Sunday, July 11, 1999

You Kick Like A Boy

"You kick like a boy!!!"

That should be the new standard insult on playgrounds all across America after the US Women's Soccer Team won the World Cup in dramatic fashion on Saturday. They are the living embodiment of the spirit of Title IX.

Not only was this game the most-attended women's sporting event in history, with over 90,000 watching in the Rose Bowl. It was also a pretty good TV draw, getting a 13.3 rating and a 32 share, equaling about 40,000,000 people. That's more than watched the men's World Cup final five years ago. That's more than watched the NHL Stanley Cup finals. Hey, that's even more than watched this year's NBA Finals!

It's also the first time in history that an athlete named Brandi has scored the game-winner. She's the one who ripped off her jersey at the moment of victory. Nice abs!

These women deserve the title of America's Team.

When it comes to females and sports, our nation has accepted cute teenage gymnasts and pretty tennis competitors for a couple of decades, but there was always something ugly lurking underneath.

There was a time not so long ago that a girl who liked playing sports would be called a tomboy. If a group of athletic women got together, their sexuality would be called into question. Sports was something the guys did, not the gals.

Not any more.

In case you missed it, the US Men's Soccer Team won exactly zero games in the World Cup. The Women won 'em all.

Robin Roberts of ABC/ESPN said at the end of Saturday's telecast, "I never thought I'd see anything like this." I was sitting at home watching it with my five-year-old daughter feeling proud that she did see it. I hope it stands up for her as a momentous occasion in the history of sports in this country.

She didn't just see two teams of women playing on an international stage for the championship of the world. She also saw thousands of girls and women cheering and shouting and chanting in the crowd. With smiles and vigor and exuberance. With their mothers and fathers celebrating with them. With commercials for Adidas, Chevy, and Bud Light, right alongside spots for Monistat.

Maybe they're a flash in the pan. Maybe they're not going to become the endorsement machines that some male athletes are. Maybe they'll fade from view now, only to reappear at next summer's Olympics in Sydney. Maybe the idea of a women's pro soccer league isn't a huge moneymaker. But if the only thing this drive for the cup accomplishes is encouraging young girls to, as Mia Hamm puts it, "Go for the goal," then they have something to be proud of.

There's one other good thing to reflect on, and that's the crowd at the game. Males no longer have the monopoly on the field, and we no longer have the monopoly on looking goofy in the stands. The female fans in the Rose Bowl had logos and flags painted on their faces and the letters U-S-A on their bare midriffs -- a lot more attractive than your average shirtless guy with his hairy beer gut hanging out at an NFL game, by far.

Even more proof of something we all should have realized a long time ago. The more women in the stadium, the better!