Monday, July 6, 2015

Queens. For a day.

Of course we paid attention, for two hours. It was Fourth of July weekend. It was the World Cup. And Carli Lloyd was Captain America, scoring twice in five minutes, then scoring again with a shot from midfield that will ring to the touch forever.

And so, USA 5, Japan 2. And so, Abby Wambach and Christie Rampone, the wily vets, raise the Cup together. And so, America lifts a glass, roars, says, "Damn, we're good!"

But what now?

That is the question, isn't it? And don't we already know the answer?

Sure we do. The more astute among us were already clueing us in before it was even over Sunday, observing that it was refreshing (and somewhat dismaying) to see women's sports actually occupy more than a blip on the national radar for once. And then observing it will just as quickly be gone as soon as the glasses are empty and everyone heads back to work today.

As with all such judgments, this isn't completely accurate. Professional tennis these days, after all, is basically Serena Williams And Them Others. And if women's sports are indeed treated too often with condescension and indifference by the national media, its OCD in this instance probably has as much to do with the sport as it does with outright chauvinism.

Women's soccer may vanish from the radar between World Cups, but so does men's soccer, at least for the country at large. So the talking heads at ESPN will yap about the U.S. women for a day or two, and then, because it's soccer and not the NFL, they'll move on. Can't steal precious air time from iconic NFL moments like First Day Of Camp Stretching, you know. Let's go live to Anderson, where Andrew Luck is about to lead the Colts in jumping jacks!

(Apropos of nothing, but the best line I've heard about ESPN comes from fellow Indiana sportswriter Andrew Smith. He notes that he likes to say ESPN's coverage calendar consists of five things: The NFL season, the NFL Draft, NFL free agency, whatever LeBron is doing, and NFL training camps).

The more relevant question, for me, is how different will be the impact of this World Cup from the one Mia Hamm, Brandi Chastain et al won 16 years. The little girls who painted their faces and screamed for Mia in 1999 went on to become the launch pad for what happened yesterday. The example of '99 became the seedbed for everything that has come after, and what has come after is a women's national team that, even if it didn't win the World Cup for 16 years, has consistently been one of the premier sides on the planet.

It's a legacy that, 16 years later, will likely render the impact of  this World Cup team less dramatic, but perhaps as enduring in its own way. In '99, girls who never would have played soccer before played it because they wanted to be Mia; now those girls already play soccer. Carli Lloyd and Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan just give them something new to aim for.

And maybe not just the girls, either. The most obvious difference between 1999 and 2015 is that it wasn't just little girls painting their faces and waving their flags, it was little boys, too. Hero worship is far less respective of gender than it used to be, and that's a good thing. Kids, male or female, need all the positive examples they can find these days. So if your son or daughter is growing up in a world where the acceptable Fatheads on the wall in either of their rooms include both LeBron and Carli Lloyd, consider yourself rich beyond measure.

And ESPN and every other national sports conduit, consider taking notice. More than once every four years, that is.



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