been watching soccer recently.

Some will no doubt see in this the arrival of soccer as a truly major sport in America. There will be those who claim that the sacrifices -- and extensive monetary losses of big-time operators, like Lee Stern, or small-time operators, like a college classmate of mine who was the uncrowned Soccer King of Chicago's South Side -- have finally paid off.

Don't you believe it.

Men's soccer will never be more than a minor sport in the United States no matter which player is married to what Spice Girl (Old Spice?).

The significance of the recently concluded World Cup is not that soccer has gained a foothold on American attention -- but, rather, that women's sport has.

Title IX was enacted when I was just a little younger than Youngest Son is now. There was an effort to jump-start women's sports at the high school level -- but, in my unenlightened corner of the world, nearly everyone who wanted to participate was viewed with suspicion at least. I knew that some of the girls' gym teachers seemed just about as macho as the boys' gym teachers, but I didn't know why. If Hamilton's Mythology ever mentioned anything about Sappho or the Isle of Lesbos, it was carefully sanitized. Of course, one of my friends had a little sister who had gone out for gymnastics. I had the distinct pleasure of seeing her, whenever I could possibly find any excuse, in her tights -- and, I can assure you, on the authority of my careful, slack-jawed, moony observation, that she was not the least manly. But she seemed to me to be, at the time, an apparent exception.

In a generation, things have surely changed -- and, in this rare case, it's all actually good.

Whatever stigma that may have attached to women's sports is long since gone. Archaic attitudes (and, with the exception of my friend's sister, my attitudes were pretty archaic in high school) have been entirely changed. Although they weren't nearly as serious about it as my sons, both my daughters participated in high school sports.

And here's the thing that tells me that there has surely been a transformation. When the White Sox game was over yesterday, Youngest Son flipped on the women's final. He doesn't like soccer as a men's sport -- but he's prepared to watch it as a women's sport. He was interested.

Postscript: Younger Daughter came into the den during the 'extra time' and tried to explain things. It didn't help. I still don't get soccer.

But I could appreciate seeing the whole field. I wish we used that full-field view more for baseball and football broadcasts. These games are telecast with stationary cameras in center field (for baseball) or showing only the line and the backfield (in football). So much happens in both sports away from the ball. In the 1940s and 50s it might not have been possible to show the full field and viewers wouldn't have been able to see anything on the small screens if directors had tried. But, in the age of giant HD sets, we ought to reconsider that, don't you think?


Empress Bee (of the high sea) said...

how odd is this? i watched it and commented to sarge "well i know nothing about this sport but it makes perfect sense and i understand it!"... and i did! too much fish oil perhaps?

smiles, bee

Dave said...

Hah, I new you had posted having seen you comment at my place.