Was The World Cup a Shot in the Arm for Women’s Sports?

After the success of the Women’s National Team, will women’s sports increase in popularity and what is the deal with the negative stigma of women and sports?

Around 13.5 million people watched the World Cup Final between Japan and the United States on Sunday, the highest viewership since the memorable ’99 World Cup when the United States defeated China on PKs.

On Wednesday, the magicJack took on Western New York Flash in a Women’s Professional Soccer game in front of a record crowd of 15,404.

The game featured six players from the U.S. team and several other players from various World Cup teams.

With all the interest in women’s soccer lately, the question has become: Is this the start of women’s professional sports gaining popularity?

The short answer is no.

The Cliff Notes answer is: No, but they will see an increase in interest for a month or two until everybody forgets about the magic of the World Cup games.

And the long answer: In sports you have the obsessed fan—the person who watches every sport on television and knows way too much about them. They tend to schedule their day around the games and record a WPS game when their mom won’t relinquish control of the television—wait, sorry, that last part is something only I would do.

There is the dedicated fan—the fan that will watch the major sports and has a pretty in-depth knowledge of the sports.

There is the average sports fan—the fan that has a basic knowledge of sports, and will watch most sports if they happen to flip on the channel.

Then there is the bandwagon sports fan—these people generally don’t care about sports unless everybody around them does. This is the case during the Olympics and whenever a "national team" sporting event happens (like the World Cup).

The bandwagon fan is what makes up the majority of the 13.5 million people who watched the World Cup final, and most of them have already gone back to not caring about women’s soccer. And a few stuck around, prompting Fox Soccer network to televise the WPS game.

The problem with women’s sports is not the level of play (because it is at a very respectable level), but to the average sports fan, women’s sports are a novelty.

Most of the coverage (apart from ESPN’s television coverage) was about the stories off the pitch; how it was great the U.S. women are making their own imprint on the history of the game, getting out of the shadows of the ’99 team; and how it was so great Japan upset the home country and favorite to win the tournament, Germany, and how they were playing for everybody in their country still rebuilding after the deadly tsunami.

When we talk about women’s sports, it’s almost like, “Look at them, they are so cute trying to keep up with the men. Sure you lost in the final, but that’s OK, you looked good doing it.”

Sure I can give you 1,000 words on why the U.S. lost to Japan, but I am in the small class of obsessed sports fans. Where most cared about the human-interest story of Japan and the recovering country, I cared what happened on the field.

While everybody else is talking about how hot Hope Solo and Alex Morgan are, I am talking about how good they are on the field.

Don’t get me wrong, I got caught up in the excitement too—15 of my last 17 posts on Facebook were about the women’s soccer team, seven of which were about my infatuation with Solo and Morgan.

But the point is all the attention the game has given women’s soccer is great, but now we need to continue paying attention to what they do on the field.

I would watch women’s soccer over men’s in a heartbeat—in my opinion they play a much more interesting style of play. If you gave me the option of going to a Padres game or a D-I college softball game, I would take the softball game in a second.   

Yes, it was a great story and made a slow few weeks in the sports world an interesting time. But we are watching women’s sports for all the wrong reasons.  

Now excuse me while I go and watch the magicJack-Flash game I recorded.

Observations From the Week that Was, July 8-14

For any sports fans that don’t know about Deadspin, you should. It has everything ESPN wouldn’t dare publish. Though at times it is NSFW (just a heads up).

The Showtime series on the San Francisco Giants called The Franchise is a great show. If you don’t have Showtime you can watch the first episode here.

Fantasy corner

The Padres' Anthony Rizzo was sent down to Triple-A Tucson and Kyle Blanks was called up in his place. Drop Rizzo unless in a dynasty league; Blanks is fine for a 12-team mixed league. Once we know what Blanks’ role is and where he is playing, he could be a 10-team pickup.

Sports Tweet of the Week

And of course the most tweet-worthy NFL player makes another appearance. This week Chad Ochocinco (@ochocinco) was pulled over by the police. Here is his play by play:

“Just got pulled over by Cincinnati police for my window tint being to dark? Does this qualify as being in trouble http://twitpic.com/5tj0e3

Then: “Officer ask: Why are your tints so dark? Reply: Kind sir with all due respect I'm allergic to the sun. Officer: here's your citation. Reply: Damn.”

For the Record

Anthony Rizzo will be back up with the Padres after the trade deadline.

Sarah de Crescenzo July 23, 2011 at 12:41 AM
As a college (and lifelong) competitive athlete, it's tough to hear that this kind of thinking is still out there: When we talk about women’s sports, it’s almost like, “Look at them, they are so cute trying to keep up with the men. Sure you lost in the final, but that’s OK, you looked good doing it.” Maybe an interesting topic for another column would be strategies to potentially reverse that attitude. I know I'd read it!


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