Alright, don't call me sexist, but this is something that I feel really ticked off about.

Mia Hamm. Received national attention in America for her goal-scoring prowess in the last few years. A star in the Women's World Cup soccer team. IMHO, pretty cute too. Idolized by little soccer girls all over the country. Endorsed most prominently by Nike and Gatorade. Pretty shy for a star, compared to the woman who performed the famous "shirt-ripping" incident when the US won the Women's World Cup. OK that's a pretty good overview of this admirable athlete.

Nothing against her, but I got angry at the way the media talked about her. Haven't men and women always been separated in sports, at least in the statistics records anyways? Why do I always hear drivel spouted on ESPN and the news hailing this woman as "the most prolific goal-scorer in international soccer history"? While this claim is technically correct, I think this is a cheap patriotic ploy aimed to cover up the horrible losses of the US men's team, which, as I recall, finished dead last in the World Cup 1998 in France.

It would have been OK if they said "the most prolific female goal-scorer". But no, they ostensibly ignored that little fact. While Pele has been praised as "the most prolific male goal-scorer in soccer history", Mia Hamm is placed above this guy by the US sports reporters, because, well, she scored more goals. And any person who knows soccer will realize how different womens' soccer is from mens'. And no, it's not sexist. It's a proven fact. Go out and watch a couple matches for yourself.

Alright, fine, they overlooked this. Big deal. But then, right after they bestow the honor onto Mia Hamm, they always spout a derisive little remark regarding Pele, who I think is the greatest player whose ever lived, having scored "only less than one hundred international goals" in his measly (Ha!) career, so this is obviously inferior to Mia Hamm's, what, over 110, at last count? Hogwash.

OK, if you have to be US-centric, fine. But don't start dissing other countries' national heroes in your patriotic fervor. These sports reporters are already bending the facts with their claims, but when they start talking trash about Pele, that really annoyed me. Please, don't try to cover up the American men's horrible international soccer performance by bashing other people.

DMan, you make some great points. Women's soccer is a far cry from men's talentwise (I'll quote Bruce Arena: "They couldn't beat our Under-17 team"). Simply watching the World Cup should make that intuitively obvious to even the casual soccer fan. Passing is not crisp, shots are not powerful, goaltenders are not quick, and there are only four or five teams with the talent to compete for the Women's World Cup. One could argue that Hamm's success stems from being a one eyed woman in the land of the blind.

However, you're way off base when you say that the touting of Hamm by the news media is "a cheap patriotic ploy aimed to cover up the horrible losses of the US men's team." If soccer was not the seventh most popular sport in America* (in terms of viewership, not participation), I might agree with this assessment. But the fact is, most Americans could care less about our soccer team, and covering up the until-recently pitiful men's team is the last thing on the minds of the American media. Take for example our 3-0 victory over Germany last year. It was on page 8 of the sports section the next day in Boston, while it was on the front page of almost every newspaper in Germany. It was a major embarassment for all German people, while in America it was an also-ran. It probably didn't even make the six o'clock news in most places.

Every professional soccer league launched in the United States (with the exception of the latest attempt, MLS), has failed, and failed miserably, due to lack of interest. A significant group of Americans feign interest when the World Cup comes around, but ask those same people what CONCACAF or Project-40 is, and they'll stare at you blankly. I'd reckon that 99% of Americans can't name more than two teams in our professional soccer league, let alone two players from outside the country. Outside of Pele on the Wheaties box back in the early eighties, soccer players and their sport received no advertising dollars and no lucrative contracts. Full time job playing soccer? Ha! Soccer is so new in this country, most towns did not have soccer program as little as twenty years ago.

While the American media is nothing if not US-centric, I doubt that they're intentionally trying to diss another country's heroes. The problem is that there is such a disparity between men and women in American sports (see: Title IX and Why female athletes are paid less than their male counterparts), the American media feels the need to make a huge story out of any American woman who accomplishes anything in sports. Had Cheryl Miller scored her 100 points in this new era, she would no doubt have been compared to Wilt Chamberlin. While I believe that achievements in sports, whether by men or women, are both worth cheering for, one has to take a look at the overall scope of the accomplishment.


* after baseball, football, hockey, basketball, golf, and auto racing.

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