Did someone forget to send out the memo to the country that these women play in a professional league here also?
During the Women’s World Cup there was enough women’s soccer spirit to fly the women’s soccer sleigh around the world. (It’s Christmas time…bare with me on the themed analogy) And the support for them when they came home from Germany continued with TV interviews and people taking a genuine interest. While our girls were all the way in Germany battling it out, the whole country was behind them. They could feel the support from thousands of miles away. So if we can support them from across the pond, why can’t we support them when they’re in our own back yard?
Women's Professional Soccer (which is in fact, WPS...for those of you sitting in time out) saw a very positive increase in ticket sales including a 15,000+ crowd for the first game back in Rochester, NY after the Women’s World Cup. Yet, the league came inches from folding recently. I would say “it’s time to put your money where your mouth is” but I hate that expression. I’m not putting my money anywhere near my mouth. Do I look like I want to get hepatitis? But essentially, that’s what we need. (Money…Not hepatitis) If you say you became a fan of women's soccer during the World Cup, now is your time to prove it. I understand the World Cup is a higher level of excitement than any league can offer. But it doesn’t change the level of talent, skill, determination and poise that they play with. That will all still be there when you tune into WPS on TV or head to a game.
This past week I was lucky enough to catch a short documentary by Jun Stinson called “The 90th Minute” (www.the90thminute.net to see the trailer and learn more). It was a look at the lives of three professional players and what it’s like to play for WPS. It gives a glimpse into what a true athlete with pure love and admiration for a sport looks like. Not only was it beautifully done, entertaining and informative but it also brought up the question that all women’s soccer fans are racking their brains trying to figure out; WHY? Why is this league having such a hard time finding success? I spoke to Jun after viewing it and thanked her for putting together such a great documentary. More people need to get involved with out of the box ideas like this to support the league and raise awareness for it. There are far, far too many people who will still give you a dumbfounded look when you use the acronym, WPS.
So here are two of many thoughts I have on the whole thing…
Let’s be honest; the sports world is no longer separate from Hollywood. Sports and Hollywood are now combined into the celebrity couple Spollywood. They haven’t adopted any babies from third world countries yet, but they have taken a whole lot of NBA, NFL and MLB players under their wing. When I see basketball players at red carpet events I don’t know if they’re promoting a new album that Timbaland is producing, because they play for the Lakers, or because they’re Kim Kardashian’s newest husband. They are not only athletes, but ‘A list’ celebrities reaching people who don’t even watch the sport they play necessarily. Hope Solo took a brave leap into this world by partaking in Dancing With The Stars which I hope will act as a gateway drug to more publicity through TV and Hollywood. Every time one of these women appear on a show (not sports related) that is a huge success in my book. The talent in the league is undeniable; it’s there. But now because of the newlywed, Spollywood, the league needs publicity in other media outlets. WPS is filled with beautiful and funny girls with great personalities. It’s time that people got to see that side of them so they can relate to them and be drawn in. Individually they do a great job of marketing themselves. I just hope to see extra support for them to continue doing it through more media outlets to reach more people. (Ellen DeGeneres, I am still waiting on a call back from you to get some women's soccer love all up in your show. I'll assume you just lost my number, it's ok. No hard feelings. But seriously...call me.)
Next, I hope WPS remembers that people over the age of 13 are the ones paying for the tickets and merchandise and therefore need to be marketed to. We get it, WPS; young girls love women’s soccer. But so do young boys, adult men, adult women, elderly men, elderly women and dogs of all ages! (Proof: My parents’ dog completed a glorious victory lap after Alex Morgan’s goal against Japan and also watched a Lauren Cheney interview with me. For research purposes she is a 2 year old female mutt and seems to really be drawn to Cheney and Morgan…and her red ball) It is a professional league, yet through their marketing it looks more like a D2 college league. I’m not saying to neglect the younger female demographic by any means because they truly are at the heart of the fan base. These are the girls who dream to someday be a part of this league, so we cannot underestimate their true dedication and love for it. All I am asking is that it isn’t made out to look like they are the only fans showing up to these games on their way back from a Justin Bieber concert.
If you watched any of the Women’s World Cup this summer and can say that you found it entertaining, give the WPS a chance. There is no gold medal on the line, it is not an epic competition held once every four years and it will not give you the chance to scream, “Suck it! Go home Brazil!!!” at the TV like a crazy person. (Was that just me??) But it will give you the same brilliant athletes from our US squad plus many amazing international players as well; all playing at the highest level of the beautiful game. If you say you supported them in the Women's World Cup you can support them in the Olympics next summer and most importantly; in the WPS. Buy season tickets, make sure you get Fox Soccer Channel to watch the games and buy all the merchandise that your little soccer heart desires.
In short, as they say…let’s all get hepatitis! Put your money where your mouth is.