Coddling Women Athletes?

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Coddling Women Athletes?

Here is Bryant Gumbel on the “coddling” of the fair maidens of the U.S. women’s soccer team, from his closing commentary on HBO’s “Real Sports” tonight:

“Finally tonight, can we stop coddling women in sports? Are we now so fearful of being labeled sexist that we can’t objectively assess the efforts of female athletes? Those are both valid questions that have come to the fore in the wake of the patronizing reactions that have followed the USA’s loss to Japan in the Women’s World Cup soccer final.

For the record, in the final, a very determined but unheralded Japanese team won the championship, upsetting a U.S. team that was heavily favored and ranked number one in the world of Women’s Soccer. En route to the loss, the American women failed to cash in on a wealth of early scoring chances, twice blew late leads with sloppy mistakes, and then got badly outclassed in penalty kicks.

Had a men’s team turned in a similar performance, papers and pundits nationwide would have had a field day assailing the players, criticizing the coach, and demanding widespread changes to a men’s national team that flat out choked. Yet the common reaction to this ladies’ loss were simply expressions of empathy for the defeat of the unfortunate darlings and pride in their oh-so-heroic effort.

Look, I have no desire to see anyone assail the women’s game or their athletes unfairly. But if the definition of true equality is treating folks honestly, without regard for race or gender, then it’s time we started critiquing women athletes in the same way we do the men. I’m sure some won’t like it, but blind praise is worthless in the absence of fair criticism.

-
HBO’s Bryant Gumbel would prefer that we stop “coddling” the Women’s World Cup silver medalists. @sportswatch

Via Neil Best, Newsday

Opinions? Do you agree with Gumbel that the media is loathe to criticize women athletes in the way that they do men? Do you agree that the US Women's world cup team got off light in criticism or claims of "choking" or letting the country down simply because they are women?

KimPossible's picture
Joined: 05/24/06
Posts: 3312

Very interesting.

You know, after the game was over, the few people i know that are soccer fans posted stuff on FB. And it most definitely struck me that the tone of these posts was very different than what you typically see when your team loses.

I saw many. "Oh Too bad USA, Good Game!" and the like.

I originally attributed it to a soccer culture that i don't know much about, but that doesn't seem accurate given how intense most soccer fans world wide are.

It honestly did NOT occur to me that it was because they are female. But I can totally see how that might be true. I haven't read many articles about the USA loss so i don't know how true it is that they got off light. But I would believe it if someone told me that.

My question would be though, is it because they are women? Or is it because soccer just isn't as popular here in the US and people just don't get riled up about it.

Spacers's picture
Joined: 12/29/03
Posts: 4100

My DH & I were talking about this a bit last night. We didn't see the game this weekend but a friend gave us a tape so DH & Tiven watched it together last night. DH is coaching Tiven's soccer team this season and they were critiquing the game as it went along. Even Tiven was shocked at some of the mistakes the team made; she even asked once why they didn't put better players in. DH said they seemed to go into the game assuming they would win easily, and then when they realized that they were going to have to actually fight for it, they weren't ready for it.

I don't think the politeness & empathy was a soccer thing. Gumbel is right, it's because they are women. I believe any men's team that went into a playoff game with the lack of mental focus and physical preparation that this team showed (seriously, did they even practice penalty kicks?) would be raked over the coals. Actually, I can't believe that any men's team would ever go into a playoff game with that lack of mental focus and physical preparation, because to assume you've won a game you haven't played isn't a notion that men entertain. It seemed that these women were playing this game simply to be crowned the winner, and not because they were ready to play a good game. I don't think men would do that. Look at the 1980 Olympic hockey "Miracle on Ice." The Russians had been essentially declared the winners before The Games began, and yet they were well-prepared and played a damned good game against a bunch of amateur Americans that no one really considered a contender. The Russians lost, but not because they played a bad game.

momW's picture
Joined: 09/29/09
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"Spacers" wrote:

Actually, I can't believe that any men's team would ever go into a playoff game with that lack of mental focus and physical preparation, because to assume you've won a game you haven't played isn't a notion that men entertain.

