There are front-page stories in many major newspapers today, including both The New York Times and the Washington Post, about the U.S. women's soccer team win that advanced them to the World Cup finals.
The athletic feat was itself remarkable. What was perhaps more remarkable is that the news media is finally giving women's sports due attention.
We’re still a long way from any kind of news parity, when it comes to gender and sports. High school boys' teams sometimes get more coverage than college women’s teams, even when the women are winning and the boys are losing. Sports Illustrated, with its always big-selling "Swimsuit Issue,’" sends an insulting and consistent message that despite women’s contributions to professional and Olympic sports, a woman’s true contribution to the arena is pouting while she kneels in the sand, provocatively pulling down the bottoms of a small bikini with her thumb. Newspaper editors counter that there is simply more reader interest in sports played by males than females. But how can interest grow when it’s so difficult to find coverage of female-populated sports teams?
Title IX has done a great deal for girls and women, both on the field and off of it. While there are legitimate complaints about the interpretation and enforcement of the law (which requires equal access for both sexes in school and college sports), there is no question that Title IX has done wonders for getting girls and women more involved in sports. This is not only good for health reasons, but for the overall advancement of females in other arenas. The young girls playing soccer learn how to compete hard, how to work with a team, and how to be gracious in both victory and defeat. They develop a confidence that spills over into other areas of their development, both social and intellectual.
The Washington Post’s Sally Jenkins – one of the best sports columnists in the country – describes the jubilation and the example set by player Abby Wambach:
Is there any question there will be scores of Wambach imitators on the fields of America tomorrow, tall girls running like antelopes and butting soccer balls with their heads, and falling to their knees in exultation? Three days ago it was Wambach’s headed goal that saved the U.S. against Brazil in one of the great thrillers ever, regardless of gender. In Wednesday’s semifinal against France it was Wambach once again, just as the Americans seemed desperately played out, who hurled her body through space like “a beast in the air,” as teammate Megan Rapinoe describes her, to bang the decisive goal into the net with her forehead in the 79th minute.
Title IX started the sports revolution. How gratifying to see that the media are finally catching up.