James Vreeland has a post that emphasizes the role played by Title IX in turning the U.S. into a world power in women’s soccer. This is surely true, but I have to say I don’t like the way he formulates his discussion:
… this was also a battle of culture versus institutions. Of markets versus states. And when it comes to supporting sports, markets have a bias towards testosterone. Without government intervention, men have many more incentives than women to devote their lives to sports.
Really? I wonder what Maria Sharpova would say to that? Title IX was crucial, but it played out within a specific historical context. It doesn’t correct for a bias in the market place, but for an historical bias within institutions. College sports were established at a time when women weren’t expected to take sports seriously. (A soccer mom I knew, who played for a well-known private college, was still angry that the AD didn’t really support women’s soccer because he thought ladies should play lacrosse).
Once the incentives were set right, the playing field leveled, lots of girls wanted to play sports at a high level. And it isn’t really clear that men’s soccer suffered–college soccer generally has gained in prominence over the last few years. If the men’s soccer players have a beef, its probably with the legions of semi-literate, testosterone fueled football players colleges keep around on athletic “scholarships”.
Will women’s teams get as much coverage as men’s teams in the long run? Probably not. Lets be honest, women have rather richer internal lives than men, and on the whole balance an interest in athletic competition with many other things. But when the chance is offered, and when faced with a tough contest, the U.S. women’s soccer team proved yesterday that women can play with as much grit, skill and physical determination as any men’s team in any other sport, and with rather more endurance, scoring a critical goal after 122 minutes of continuous play.