What a Toxic Rout Tells Us about Women's Soccer

On Tuesday the U.S. Women’s National (soccer) Team (WNT) obliterated a hapless Thailand squad in a 13-0 rout.  That’s about 91-0 in football terms, but in a sense even worse, given soccer’s relative dearth of scoring.  It would not be worth noting, except that many present and former WNT players recently sued the U.S. Soccer Federation claiming disparate treatment and pay, and to the general championing of all things female in a supposed age of “toxic masculinity.” 

The game and the result might cause a reasonable observer to question popular progressive views on these issues, not because the U.S. women won, but how they did it. 

Regarding the lawsuit, the game pretty clearly demonstrated a big reason why women’s soccer is not equivalent to the men’s game, and so not as attractive financially -- it is not very competitive.  Nobody except diehard fans of the winning team (sometimes not even them) really enjoys watching such one-sided athletics.  It’s boring and uncomfortable.  Sally Jenkins at the Washington Post thinks otherwise, that the rout will be Exhibit 1 in the court case, but then Jenkins insisted until the very end that Lance Armstrong was legit (well, she co-wrote a book with him that she had to sell.)

This lack of competitive edge to the women’s game affects it at all levels, from youth leagues to international soccer.  It’s not the individual players’ fault, but it’s a fact.  I coached soccer for years (boys and girls.)  On the women/girls side, routs like what happened on Tuesday are relatively commonplace in many leagues, up to and including high school -- and obviously even after.  And while this happens on the boys/men’s side too, it is less common and exaggerated. 

So even leaving aside the issue of whether the men’s game is better in terms of speed/skill/aggression, the fact is generally the men’s game is more interesting and competitive more often.  That puts additional fannies in seats, people watching on TV, and generates greater income, which is reflected in pay.  Non-soccer aficionados may pooh-pooh the game’s rhythms and low scoring generally, but the fact is, first round games in the Men’s World Cup are far more interesting and exciting than the female version.  So the WNT did themselves no favor in their legal case by making a major shortcoming of the women’s game painfully obvious.

They also did themselves no favors winning over international fans (and a lot of on-the-fence Americans) by their graceless destruction of the Thailand ladies.   It’s not just that the WNT ran up the score, it’s that as they did so they acted as if they were heroes doing the impossible, rather than seasoned pros essentially carving up an amateur squad.  They screamed, danced, ran around crazily, slid on the ground and the like, after every one of those thirteen goals.  They didn’t act like children -- they acted worse than children.

That brought some criticism, and then push-back and claims of misogyny.  Abby Wambach, a former player and scoring leader sent an outraged tweet: “Stop judging these women with patriarchal glasses.  You would never say this about a men’s team.  Period.”   

Of course, male athletes across many sports are criticized for excessive celebration and in some, e.g., the NFL, are penalized for it.  The same is true in men’s soccer, where there is still plenty of demonstrative celebration (and injury faking -- one way in which the women’s game is superior) but generally limited on those rare occasions scoring gets out of hand. 

Some of the criticism was simply disguised anti-Americanism.  A Canadian player sniffed “…as a Canadian we would just never, ever think of doing something like that…” which I can believe from Canadians but c’mon, we’re talking about normal humans here, Americans can’t be held to Canadian standards, eh?  More broadly, the real question raised is why these women acted so, so what’s the word… toxic. Where was the empathy, the calming presence, the cooperative spirit that is supposed to conform so well to modern societies, as opposed to male trash-talking aggression?

Coming just a couple weeks after Meryl Streep’s unremarkable yet much-discussed revelation that “…women can be pretty f***king toxic…” too, the women’s performance ought to be a starting point in for conservative (men and women) battling progressive dogma, which equates men (or at least white men) to almost everything bad.

Only an idiot doesn’t understand that “toxic” behavior is a human trait, not a sexual one.  Unfortunately, there are a lot of those seeking the Democratic nomination, along with their media helpmates.  They should all be forced to watch that 13-0 massacre and then defend it on “The View.”   

