Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Most American Weekend Ever?!

      In a 5-2 victory over Japan, the United States Women’s National Soccer Team won the World Cup finals in what was America’s 3rd title thus so far in the FIFA Women’s World Cup this 4th of July weekend. Their performance in Vancouver was absolutely stunning from start to finish; but much credit is due to midfielder Carli Lloyd who managed a remarkable 3 goals in just 16 minutes and pulled off yet another just before halftime. Team Captain Abby Wambach beamed that it was Lloyd who “won us [Team USA] this World Cup.”
There is no question that soccer is by far the most popular sport in the world; the Men’s World Cup draws in captivated fans from farthest stretches of the globe. The FIFA enterprise and its influence knows very few, if any cultural, linguistic, or national boundaries. Players like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are often spoken of with language of a purely religious register. Much of soccer’s popularity stems from the fact that it is not a game which demands expensive and complex practice regimen; any child, living in virtually any socioeconomic circumstance can just pick up a ball, head off to an empty space, and learn to play. Some of the best players in the world (who also happen to be some of the wealthiest men in the world) learned how to play soccer while living in abject poverty. While the United States has not found itself as enchanted by soccer as the rest of the international community (rendering it an outlier in this regard), soccer has increasingly become more popular amongst younger generations of Americans in recent years.
      Despite all of this, it seems as though the fanfare is far less pronounced when women take the field. While women players are some of the most athletic people in the world and their games can be just as nerve-wracking and spectacular, the fanbase of the women teams has not picked up the same traction as male counterparts. Many, including Maggie Mertens, a writer for the Atlantic have posed the question as to why sports are not seriously considered a feminist issue. Since the passage of Title IX, little has been done to radically alter the playing field so to speak when it comes to women in sports. Mertens elaborates stating that many within the women’s movement feared that female athletes were, in a way, antagonistic towards feminism and viewed sports at large as a realm in which men displayed extreme forms of masculinity. Feminist publications like Jezebel seem to fall short in adequately covering women athletics and the feminist issues that arise from it (such as the 3:1 pay disparity in male and female soccer play salaries), and it is apparent that sports media isn’t doing their part either considering:
“ 2014, ESPN’s SportsCenter dedicated 2 percent of its on-air time to covering women’s sports, according to a study published this week in the journal Communication & Sport. The study found that three local Los Angeles news networks did slightly better, devoting 3.2 percent of their sports coverage to women athletes.”
     Soccer is considered inherently meritocratic but the media heavily shapes how we perceive the nature of certain sports through the employment of certain camera angles, preliminary commentary, and general representation. Women’s teams have historically been denied the same media coverage as their male counterparts which makes it appear as though women’s teams are in some way inferior, that their games are slower, and that their plays are less interesting - however, this clearly isn’t the case once the World Cup comes around and we see the true athleticism of women whose names the world apparently couldn’t bother to remember.