Women’s World Cup

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Very exciting to watch the US women secure the World Cup championship yesterday.

A few notes:

1) here’s video of the first four goals. Goal number four, the midfield shot by Carli Lloyd, was an extraordinary testament to athletic awareness and split-second decision-making. The only down-side of the early four goal blitz was that it drained most of the drama and anticipation from the remainder of the contest.

Overall, though, very fun and gratifying to watch.

2) Kate Fagan wonders what needs to happen for women’s soccer to sustain momentum beyond the World Cup. She recalls the incredible excitement generated by the 1999 World Champions, featuring the incomparable Mia Hamm and Brandi Chastain. The success of the 1999 team inspired the creation of a new professional women’s league in the States. But it was the first of several to fail due to lack of interest.

Perhaps, Fagan says, hoping for a bigger bounce this time is not realistic:

Maybe we’re looking at this wrong. Maybe sustaining the energy, or the momentum, from such a powerful event is impossible. We want it to be like a race: just run through the line and keep going. But international soccer and club soccer actually run on different tracks, and fans are going to have to be truly motivated to follow from one to the other.

We seem closer to making that jump, but the truth is we don’t have a model yet for how this might happen in women’s sports. All we have is a fan base in women’s soccer that’s growing, and knowledgeable and can’t seem to get enough of this team and its players — all of its players, every single last one of them.

Men’s soccer in the US has not achieved major sports status, but its popularity has grown steadily. The Seattle Sounders, who began play in 2009. draw over 40,000 fans per game. Overall, average attendance for MLS games is closing in on 20,000. That’s pretty good. The current women’s league, the National Women’s Soccer League, draws just over 4,000 per game.

I’m not sure there will be a significant change in that number absent a much more serious commitment from media outlets to cover their games.

3) Last month, Maggie Mertens wrote this very widely read article, Women’s Soccer is a Feminist Issue. A few key points from that piece:

a) historically, the women’s movement was itself wary of devoting much attention to women’s athletics, for several reasons:

One: Female athletes were perceived as either unconcerned with or hostile toward the women’s movement. Two: Feminists didn’t want to be “doubly damned” by “the suspicion of lesbianism” that both feminists and female athletes faced. Three: Sports was seen as a realm where men proved their manliness, negatively predisposing many feminists toward sports in general. And four: Sports was considered “frivolous.” It wasn’t seen as being as important as issues like the right to work, abortion, and equal pay.

b) significant feminist outlets, including Jezebel, Everyday Feminism, Feministing and the Feminist Wire, continue to pay scant attention to women’s sports.

c) major sports media are devoting less coverage, in percentage terms, to women’s sports than they did 25 years ago. You can watch a much wider array of women’s sporting events on television (and elsewhere) than you could a quarter of a century ago. But in an ecosystem in which there is saturation sports broadcasting, women’s sports, outside of a few high-profile events, are getting lost in the shuffle. Overall, women’s sports receive about two percent of total sports coverage, according to a long-term study co-authored by Cheryl Cooky.

According to Cooky, feminists need to focus more on sports than they have “because it’s an institution of massive cultural significance and an area rife with “serious” issues, such as sexual violence, pay inequality, and a lack of women in leadership positions.”

4) If you find yourself feeling blue today, just listen to Telemundo’s Andres Cantor’s call of the five US goals, including his 38-second “GOOOLLLLL” call on Lloyd’s midfield score.

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