Soccer Fans or USA Fans?
What an emotional rollercoaster the USA Women’s National Team (USWNT) provided us with this past Sunday in the World Cup Final. I had the privilege of watching the game with my entire family; my one sister sitting in the corner of the couch biting her nails, my mother complaining as she used to on the sidelines of our games, and my father and I keeping quiet analyzing the game. After the game, unlike most of my friends I saw on Facebook, I took some time to process what exactly just happened instead of immediately reacting. Most initial reactions were “this was the worst display of penalty kicks I have ever seen in my life” or “if we only finished our chances in the first half we wouldn’t have come to penalties” and “given what Japan went through with the earthquakes, this is good for their country.” While these statements might hold some truth, I took a different approach and looked at the big picture. What a tournament! Could we have asked for a better final? What has this done for the game of soccer? What has this done for the women’s game?
During and after the game I couldn’t go a single line on Facebook or Twitter without seeing a post about the USWNT. Whether it was responding to a USA goal or complaining about a Japan goal, it was all about the USWNT. Some fascinating statistics to back this up include: Sunday’s World Cup Final broke a Twitter record for tweets per second (7,196), the game had more tweets than Osama bin Laden’s death in May, and there more tweets during the World Cup final than the Super Bowl this past February. USWNT keeper Hope Solo went from 10,000 Twitter followers to almost 200,000. And, Hope Solo and teammate Abby Wambach are scheduled to appear on Late Night with David Letterman tonight (The Miami Herald). What does this mean for women’s soccer in the United States?
Several USWNT players are scheduled to make their return to the WPS (Women’s Professional Soccer) league for team MagicJack on July 27th vs Sky Blue FC. Players include: Megan Rapinoe, Shannon Boxx, Christie Rampone, Becky Sauerbrunn, and backup keeper Jill Loyden. There have already been over 10,000 tickets sold and they are bringing in an additional 13,000 seats to Florida Atlantic University’s stadium. Will this be a continuous trend or is this just in response to the popularity the USWNT has gained from the 2011 World Cup?
As a fan of the game I hope this is a continuous trend. The players from the 2011 USA Women’s squad showed a tremendous amount of heart and are great role models for our youth. However, I fear that this might be an in the moment situation. Looking at Facebook and Twitter I noticed that a lot of the people responding to the USWNT success were friends of mine who have no real interest in the game of soccer, in fact, a lot of them were High School (American) football players who used to mock our beautiful game. A favorite of mine coming from a football player for F&M College, “1. never thought I’d be watching women’s soccer. 2.) never thought I’d cheer or be impressed. 3.) today changed my mind.” While being a positive comment, I can guarantee you he will not be seen at a WPS game in the near future.
That being said, I have been stuck debating with myself, were the people who contributed to the Twitter record fans of the game or were they just fans of USA? I find myself often watching the Olympics cheering for USA in sports I really have no interest. Was this the case for the USWNT or do you think this could be what the United States needed to help popularize the game in our home country?