You Play to Win the Game

Back in 2002 when he was the head coach of the New York Jets, Herman Edwards uttered this line and his sentiment really resonated with me in light of the coverage of the defeat of the U.S. Women’s National Team in the World Cup Final. I was puzzled and annoyed by the coverage of their loss mainly because it seemed patronizing. The fact that the U.S. team failed to capitalize on multiple scoring opportunities in the first half, lost a lead twice, committed sloppy errors that led to Japan’s scores and totally broke down during penalty kicks was absent in the coverage. It was all hearts and flowers about their wins over Brazil and France. Don’t get me wrong. Those were great wins and there is no doubt that the U.S. team did wonders for women’s sports, especially soccer, here in the U.S. All you have to do is look at the ratings.

But, if the goal of playing is winning, they failed. Why are people so afraid to say that? I think it’s because no one, especially men, wants to be accused of being a sexist. The fastest, easiest way to shut down debate is to call someone either (a) racist, (b) homophobic, or (c) sexist. By pointing out that they failed to win the game doesn’t mean that they are failures as human beings or that their run in the tournament was a failure. Anyone with common sense knows that. Are female athletes so fragile that they need protection from criticism? Hardly. Female athletes are strong in body, mind and spirit, just like their male counterparts and they deserve to be praised and criticized by the same standards.

Finally, someone said just this very thing. On the July 19, 2011 episode of Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel, host Bryant Gumbel delivered a spot-on commentary. I don’t always agree with Mr. Gumbel, but he said everything I was thinking after the World Cup Final. I applaud him for facing the slings and arrows he’s sure to receive for daring not to parrot the politically correct party line.