Really, cause it seems like my college basketball team always goes into March Madness with a lack focus they didn't show during the regular season! And for the record, I do in fact spend the evening of the first game cussing like a sailor at them for being so freaking unprepared! Dang it, now I'm flamed again about this last season.

The only women's sport I watch is college volleyball and I've heard the sports commentators rag on a team that blew what should've been an easy win. I, not only, don't care for soccer, but honestly am so far out of the loop on the news that I only heard a little about the soccer game. The article makes some good points though. I'll be curious to see what everyone else thinks about it.

Joined: 05/31/06
Posts: 4780

"Spacers" wrote:

Actually, I can't believe that any men's team would ever go into a playoff game with that lack of mental focus and physical preparation, because to assume you've won a game you haven't played isn't a notion that men entertain. .

Really? 1980 Russia Vs. USA?

Villanova Georgetown 1985?

Greg Norman 1996?

I could list a million more but you get the idea. For someone who is as anti gender stereotyping as you are this seems like a huge generalization!

I totally agree with Bryant. While I am glad the US Womens soccer is getting some attention and whatnot, they choked, pure and simple. Japan outplayed them, because they let them. The lack of criticism has been astonishing to me.

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"Potter75" wrote:

Really? 1980 Russia Vs. USA?

For someone who is as anti gender stereotyping as you are this seems like a huge generalization!

I mentioned that game. It's true that most of the best Russian players rested the day before instead of training, but that's how they had trained, quite successfully, for two decades. The Russians came in expecting to win, yes, but they didn't play that game poorly, and they didn't choke, they just got beat anyway. But I'll admit that I watched that game "live" (west coast tape delay for prime time) with a bunch of friends during a sleepover so perhaps the good company is coloring my experience. Blum 3

And yeah, I'm stereotyping. I tend to do that with athletics. :oops: Go Niners!

Joined: 03/14/09
Posts: 624

I saw a totally different reaction to the game, I guess.

On Twitter, it was basically people ripping on the looks of the players. This happens much more frequently than with men's teams (especially if David Beckham isn't debuting a new hairdo). There was an unbelievable amount of racism toward the Japanese team as well.

The soccer fans I know were mostly discussing whether the second Japanese goal was luck or not. Which is pretty much as it would be in a men's game.

Joined: 05/31/06
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"Spacers" wrote:

I mentioned that game. It's true that most of the best Russian players rested the day before instead of training, but that's how they had trained, quite successfully, for two decades. The Russians came in expecting to win, yes, but they didn't play that game poorly, and they didn't choke, they just got beat anyway. But I'll admit that I watched that game "live" (west coast tape delay for prime time) with a bunch of friends during a sleepover so perhaps the good company is coloring my experience. Blum 3

And yeah, I'm stereotyping. I tend to do that with athletics. :oops: Go Niners!

I have a different take on that game, which involves being caught flatfooted, refusing to acknowledge the strengths or strategy of ones opponent, and arrogance due to the thought of being invincible (pulling the goalie)......but that is a total tangent.

I agree that you seem to do it with athletics......... as I think that all people do it, like I have stated in many debates Smile I'm one of those "happy to admit I do it in xyz whatever category" people. As a woman, and an athlete, however, I think that you are dead wrong in your sexist stereotype regarding women athletes.

BLather, I didn't see racism (from my limited USA perspective, but I bet you did and that makes me sad), but I surely did see a lot of sexism! No question that Solo was all the rage in commentary due to her looks.

KimPossible's picture
Joined: 05/24/06
Posts: 3312

"Spacers" wrote:

Actually, I can't believe that any men's team would ever go into a playoff game with that lack of mental focus and physical preparation, because to assume you've won a game you haven't played isn't a notion that men entertain.

I can't believe you suggested that this is something men wouldn't do, but women do.

