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Why This Year Proved to be the Best for Women in Sports

Saturday, August 29, 2015

 

The big Seattle Seahawks news this week is that Russ drinks enhanced water and Kam still hasn’t shown up, so I’ll just go ahead and keep my NFL two cents in my pocket for now. You know what is really exciting, though? More exciting than recovery water, even? The fact this year already proved itself the best for women in sports, and despite plenty of media attention, the potential impact is completely understated. Allow me to state more things:

There’s American Soccer, then there’s American Men’s Soccer

Female athletes are no strangers to jokes. Hell, soccer in the U.S. is no stranger to mockery either. I could fill this page with hyperlinks solely from nightly talk show monologues about it. That doesn’t change the fact the World Cup Champs unequivocally play better soccer than the men and are way, way more entertaining to watch (let’s just say that the Pacific Northwest is light years ahead of everyone else on this given the outstanding crowds male and female soccer teams play for there). Several of the gold medalists play right in our backyards: Hope Solo and Megan Rapinoe for the Seattle Reign FC and the Portland Thorns FC have Tobin Heath and Alex Morgan. Teammates like Sydney Leroux go to the press to ask why women are given less money and crappy turf fields to play on, and people pay attention. And your daughters live in a world where Abby Wambach can celebrate with a hug and kiss from her wife. And Carli Lloyd is now a household name because her hybrid Odell/David Beckham moves. Though I still adore Mia Hamm and Brandi Chastain, the women I got to look up to, everyone still remembers the sports bra of all things. 

Serena Williams

The athletic prowess this woman possesses is extraterrestrial. Williams is 33, and since she turned pro just two days shy of her 14th birthday, that means she’s about to celebrate 20 years in the big leagues. Ranking in July 2002: No. 1. Ranking today: No. 1. Poised to top Steffi Graf as the GOAT in women’s tennis (and arguably the entire sport), Serena’s presence dictated a higher standard of play for all other tennis pros. She’s a wonderful example of how you don’t have to fit the hetero-normative standard for beauty in this country to be a marketable athlete (which has impacted features in ‘The Body Issue’ and changed modeling for the better), despite taking heat from internet trolls. Instead, she teaches girls to be fearless in their endeavors and let the negativity roll off their shoulders. Plus, JK Rowling has her back. Does anybody really talk about Anna Kournikova anymore? Just saying.   

Women in the NFL

Jen Welter became the first known female coach in the NFL this summer. Granted it’s an internship-style position and probably not as important as Becky Hammon’s role with the San Antonio Spurs basketball team, but football is the meatiest of meathead sports. Unlike basketball, girls don’t often grow up throwing around the pigskin (what, were we supposed to have aspirations of joining the Lingerie Football League? No thanks). And you know who Welter was photographed with not that long ago? Sarah Thomas, the first female NFL referee. It’s true people; it only took until 2015 to realize that women have eyes and can see things happen too! In all seriousness, they’ve cracked the glass ceiling and that young women and girls can at least entertain the idea of pursuing such a career makes the athletic world a better place. 

Ronda Rousey

I can understand why parents might not really want their daughters watching UFC fights, but they certainly can’t deny her wit, tact, class and advocacy even if it comes from a gal who makes a living knocking other ladies’ lights out. I grew up during the ‘heroin chic’ phenomenon, which proved to be devastating to the self-esteem of young women and adolescents everywhere. Ronda makes strength, muscle and health cool. She may not know it, but merely existing may help save girls everywhere from the “sweat til’ you’re a stick’ exercise culture that’s hopefully waned. She is also the most important public figure to stand up and call out Floyd Mayweather for his misogynistic and abusive behavior rather than passively accepting it as so many have done with shoulder shrugs. 

There’s still progress to be made; there’s always progress to be made. But how exciting it must be to be a girl growing up with so much female positivity, on the right side of history. Let’s hope the momentum propels these future athletes into a world of equal pay (or at the very least, some real grass on their fields).  

GoLocalPDX partner Oregon Sports News: Since 2011, Oregon Sports News has provided entertaining, hard-hitting local sports news & commentary every weekday. To read more from this author, check out Oregon Sports News here.

 

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