Monday, July 8, 2019

A U.S. Win

TigerBlog's Sunday bike ride with John McPhee had to be moved up to the very early morning.

Was it going to be too hot later in the day? Raining?

Neither of those. It had to be done in time to watch the championship game of the Women's World Cup.

There was a long time in the world sporting culture where a women's soccer game couldn't possibly generate the kind of interest that the most recent World Cup final did. If you missed it, the United States defeated the Netherlands 2-0, completing a dominant run to a second-straight title.

In fact, there was a long time when there was no women's soccer on the international stage at all.

The men's World Cup was first contested in 1930. It would be 61 years - in 1991 - until the women had their first World Cup.

Soccer has been an Olympic sport for the men since 1900. The women first had Olympic soccer in 1996.

To go from that to what the Women's World Cup has become in a relatively short time says something about the progress that women's sports have made. The current state of unequal pay between the men and women also says something as well.

TigerBlog doesn't want to get into the politics of the event, because there are certainly lots of them. He'll leave that for his friend Sean Gregory, the former Princeton men's basketball player who covers sports for Time Magazine.

He wrote THIS after the game, which covers all of issues surrounding the U.S. team. Included in Sean's story is this:
Record numbers of viewers tuned into the tournament. In Britain, England’s semi-final match against America drew 11.7 million viewers, making it the most-watched TV broadcast in Great Britain this year. France’s quarterfinal against the U.S. attracted 10.7 million viewers, making it the most watched TV broadcast of the year in France too. In Brazil, that country’s round-of-16 game against France drew the highest-ever audience for a women’s World Cup game — 35.2 million people. FIFA expects that more than one billion people will have watched this World Cup across all platforms, up from around some 830 million in 2015.

The story doesn't make reference to the numbers in the United States, but they had to be huge as well.

TigerBlog has said this a lot here, but one of the biggest things that's happened at Princeton since he arrived is the extraordinary way that male fans have embraced women's teams, in ways that seemed very unlikely 25 or so years ago. Some of this, at least, is attributable to the growth of women's sports - especially soccer - on the international level.

TigerBlog was mostly rooting for Jill Ellis in the most recent Women's World Cup. He first met the U.S. coach nearly 20 years ago, and he was the women's soccer contact for Princeton when Ellis and her UCLA team defeated the Tigers in the 2004 Final Four.

He can vouch for you that Ellis is well worth rooting for and an extraordinarily nice person. And now she is the second coach (and first woman and first since 1934 and 1938) to coach a team to two World Cup titles.

Ellis, who was born in England and then moved to Virginia, played soccer at the College of William and Mary, back before there was a Women's World Cup. One of her teammates there was named Nancy Reinisch, who happened to be three years behind TB in high school, as an aside.

Nancy now is the mother of Kevin O'Toole, whom you might recognize as the reigning Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year in men's soccer. Kevin led Princeton to the Ivy League championship and into the NCAA tournament this past fall.

Nancy and Kevin were both in Lyon, France, for the final yesterday. In fact, Nancy was there as part of a larger W&M group of alums there to support Ellis.

There were other Princeton alums there as well, including Matt Sanner, a 2013 grad and two-time first-team All-Ivy League selection whose brother Thomas was the 2015 Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year.

TigerBlog loves the World Cup, both of the World Cups, for that matter.

He'll miss it now that the games are over, just like the men's last year. Next up will be the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo for his international summer fix.

As for this World Cup, he's happy for Jill Ellis, who did something extraordinary. Most coaches don't make it through two World Cup cycles, let alone win two of them.

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