First of all, thanks everyone for the positive comments on my last post on the USWNT. I’m relieved I wasn’t eaten alive! I’ll try my luck with one more women’s soccer post.
Before the Women’s World Cup, the coverage of the upcoming tournament was pretty shitty (other than this article by Anna Clark). People barely knew it was happening, and many who knew didn’t really care. I talked to a friend who played Division I soccer in college, and she said something like “Women’s soccer just isn’t as fun to watch as men’s soccer. They’re not as talented and there isn’t a big enough difference between the college level of play and the professional level.” Ugh. As someone who played in college — though at NYU where no one knew there were sports teams — and as someone who’d dreamed of playing professionally when I was a little girl, this didn’t add up to me. There was a HUGE, ENORMOUS difference as far as I was concerned, or else I’d be a professional athlete (maybe there’s still time). But I worried she was right. The Women’s Professional Soccer league was struggling, teams were folding, people weren’t going to games, fans barely filled stadiums, and subsequently the media wouldn’t cover it. Though I appreciated Anna Lekas Miller’s post on soccer and sexism, I didn’t think the reason people weren’t watching was because they didn’t want to see athletic women. Maybe they just weren’t into women’s sports, and people are entitled to their interests?
Then the Women’s World Cup began, and I noticed a little turn around. It started with backhanded compliments in Facebook statuses, such as “I can’t believe I care this much about women’s sports” and “I am literally in love with Hope Solo” and turned into legitimate interest. Twitter blew up, Buzzfeed covered the WWC frequently, and the USWNT were on the front page of the New York Times (and the Boston Globe). To me, it seemed like it used to be kind of cool, like middle-school cool, to look down on women’s sports, but then once the “cool kids” started getting into it, then it was alright.
Now, even after the USWNT’s loss in the finals, Abby Wambach’s mere appearance yesterday at the magicJack-Western New York Flash Women’s Professional Soccer game brought in a record-breaking 15,404 fans. So many fans that they had to bring in temporary benches to make 1,500 more seats! The coach for the Flash, Aaron Lines, said “This is massive for WPS. It’s taken WPS to a whole new level.” Hell yeah it has. The best part is this little nugget:
“This is very exciting,” 11-year-old Emily Brown said, noting that she’s had a Wambach poster on her wall since she was seven. “She’s in my opinion the best soccer player in the world.”
So, let’s keep up this momentum for women’s soccer. Check out the WPS online, follow the league on twitter (and individual teams and players, if you’re hardcore), look into attending a match sometime, and join this Facebook group pledging to attend a professional or collegiate women’s
soccer sporting event:
This is a community of fans of women’s sports. While this world is full of people who appreciate the idea of women’s sports “in theory,” we put it into action. Everyone who becomes a fan of this page is pledging to attend at least one professional or collegiate, women’s sporting event each year. (Our first round of pledges was in 2010.) By demonstrating a force of passionate fans who are eager to show up and talk it up, we are proof of the worth of increased thoughtful media coverage of women’s sports and female athletes. And, of course, we have a hell of a lot of fun along the way.
Tweet at me if you live in NYC and want to go with me to see a Sky Blue game!
One more thing for New York women’s soccer fans: Brian Kuritzky and Susan G. Komen for the Cure are hosting a coed soccer tournament, Kicking it in Pink, to raise money for breast cancer research. It’s taking place on August 20th, from 12-6pm on the Lower East Side, Grand Street and Chrystie. If you’d like to participate, donate, or just come watch some soccer, let me know.
Keep the women’s soccer love alive!