The prize money.
The models with medals.
It’s what makes this so damn sweet.
They hold down second jobs. Even the stars live with host families. They play their biggest tournament on turf, while their own organization lays down millions of dollars in sod for even the lowliest of one-day men’s friendlies.
The men’s teams have to overcome other countries.
The women’s teams, all of them, have to first overcome their own.
Yet, the ratings told the story. The final was the most watched soccer game in US history, men’s or women’s, and we once again have an answer to the question we already know: Are women’s sports not on because no one watches, or does no one watch because they’re not on?
Show the games.
Show the games and people watch, people watch in astounding, record-breaking numbers. People will watch in numbers that destroy the championships of other sports.
Show the games and watch as sons and daughters stand and cheer and shake their fists in wild celebrations.
I usually have a pretty good handle on perspective when it comes to sports. I enjoy them as much as the next person but realize there are more important issues in the world, and sports are just a fun diversion that allow you to cheer.
Except, of course, for this team. Which is how I ended up in the ER after O’Hara’s goal, because I jumped up and flailed around and smashed my elbow through a glass door pane, requiring 12 stitches and countless hours of whining.
This team, and women’s soccer in general, feels almost linked to something deeper — which is why we show up at high school and college games, or watch shitty, pirated youtube feeds of our national team when the men’s team is usually aired on national TV, or why we travel to support the NWSL. (I still predict the Dash will take it, and I think Carli and Morgan just proved my point.) It feels like it’s linked somehow to all the endless parades of bullshit women face in society in general — blame FIFA if you want, but apparently we’re OK as a society with lower pay for the same job regardless of the profession. It shouldn’t be surprising.
So the victory feels like something more, because you know behind the scenes from youth teams to the national teams to the world cup tournament itself, these women had to overcome obstacles just never faced or even fathomed by the men’s side.
We happened to be in New York this week, and so of course we went to the parade. Of course. Emme and I managed to slip into a miraculously uncrowded spot near City Hall and just about chatted with some players. Alex Morgan told us she wouldn’t be playing with the Thorns today. Heather O’Reilly appreciated Emme’s #9 jersey (“I didn’t want to tell her it’s Vero’s.”)
To stand there and hear the deafening roar of the parade crowds, to feel the sidewalks and rails groan under the weight of chanting, cheering throngs of firework bedecked mobs, to watch as women are paraded as heroes for their amazing abilities, it’s something I’m sure we’ll both remember for a long time to come as a moment that just felt so damn sweet.