Posted by: mdegeorge | November 10, 2010

Team USA women’s soccer: Lose and they’re in

Hypocrisy, thy name is women’s soccer.

How else would you explain the United States women’s soccer team’s need to lose in order to get national television time?

It’s the only explanation for yesterday’s nationally broadcast CONCACAF World Cup qualifying third place game between Team USA and Costa Rica in which the American’s triumphed 3-0 to keep their World Cup hopes alive.

Abby Wambach (2nd L) of the U.S. team celebrates with teammates Lauen Cheney (12) and Amy Rodriguez after scoring her second goal against Costa Rica during their third place playoff match of the CONCACAF Women's World Cup qualifying soccer tournament at the Andres Quintana Roo stadium in Cancun November 8, 2010. REUTERS/Henry Romero (MEXICO - Tags: SPORT SOCCER)

That’s right, even ESPN, perpetually trading in on soccer’s gold-standard name globally for its own programming benefit, can’t take the altruistic “building soccer in the U.S.” path on this one.

This game wasn’t an appeal to die-hard fans thirsting for a chance to watch the Red, White, and Blue play for a change. It was a set-up for them to fail.

The only beneficial outcome for ESPN would be the completion of the self-destruction that started with their 2-1 defeat to Mexico, the first loss in 25 meetings with our neighbors to the south and the setback that created the win-or-go-home proposition.

Had the U.S. taken care of business in Cancun, the subsequent three-inch (score, goal-scorers and goalkeeper, and token quote) Associated Press story would have received absolutely no play nationwide. The winning goal would have garnered a 15-second highlight on SportsCenter sandwiched between a late West Coast basketball game and the Top Plays commercial bumper.

Instead, the story has made headlines the nation over. It’s brought national television back into the picture for both the match against Costa Rica and presumably for the two-leg playoff against Italy.

I’ll admit that I’m little more than a casual fan whose attention is only piqued in World Cups or when goalkeepers are saying stupid things. I tuned in yesterday briefly as part of a morbid curiosity to see what would transpire.

It’s a sad state of affairs that the specter of failure is the only thing that brings relevance to the program. Over the last two decades, the women’s soccer team has been arguably the most successful American sports program. Sure, the current batch of players lacks the magnetism possessed by forebears like Brandi Chastain and Mia Hamm. But it’s still an impressive group, a bevy of talented players in an exciting time for the sport with the latest incarnation of professional soccer in the United States, the WPS, still in its incipient stages.

It can’t be that we’re bored with their success, intrigued only by a classic American comeback tale. As the globalizing yet ethnocentric world leaders, we never get sick of dominance, whether it’s pounding Angola into submission in basketball or annihilating the competition in swimming.

Maybe I’ll be one of those tuning into watch the matches against Italy—out of pure curiosity as to just how far this story’s legs can take it.

But, more so than in a long time, I’m looking forward to a chance to watch the Red, White, and Blue when the preview hails their triumph rather than presages their fall.

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