Socer, er, Futbol

Wait, the U.S. Women's Soccer Team Did Lose, Right?

Just looked up on TV to see the CBS trumpets proudly announcing that tonight on David Letterman the guests will be ... Abby Wambach and Hope Solo.

Wow, this is going to be tense. Because surely Letterman will ask the obvious question, right:

"How did you girls choke away a World Cup?"

Of course he won't.

At the risk of stoking the hatred hormones of some of you telling it like it is, this is why a lot of us don't take women's sports seriously. As I've stated, I thoroughly enjoyed the women's World Cup. I was bummed that the U.S. lost to Japan on Sunday.

But that's just it. The Americans lost. When, for a number of reasons, they should've won.

Yet, with fans at the airport and with invitations to late-night talk shows, it sure feels like the U.S. won.

Let me get this straight: The U.S. entered the competition in Germany as the No. 1-ranked team in the world. In the final they played a Japanese team they had beaten the previous 25 matches. They had leads of 1-0 late and 2-1 even later, but totally botched clearing a ball in front of their goal and then, in the penalty-kick shootout, were so freaked out that one of their players -- Carli Lloyd -- totally missed the net on her attempt.

Even in the USA Today game recap, Lloyd is characterized to have "not been able to make a penalty kick." Huh? Imagine Dirk Nowitzki getting the passive treatment for blowing a late-game shot. "Nowitzki was not able to make a layup?" Yeah, right. He blew it!

Why are we cheering for choking? And how does Solo end up on the cover of Sports Illustrated in the wake of a disappointing loss under the headline of "HEART (and heartbreak)."

Because they're women, that's why.

The U.S. men, who were ranked 12th, advancing out of their World Cup group stage was a success in South Africa last summer and I know despite their Round of 16 loss to Ghana that Landon Donovan went on Letterman. But it was the first time the American men won their group since 1930. Relatively speaking, they reached their goal.

We're supposed to treat the women as equals. But when they suffer a devastating, embarrassing loss to an inferior opponent in the most important game of their lives they aren't criticized, but lauded for some heroic achievement.

Instead of a biting analysis of a Final flop, most of the buzz centers around the great TV ratings and the record-breaking Tweets and how this -- finally -- will kick-start women's soccer as an accepted mainstream sport in America, something actually winning the World Cup in 1999 couldn't achieve. This wasn't one step closer to the ultimate goal. It was championship chance hideously coughed up.

It's as though we're coddling the women for trying soooo hard rather than scolding them for choking under pressure. It's a double-standard, and it's why I don't watch most women's sports. We can criticize Serena Williams, but not Alex Krieger?

Seems like we hand out participation plaques and give the winner's treatment to women who almost won. I don't remember LeBron James going on Letterman and being praised for a gutsy effort and I don't remember the post-loss bouquets for the U.S. Dream Team after settling for bronze in the 2004 Olympics. Maybe I missed it?

Sorry, but the U.S. women's soccer team won our attention for a couple of weeks. But, in the end, they lost a championship they should've won. When women's sports have truly arrived in this country that will be the storyline.

For now, set your TiVos accordingly and have your pompoms handy. Underachievers on Letterman tonight.

We're No. 2!

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Richie Whitt
Contact: Richie Whitt