Friday, July 15, 2011

2011 Women's World Cup is a Tough Sell in this House

Abby Wambach and Hope Solo grew up watching these games too.  It was the Summer of 1999.  For a short period of time, the Women's World Cup was the most important sporting event in the Country.  And when Brandi Chastain scored the winning Penalty Kick in the Championship game and tore off her soccer jersey, a cultural icon was born.  Everyone was excited that the U.S won; and the stars of that team - Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy and Chastain all became celebrities.  They were showing up everywhere that Summer and many would say that the 1999 team did more for soccer in the United States than any Men's U.S. World Cup team ever did. 

That feeling didn't last, however.  I don't know about you, but the 2003 and 2007 versions of the Women's World Cup failed to achieve the same level of fascination that the 1999 team did.  The only thing I remember from both of those tournaments combined was that there was talk about moving the Cup from China because of SARS or Birdflu or something like that.  See, not really that memorable.  For 2011 World Cup, FIFA officials were looking to garner more interest in the States than the last two Cups did.  Results have been mixed I think.  My twitter timeline is rarely filled with the World Cup Hashtags and if you take out ESPN from the equation (they have a financial incentive to make you care about the Cup), the media has tended to shy away from the event.

This despite the United States team advancing out of their group and begin medal play against Brazil.  In one of the most exciting games in Women's World Cup History, the United States beat Brazil on penalty kicks, despite the United States being down a woman and Brazil receiving a bogus second chance penalty kick after Hope Solo was called for leaving the goal line too early.  The tying goal on a header by U.S. hero Abby Wambach - from an unbelievable pass from Megan Rapinoe - could go down as one of the most beautiful goals in World Cup history - Men or Women.

I had my five year old sit down with me to watch the next game (on tape delay - hey, I work you know) against France to see if the game could hold her interest.  DLG likes soccer.  She wants to play soccer in the Fall with her friends.  Most importantly she wants to hang out with Dad. So we sit down to watch the game.  We have the best of all worlds because we can see all of the action, but skip through halftime and the inevitable diving/flopping injuries that always seem to occur.  I have Spongebob cued up on the DVR too - just in case this doesn't go well, but to prove my point, I move the clicker away from our couch.

1pm.  Home.  About 5 minutes into the game, the restlessness begins.  Despite all of my talking up of the game and the players, DLG started to wonder around our living room, looking for something better to do.  I tried cajoling her.  I tell her how no one in the United States like the French because they are so condescending, appealing to her vindictive side.  I tried sweet talking her with a little hint of parental guilt.  And I tried being stern with her.  Finally...FINALLY....I found the solution to the problem.

I put on SpongeBob Squarepants.

So what's the problem?  Well, she is 5 years old.  I understand that watching soccer on TV might not be that exciting.  Particularly when the yellow glow of a cartoon is waiting to be watched.  But is that really the issue?  I don't think name recognition is that much of a problem, since the normal American could probably name more people on the U.S. team (Abby Wambach and Hope Solo) than in all of men's soccer combined (David Beckham).

Maybe I will look into that issue more some day.  But for now, DLG wants me to watch SpongeBob and do arts and crafts with her.  Maybe in 2015.

photo courtesy of Washington Post

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