This type of thing has happened in men's sports a lot. I think thats a really sexist comment! Even given the context and your single example of the Hockey game, thats just a really sexist thing to say IMO.

Place i see it happen most often with male's is NCAA men's basketball.

KimPossible's picture
Joined: 05/24/06
Posts: 3312

"blather" wrote:

I saw a totally different reaction to the game, I guess.

On Twitter, it was basically people ripping on the looks of the players. This happens much more frequently than with men's teams (especially if David Beckham isn't debuting a new hairdo). There was an unbelievable amount of racism toward the Japanese team as well.

The soccer fans I know were mostly discussing whether the second Japanese goal was luck or not. Which is pretty much as it would be in a men's game.

Yep. I had a FB friend who made such a comment....

"So im watching the replay of this world cup match and it seems obvious to me that the japanese cheated by using men"

Joined: 03/14/09
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"Potter75" wrote:

BLather, I didn't see racism (from my limited USA perspective, but I bet you did and that makes me sad), but I surely did see a lot of sexism! No question that Solo was all the rage in commentary due to her looks.

It was just Twitter that was pissing me off. Both "Pearl Harbor" and "Japs" were trending topics on Twitter. Sad

I think that there is always a lot of attention given to women of a certain type of looks, regardless of her talent (although Solo is amazing). Just think of Anna Kournikova. She never did well on the tennis circuit but outshone many more talented players in the media.

KimPossible's picture
Joined: 05/24/06
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"blather" wrote:

It was just Twitter that was pissing me off. Both "Pearl Harbor" and "Japs" were trending topics on Twitter. Sad

I think that there is always a lot of attention given to women of a certain type of looks, regardless of her talent (although Solo is amazing). Just think of Anna Kournikova. She never did well on the tennis circuit but outshone many more talented players in the media.

Which drove me insane because not only was she not so phenomenal at tennis, but she had a horrible personality too. She was extremely arrogant. Here only redeeming quality (that a public eye could discern) came in the form of subjective physical beauty.

MissyJ's picture
Joined: 01/31/02
Posts: 3214

I live with a host of soccer fanatics. Their friends -- also soccer fanatics. They admire the skill and heart of a team, regardless of the gender, although they generally watch the men's teams. They watched a lot of the Women's World Cup (and all the Team USA games) which meant "I" got to since my desk is in the family room with the TV. They also have watched them prior to the WWC. The consensus here getting to the finals, that the women played much better than they showcased in the final. I think they were surprised a few times by their competition, but they didn't give up, back down, and gave the appearance of being able to unify and do what was needed to win the game. The semi-final game against France also came down to penalty kicks(pk's). They did outstanding.

In the final, however, I don't know what happened. Gumbel is right that they had multiple (read MANY) scoring opportunities within the first part of the game. They had significantly more time in possession of the ball during the first 30 min of the game.. but couldn't finish. Most of their shots on goal, as perhaps Spacers can attest, were not just near misses -- they were wide by a long shot or more like kicks for a field goal -- sailing over the goal and into the crowds. Later, were just silly mistakes that they made... again and again. It was like once they had that confidence shaken, they just could not recover and lost composure. I would venture a guess that notion that they did suffer from "we can't possibly lose this" mentality.

I will *possibly* give the goalie a little break on the PK's as she was supposedly injured within the last minutes of the regulation time... but she obviously declared she was up to the challenge. She couldn't stop the ball even when she did anticipate correctly which way it was going. Still, the game should have NEVER come down to the PK's.

I absolutely do believe that Gumbel has a point on the sports media coverage and public opinions after the game. Kim, I don't think that it had to do with the soccer culture here in the U.S. as while obviously it is not as big as other sports, it has grown. I believe that it was due to them being women. They received far lighter scrutiny and criticism than what was said about the Men's National Team's defeat in their match and loss against Mexico several weeks ago in the Gold Cup final. The men received a lot of harsh criticism - were called sloppy, chastised for their lack of control of the ball, and just not prepared. (All fairly true commentary btw although there were some bad calls and I did find it in poor taste that in Pasedena, CA that they had to endure the USA national anthem having boo's but that's another topic.)

