- - Tuesday, July 9, 2019

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

If you watched any of the United States Women’s win in the World Cup, you may not have realized you were signing up for a cause. Probably didn’t know you were committing your time and money.

Maybe you thought you were just watching a soccer game.

Or, you tuned-in because you wanted to root for the United States in an event, any event. If your country was competing in a demolition derby, you’d watch that too, because it’s fun to root for your country.

But no, it isn’t that simple, is it. There is much more expected of the fledgling American soccer fan.

You now carry with you the responsibility for the success or failure of professional women’s soccer in the U.S.



It’s on you.

Less than 24 hours after the women’s inspiring victory, the message went from celebrating a national victory to scolding everyone for failing to support women’s professional soccer.

“So what can you do to support the U.S. women?” tweeted Darren Rovell of the Action Network to his 2 million followers. “Start by going to National Women Soccer League games. Some of those attendance [figures] at those games are not indicative of the throngs of people who say they love the game come World Cup time. If you believe in the sport and the game, show up.”

Then there was Budweiser.

After the win, the company announced it is now a sponsor of the National Women’s Soccer League — a move made out of a sense of social responsibility, presumably.

The beer maker then took out a full-page ad in The New York Times that basically begged people to keep watching women’s soccer.

“The world will watch them play today. Who will watch them play tomorrow?” the headline on the ad read.

They made that plea because they know who watched them play yesterday, before the World Cup began.

No one.

“Tomorrow the women of the U.S. National Team will return to their club teams in the National Women’s Soccer League and many don’t realize they play these games in front of empty stadiums,” the ad reads. “It’s the best women’s soccer league. It’s in our own backyard yet we let it go unwatched. How can we support the U.S. Women’s National Team if we don’t support the women’s game?”

And you thought you were just having fun with some friends.

What the American women accomplished was great. It was inspiring. They should be celebrated and they will be with a ticker-tape parade along the “Canyon of Heroes” in New York.

They captured the hearts of many who watched.

But I’m guessing most who did watch didn’t know this was a shotgun wedding and they were being dragged to the altar.

This notion that there is some sort of moral obligation to support women’s professional soccer is a familiar refrain about women’s sports. They are not covered enough. They are not featured enough. They are not supported enough.

Maybe because not enough people care. That may seem unfair, but there is no Title IX in professional sports. It’s a free-market arena, based on the decisions of fans.

We are talking about people’s choices for how they spend their limited leisure time and their limited entertainment dollars. People typically make those commitments about things they care about. Those decisions may change over the course of time, but you can’t shame people into liking your product.

That’s the message now — you need to care more than just chanting “USA, USA,” and rooting on the women in the World Cup. You need to commit your time and your wallet to women’s soccer.

Shame on you if you don’t.

The simple reality is that not enough Americans, men or women, care that much about soccer, whether the women’s game or the men’s.

If there’s an obligation to open up your wallet and pony up the cash to see women play, are people obligated to support Major League Soccer’s male athletes, too? Or is it just women’s soccer?

What about other women’s sports?

Should people start making choices about their entertainment dollars that include the WNBA — a league that has lasted 23 years thanks to a subsidy by the NBA? Average per-game WNBA attendance was down last year and has declined since 2010.

Do we have a moral obligation to support the WNBA as well?

If you feel that it is your duty to support women’s professional soccer, you can do so locally at Washington Spirit games.

The Spirit feature World Cup players Rose Lavelle and Mallory Pugh, and are fourth in the league with a 5-3-3 record. They are eighth in attendance in the nine-team league, averaging 2,990 fans per game. They play their games at the Maryland SoccerPlex, with their next home game 7 p.m. Saturday.

There you have it. Now do the right thing. It’s your responsibility.

Hear Thom Loverro on 106.7 The Fan Wednesday afternoons and Saturday and Sunday mornings and on the Kevin Sheehan Show podcast.

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