Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Women's Soccer And The 8-Year-Old Problem

Winning the generation
So now that all of the hoopla and parades and everything else, including the monster ratings are in... I feel like I've finally got something to say about the USWNT win in the Women's World Cup. Namely, that knowing that you are on the tail end of a trend and demographic movement is not much fun, but also, alas, not terribly fixable.

I want you to think about your sporting allegiances now. Keep them to the sports you currently care about; for the purposes of this blog, that's the NBA, NFL and MLB, in that rough order. Now, answer this question: when did you choose to be a fan of each team?

For most of us, it was *never* a choice. I rooted for the teams that everyone else in my family, specifically my older brother, rooted for. It was also in a time before making any choice but the local club was more or less impossible, in that it dates back to when I was 5 and 7 and 9, watching Phillies teams that all of the adults seemed grateful to be good, Eagles teams that were slowly building to something almost good enough, and Sixer teams where no one ever lost their heart, because the freaking Celtics and Lakers always crushed our hearts.

Was there ever an option for anything else? No. My family was from here, their ancestors were from here, and going against the grain to be contrarian twats isn't part of our DNA. So those were our teams, and the NHL Flyers as much or as more than any, and that's pretty much how everything ran for 15 years, other than a thoroughly enjoyable mini-run with the USFL Stars and when I was there, Syracuse Orangemen.

When I entered my mid-20s, some tumultuous stuff happened. College and marrying the wrong person sped up an alienation process that was well on its way of already happening. Various strikes crippled MLB and the NHL in particular. I shed much of the racism that still grips some of my kinfolk, which made the NBA more attractive, and the NHL, even less so. I developed obsessive hobbies and careers that took time away from sports, and the Phillies stopped trying to win games until the community gave in to terrorism and bought them a stadium. When the dust cleared, and I was in my 30s, I was in Northern California, having renounced the Flyers and the NHL, and the Phillies and MLB.

I got back into fantasy leagues after a 10+ year absence to add friends locally, developed a crush on the A's that persists to this day. Rooting for the Phillies still feels hollow, but when they were good, well, sure. The Eagles had another not good enough renaissance, and while I'd love to quit the NFL for any number of reasons, I'm not going to. I'm too old.

Now that I've taken you through that history, consider the following.

I've added one new team -- the A's -- in my life by choice, and even that was basically a local thing.

I've added no new sports since I was a child, and did not grow up caring about soccer / futbol.

I've had any number of chances to add sports to the mix. Syracuse exposes you to lacrosse. I have no doubt that if I had grown up there, I'd care a lot about it, and would have probably played it. I golf for recreation, but didn't grow up watching it, so whether or not Tiger Woods gets his groove back, I don't really care that much. The Olympics mattered the same to me as anyone in 1980 and 1984, but that faded fast. Boxing was great when I was a kid, but I didn't care that much about it, and remembered all of my relatives saying horrifying things about Muhammad Ali, so, well, pass.

Finally, this. None of the sports I watched in the peak period of determining what I was going to watch -- pre-teen, pre-women, pre-music, pre-career, when the free time was at a maximum -- was played by women.

I don't think any of us, for the most part, care about sports unless they became part of who we were before we could, well, even be aware of what we were choosing to be. (Insert your telling aside about religion here.) So the kids of today, who play soccer and see the women do the job, at least in this country, better than the men? Might care about it for the rest of their lives. The same way that the kids of today are going to think women stand-up comedians are just as good or better than the men (right now, they very well might be, but that's a post for another day). Or how kids in the early 90s who were really into the Alanis Morissette / PJ Harvey / Liz Phair axis of women who rock didn't grow up with any weirdness over who could and couldn't be in the band.

Equality begins in the young, even if you are self-conscious enough to know better. I didn't watch very much of the women's world cup, not because I wasn't hoping they would win, or that I had anything against their game.

I had just missed it, and was too old and busy now to make time for it.

There are a lot of people who fall into that sort of classification, but it's not about numbers vs. numbers.

Because the people who did watch that, and who were genuinely into it?

Were not wrong.

And will be around the scene, and buying stuff shown in the ads, a lot longer than I will be...

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