The Gold Cup final was an important game but still not of the caliber of the World Cup... yet with both national USA teams losing in their final respective games, in most of the sports commentary on TV for the WWC (I didn't read articles) the women were offered consolation (the *pressure* of being compared to the 1999 team was 'too much of a burden to place on them' type of coverage) whereas almost all the coverage the U.S. Men received flat out said they choked.

One thing that I do love was that the U.S. Women's team did offer inspiration to young girls to feel that they *could* aspire to whatever high goals they set. I absolutely LOVED this commercial by NIKE that I want ALL my children to keep in mind when they are met with challenges (pressure):

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"KimPossible" wrote:

Which drove me insane because not only was she not so phenomenal at tennis, but she had a horrible personality too. She was extremely arrogant. Here only redeeming quality (that a public eye could discern) came in the form of subjective physical beauty.

She also dumped Pavel Bure. Pavel Bure!!!! The most amazing specimen of male beauty ever. So she's an idiot.

I can't criticize the women's US team too much. They played well in the first half of the game, but the Japanese women were better in the second. The Japanese women tend to come back really well when they are down, it's like the pressure props them up. The Japanese women outplayed the US team and deserved that fantastic win. Smile

The game was a nailbiter and what more can you ask? I was up at 3am to watch it and it was worth it.

Joined: 03/14/09
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This is an example of the horrifying things on Facebook after the Japanese women won.

momW's picture
Joined: 09/29/09
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Sad

Joined: 05/31/06
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Reading those literally made my stomach lurch. Sick.

MissyJ's picture
Joined: 01/31/02
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Those comments are disgusting. They showcase the immaturity, ignorance, lack of understanding and compassion, and in many show a horrible sense of racist/sexist comments -- all in the name of being "funny" of course. :roll: They truly do not have a concept of the true horrors of a nuclear bomb going off in Hiroshima. Honestly, I don't know that anyone not living through it can fully grasp that reality and I'm praying none of us have to ever again.

My hope and belief, however, is that for all those senseless comments, that attitude is NOT reflective of the majority of U.S. citizens.

celticbandgeek's picture
Joined: 06/14/10
Posts: 950

Really horrible and appalling to read those. I do have to point out the interesting fact that those comments are almost exclusively from men (in that selection of quotes. It is possible there were many more from women out there.) Which brings me to my question on this discussion:

Is the problem that the media/public/etc is not hard enough of the women's sports teams or that they're too rabid and downright nasty about the men's?

I've seen several comments about the media and fans being too "polite" and that saying "Too bad. Good game!" was a bad thing. What does it say about our society and our overall sports obsession when politeness and good sportsmanship are a negative, and ripping people apart for their performance (in a GAME!) is a positive and something to be desired for all sports? There's a place for criticizing performance, and I have heard plenty of criticism of the USA performance in that game. Is the fact that it is done respectfully really a bad thing?

(I say that as a DIE HARD sports fan, who is just as tough on the men's games as everyone else. The discussion just made me consider the question.)

Joined: 05/31/06
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I don't think that politeness and good sportsmanship are seen as a negative at all! I think that the article more intended to point out the lack of actual critical analysis of the game, or an honest appraisal of the performance of our National team, in lieu of a lot of "oh well, good try, girls!".

Joined: 03/14/09
Posts: 624

"MissyJ" wrote:

My hope and belief, however, is that for all those senseless comments, that attitude is NOT reflective of the majority of U.S. citizens.

I don't think so at all. But one is too many.

Starryblue702's picture
Joined: 04/06/11
Posts: 5454

I don't follow soccor at all, but I would have to agree with Gumbel on this. If women want equality in sports then they need to be prepared to take whatever criticizm is deserved and comes their way... and the networks need not to walk on eggshells about it for fear of retaliation.