On Tuesday the U.S. Women’s National (soccer) Team (WNT) obliterated a hapless Thailand squad in a 13-0 rout.  That’s about 91-0 in football terms, but in a sense even worse, given soccer’s relative dearth of scoring.  It would not be worth noting, except that many present and former WNT players recently sued the U.S. Soccer Federation claiming disparate treatment and pay, and to the general championing of all things female in a supposed age of “toxic masculinity.” 

The game and the result might cause a reasonable observer to question popular progressive views on these issues, not because the U.S. women won, but how they did it. 

Regarding the lawsuit, the game pretty clearly demonstrated a big reason why women’s soccer is not equivalent to the men’s game, and so not as attractive financially -- it is not very competitive.  Nobody except diehard fans of the winning team (sometimes not even them) really enjoys watching such one-sided athletics.  It’s boring and uncomfortable.  Sally Jenkins at the Washington Post thinks otherwise, that the rout will be Exhibit 1 in the court case, but then Jenkins insisted until the very end that Lance Armstrong was legit (well, she co-wrote a book with him that she had to sell.)

This lack of competitive edge to the women’s game affects it at all levels, from youth leagues to international soccer.  It’s not the individual players’ fault, but it’s a fact.  I coached soccer for years (boys and girls.)  On the women/girls side, routs like what happened on Tuesday are relatively commonplace in many leagues, up to and including high school -- and obviously even after.  And while this happens on the boys/men’s side too, it is less common and exaggerated. 

So even leaving aside the issue of whether the men’s game is better in terms of speed/skill/aggression, the fact is generally the men’s game is more interesting and competitive more often.  That puts additional fannies in seats, people watching on TV, and generates greater income, which is reflected in pay.  Non-soccer aficionados may pooh-pooh the game’s rhythms and low scoring generally, but the fact is, first round games in the Men’s World Cup are far more interesting and exciting than the female version.  So the WNT did themselves no favor in their legal case by making a major shortcoming of the women’s game painfully obvious.

They also did themselves no favors winning over international fans (and a lot of on-the-fence Americans) by their graceless destruction of the Thailand ladies.   It’s not just that the WNT ran up the score, it’s that as they did so they acted as if they were heroes doing the impossible, rather than seasoned pros essentially carving up an amateur squad.  They screamed, danced, ran around crazily, slid on the ground and the like, after every one of those thirteen goals.  They didn’t act like children -- they acted worse than children.

That brought some criticism, and then push-back and claims of misogyny.  Abby Wambach, a former player and scoring leader sent an outraged tweet: “Stop judging these women with patriarchal glasses.  You would never say this about a men’s team.  Period.”   

Of course, male athletes across many sports are criticized for excessive celebration and in some, e.g., the NFL, are penalized for it.  The same is true in men’s soccer, where there is still plenty of demonstrative celebration (and injury faking -- one way in which the women’s game is superior) but generally limited on those rare occasions scoring gets out of hand. 

Some of the criticism was simply disguised anti-Americanism.  A Canadian player sniffed “…as a Canadian we would just never, ever think of doing something like that…” which I can believe from Canadians but c’mon, we’re talking about normal humans here, Americans can’t be held to Canadian standards, eh?  More broadly, the real question raised is why these women acted so, so what’s the word… toxic. Where was the empathy, the calming presence, the cooperative spirit that is supposed to conform so well to modern societies, as opposed to male trash-talking aggression?

Coming just a couple weeks after Meryl Streep’s unremarkable yet much-discussed revelation that “…women can be pretty f***king toxic…” too, the women’s performance ought to be a starting point in for conservative (men and women) battling progressive dogma, which equates men (or at least white men) to almost everything bad.

Only an idiot doesn’t understand that “toxic” behavior is a human trait, not a sexual one.  Unfortunately, there are a lot of those seeking the Democratic nomination, along with their media helpmates.  They should all be forced to watch that 13-0 massacre and then defend it on “The View.”