With a massive win under their belt, the U.S. Women's Soccer team, which took home the 2015 Women's World Cup on Sunday in a 5-2 victory against Japan, has everything to boast about. Soccer (or "football," as any international fan will quickly remind you) has begun its slow domination of a wide fan berth over the past few decades here in the United States, racketing up to number five on a January 2015 Harris Poll of America's favorite sports. Of course, that's just men's soccer. Women's soccer, unfortunately, came in at No. 15. With all the recent, incredible showings by so many female athletes around the world, women's sports indisputably deserve a little more love.
A number of issues pop up when discussing the success of women's sports, however. The tide of sexist attitudes toward female athletes and women's teams has cause a lot of heartache for not only the athletes themselves, but the little girls watching them as well, teaching them that a woman's place is not on the field or court, but "in the kitchen" or dressed in sultry outfits. And even if one of those little girls makes it to college with enough athletic backing to earn her a coveted spot on the university's basketball team, there's no telling whether she'll actually get the scholarship she needs to continue her studies, training sessions, and games without crumpling from stress over having to also find a job to pay for all of it.
A Time magazine op-ed by Southern Utah University Economics Professor David Berri on Monday suggested a number of reasons women were less likely to be recognized for their athleticism, including myths about their skills that are patently false, and that they just weren't featured as prominently as men's sports... basically anywhere at all.
Many of these assumptions about women’s skills don't match reality. It is true that WNBA players don’t dunk very often. The same, though, was also true for John Wooden's championship UCLA teams and reigning NBA MVP Stephen Curry. But on shots that aren’t dunks, WNBA players have the same effective field goal percentage as NBA players.
... When we turn to the professional ranks, [a supportive] fan base takes time to develop. ... A fan has to make the investment of time to get to know the players. In sports, familiarity breeds interest: If you don’t know who you are watching, it’s hard to be invested in the outcome of the game.
With Berri's words in mind, and the U.S. Women's Soccer team's ferocious victory still lingering heavy in the air, here are a few more women's sports we'd like to see be given their day in the sun.
Okay, I might be a little biased on this one, but women's cycling totally deserves more attention. With epic road races like the Giro Rosa (the women's alternative to the famed Giro d'Italia) and the highly strategic Tour of Flanders, which features a litany of tough, steep short climbs that tire even the best of them, the women who complete them are monsters of athleticism and endurance who absolutely need more screen time.
Worse than the fact that they're hardly ever featured in the media is the conditions under which so many of them take to the road. While the majority of men's cycling teams are fully backed by regular base-salaries and dedicated soigneurs (team assistants who care for the riders and run more errands than the most exhausted mother), most women's teams are made up of poorly paid athletes (a 2013 Women's Cycling study discovered that over half are paid less than $3,000 a year) who have to do it all on their own — in addition to having a regular job.
It's 2015, guys. If you're not going to feature them in the media, at least give them a living wage for their skills.
Um, have you seen the way these majestic athletes throw their weight around (literally)? Probably not. According to a Purdue University and University of Southern California study published in June, networks like ESPN devote only 2 percent of their airtime to women's sports. It's a real shame, considering that we seem to love badass women in theory. Just take a look at the box-office numbers of films like Mad Max: Fury Road and the Divergent series (respectively the No. 10 and No. 12 films of 2015 so far) and you'll see what I mean.
Even dedicated mixed martial arts fans — an arena overflowing with muscular, blood-stained super-dudes — will tell you the ladies deserve more attention than they get.
"[Bantamweight Champion Ronda Rousey] may be the most dominant female athlete I have ever seen," one fan told NYU News in an interview this past March. "She beat someone in 16 seconds, then beat her next opponent in 14. What she’s doing right now, I don’t think anyone has ever seen before."
When men and women can agree that female athletes totally kick ass, it's probably time that the networks get with the program.
Baseball always gets all the attention (and I say this as lovingly as I can, given my status as a big baseball fan myself), but there's no denying that female hitters and pitchers are just as capable of knocking you out with their athleticism and gamesmanship as the boys. When a Major League Baseball team happens to win the World Series, it's as if the world just won a battle against a race of Moon invaders desperate to take over the earth — there are parades, trophies, rings, fireworks, and confetti. When the U.S. women's softball team similarly wins a huge game against Japan... wait, the U.S. women's softball team won the World Series final against Japan?
In case you missed it (and you totally did, don't deny it), the U.S. women's softball team scored a huge victory this weekend too — deftly outscoring the Japanese team 6-1 to take home the international title — their second straight title and the eighth in World Cup history.
Of course, the naysayers will tell you softball's not as exciting as baseball because the players aren't as talented or capable as the men. Except that they are — and they can prove that to you. Just check out this video of powerhouse Olympic gold medalist (yup, they won the gold in 2004, plus a silver in 2008) Jenni Finch striking out the mighty Albert Pujols, currently of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
Images: Getty Images (4)