This weekend I came across an article regarding women’s soccer in this country and how its existence could possibly hinder the growth of the men’s game in this country. I’m not that great paraphrasing so here, in the author’s own words:
“Do I admire the courage and skill of the women in the WPS, and for those who play for our National Team? Absolutely.
But do I think the league can be a success? Wait, do I even want the league to be a success? Not really. In fact, there have been moments where I just wish it would go away.”
Essentially the author goes on to say that he’ll only consider supporting WPS and the United States Women’s National Team when MLS begins to thrive. But until then, never mind the womenfolk.
Now, I’m sure the author is quite nice in real life. I’m sure he was not being disingenuous when he invoked his daughter and how he mentioned that he wanted her to be anything she wanted to be. Hence, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and say he didn’t intend to come off as a flaming sexist in his presentation of an ultimately baseless argument.
And to those who are reading this with an X chromosome: never mind that burning sensation in your gut right now. His argument actually isn’t sexist. But even if you believe this, that’s not what ultimately does his thesis in.
I truly don’t mind his decision to not support WPS. Take a look at 2010’s attendance figures so far. Few people seem to anyway. His apathy towards the league is likely tantamount to my apathy towards MLS. I don’t much care for the league and its goofy idiosyncrasies. I support the Houston Dynamo because I park my car at Robertson Stadium and pass by it during my walk to class every weekday. Sometimes I even cross paths with Pat Onstad. It’s easy, it’s convenient and I’m a fan of the sport on principle. But do I care about MLS and its growth in this country? Not really. Obviously my lack of enthusiasm for MLS is not rooted in sexism.
The same can likely be said for the author’s own lack of enthusiasm for WPS. We each have our reasons for not being too enthusiastic about MLS and WPS respectively. And neither has to do with sexism.
But the point that irks me about the piece is the apparent notion that MLS is not thriving and women’s soccer is somehow at fault for this.
No, it can’t possibly be the fact that Major League Soccer is viewed largely as a retirement destination for the world’s top footballers because the worldwide perception is that American fans aren’t astute enough to know the difference anyway. Or its much-maligned single-entity structure. Or its silly post-season format where in which its annual champion hails from a contrived Conference format. Or that the league is still seen in many corners as a joke, or as this guy:
Nope, it must be the women.
What makes the thesis even stranger is that MLS has actually done quite well for itself of late. Attendances are up, media exposure is more prevalent, more top players are being wooed to these shores and the league continues to expand and not retract. In fact it’s nearly been a decade since an MLS franchise last folded. And heck, Manchester United are playing in the All-Star Game this July. Manchester United.
Meanwhile WPS continues to well, you know. I probably don’t need to mention the shuttering of two franchises in five months or how attendance figures have remained modest. And ‘modest’ is a kind adjective.
So MLS; what has WPS ever done to you? And how are the two leagues even remotely related? Are WPS fans really MLS fans and vice versa? Are the leagues competing for the same market share? And if so, why would that be an issue?
The author rues the fact that less than 14,000 showed up at Red Bull Arena to watch Juventus play an exhibition match. And this is a further reason why WPS should cease to exist because uh, yeah, idk. It’s not like would-be attendees of the match made their way down to Piscataway to watch Sky Blue FC play instead.
Believe it or not, it’s not WPS that’s standing in the way of MLS gaining access into the Big Four of American sports. The league is too busy trying to stand on its two feet to be worrying about how to screw over Don Garber and Co.
Essentially, the argument reeks of the neurotic inferiority complex that so many American soccer fans seem to innately posses. Perhaps that’s what supporting a sport that is still not taken seriously by our compatriots does to you. There always has to be a scapegoat for the stagnated growth of soccer in the U.S. Why isn’t MLS selling out the Meadowlands every weekend and why aren’t the likes of Lionel Messi, Didier Drogba and Juan Sebastian Veron here plying their trade in Frisco or Commerce City? Forget the generations of cultural histrionics of soccer in this country. It’s gotta be because of Tonya Antonucci and Lori Lindsey. What else.
It’s fascinating (and a little disheartening) to see this self-conscious neurosis surface in an attempt to illegitimatize a fledgling women’s league. Don’t want to support WPS? That’s cool. But don’t cook up a ridiculous theory as to why it’s hurting the growth of MLS or the men’s game.
Women’s soccer is struggling as it in this country. The last thing we need is a ribbing from our older brother.