The U.S. football soccer team just won the World Cup, and set a record for the highest-scoring win in World Cup championship history. Carli Lloyd had a natural hat trick in the championship, including a goal scored on a 54-yard kick. Goaltender Hope Solo logged her 89th career shutout win in the semifinal game. And don’t call it a comeback – this is the US team’s third World Cup championship title in the past 15 years.
Wait, what’s that you say, that the World Cup was last year and so why am I caring about soccer again prior to 2018? Congratulations, you’re one of the millions of people in our country and around the world who are willfully ignorant to women’s sports. Oh, yeah, you say, but you said “World Cup,” not “women’s World Cup,” so you confused me as to which one you were talking about. Wrong again – why does the women’s team need the “women” qualifier in order to even ring a bell in society’s collective mind, while the men’s World Cup team gets to simply be “World Cup” soccer? Especially in this case, when our women just accomplished what our men have literally never done and brought home not one, not two, but three championship titles?
While texting back and forth during the World Cup final Sunday night, my sister mentioned what a shame it was that by the same time the next day, the media and the nation would have moved on from our team’s amazing win even faster than they moved on from George Pataki’s presidential bid. While her prediction seemed pessimistic, I couldn’t help but agree, and it wasn’t just because the US only cares about soccer when we’re busy taking down FIFA’s president. Ask anyone why men’s sports are “sports,” but women’s sports are relegated to the 2AM time slot on ESPN Ocho, and the answer will usually be some variation on “women just aren’t as athletic as men, so the games aren’t as fun to watch.” Don’t be fooled by those who say that it’s an economic decision based on the revenue brought in by men’s sports, because that’s basically the same thing – which tired old stereotype about women’s sports did you think was driving the failure of Americans to spend just as embarrassingly high amounts of money watching women play games as we do watching men? “Tired old stereotype” it is indeed – if anyone out there still honestly believes that women’s sports aren’t as athletically competitive or challenging as men’s, then allow me to present tonight’s World Cup final as Exhibit A.
Let’s start with the obvious – 54 yards. 54 freaking yards, and not just a 54 yard kick, but a 54 yard kick that ended with a goal. Sure soccer goal boxes may look large, but in fact the square footage of a soccer goal (8×24) is only about 2/3 the size of a football goalpost (10×30). Do you know who in the NFL can score points on a 54 yard kick with any measure of reliability? Pretty much no one. If NFL kickers were even half as good as Carli Lloyd, it wouldn’t be such a joke at my fantasy draft if anyone actually decided to waste a pick on one of them. If even one NFL kicker could have made even one kick that was almost as long and accurate as Ms. Lloyd’s, Buffalo would have a Super Bowl championship. (Yes, Scott Norwood, that was aimed squarely at you.)
Moving on to Hope Solo, arguably one of the best goaltenders in the world among both men and women. She holds the record at 89 shutouts as a member of the US Women’s National Team alone, not to mention those that she’s earned playing pro soccer. The shutout record for the Men’s National Team? 47. In case you were wondering, the previous record for shutouts on the Women’s National Team prior to Solo beating it was 72 – so even the second-best women’s team goaltender of all time is still better than the guy who holds the record for the boys. (Speaking of beating, by now you might be thinking that you have a feminist “gotcha” moment due to Solo’s domestic violence charges in 2014, but nope. She was in a fight with someone twice her size and was the one who got arrested because she, in a moment of admittedly bone-headed thinking, decided to get irate with the responding police officers. So for those who are quick to paint her as FIFA’s answer to Ray Rice, you may want to watch that elevator video again and rethink which altercant she most closely resembles.)
Still think that women aren’t as athletic or competitive as men?
It’s worth noting that these examples weren’t very hard to find – they all came not just from one sport and one team, but from one game. A little under two hours, including commercials, was all it took to cast doubt upon the idea that women’s sports aren’t that competitive. So why do they continue to get the short shrift? Why do both men and women in our fair city pay less attention to women athletes who’ve brought home three world championships in 15 years than they do to two professional men’s sports teams who haven’t had a collective prayer of making the post-season since the George W. Bush administration? Why, in 2015, do most Americans remain blissfully unaware that there even is a women’s World Cup team until they see their friends re-tweeting Vines from the championship game or quotes from the Team America: World Police theme song? Don’t get me wrong, the current (and hopefully not short-lived) attention being given to the women’s World Cup team is fantastic, but before you break out the American flag emojis tonight, you may want to ask yourself why it took a social media bandwagon to get you to care about women’s sports.
Erin Cody is Shattered Glass’ number one blogger – who by day is a kick butt attorney