Pints and Picks Special Edition: A bad case of Patriotism misdiagnosed as Women’s World Cup fever

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DPB’s Kyle Magin and Andrew J. Pridgen pour on the prose with Pints and Picks™. Who to wager and what to drink while doing it. Here then, is their point-counterpoint for Sunday’s Women’s World Cup final.

pridgenIAJ: I remember watching the 1999 Women’s World Cup Brandi Chastain Moment live from one of those cheesy indoor/outdoor bars in Pacific Beach that changes ownership every four months.

That memory has evolved over time—endlessly crafted, contextualized and commented. At that second, it was a simple, beautiful penalty kick—the exaltation of victory to follow…and, can someone put more Bud Light in my red cup? This guy’s thirsty.

Chastain’s celebration has come to be the bold rejoinder to every struggle Friedan inherited, every snarling stereotype Steinem hacked her machete through and every side joke and sneer Hillary had to endure—released, brazen, fully formed as the jersey was ripped away to reveal one glorious clinched fist, tear-streaked, sports bra-and-six-pack collective exhale.

Leading up to the moment, America was captivated by the beauty of soccer’s It Girl Mia Hamm both on and off the pitch. To me, the world’s most-effective forward remains iconic because she was the first female to sweat, not simply glow. She bled and grimaced and spat. She tripped and grabbed jersey and willed herself to the ball.

Prior to that, Americans viewed female athletes like interchangeable Sonja Henies and Tracy Austins—dewy, shimmery blondes from central casting. Sure, there was Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova along the way but they were (shhhh!) lesbians and didn’t count.

But here came Mia and her cast of lovely unbeatables: Julie Foudy, Briana Scurry, Joy Fawcett, Carla Overbeck, Michelle Akers, Tiffeny Milbrett and Chastain. The living embodiment of Title IX. The first generation to grow up participating in and empowered by sport. They were more than pretty, gritty faces, they were what women, in this culture, in this society, had worked for—suffered for—for so long.

Soccer is The Beautiful Game because of the fluidity, the set pieces, the speed and the lightness—but it’s also the bodies, stupid. The churning bronze legs and the drenched pony tails and the sun-kissed triceps and the rosy cheeks (I’m talking both men’s and women’s here). It’s OK to objectify the athletes a little bit. They deserve to be appreciated.

But it’s never been OK to say that’s all there is…and that’s where the majority of this country still stands with women’s soccer.

Chastain broke through, yes. But the promise that day of a level field for women who play professional sport in the US has never been realized. Male athletes here get to retire with a strange mix of adulation and a Century 21-yellow blazer. Often the best slide into a job wearing a headset and yucking it up in $10k suits under studio lights.

The women seem to vanish.

…I’ll have my pick on the turnaround, till then—Kyle?

maginIKM: I really don’t like soccer—it’s too slow for me. I haven’t watched a game of the women’s World Cup, but I intend on watching Sunday’s tilt.

For my disdain toward the men’s World Cup, the women’s action does have me excited. It’s sparked some national pride working on multiple levels:

First: It’s always nice to kick the shit out of the world, especially in its own sport.

Second: Team USA’s dominance in women’s sports in general and soccer in particular is satisfying on a cultural level.

USWNT, in its global supremacy, shines a light on some ugly truths in the rest of the world. We spend a lot of time here in the States talking about gender equality, which we rightly should because we have a long way to go before women can have the same choices and opportunities that men do.

But, on a global scale, we’re doing pretty damn well. You don’t find the same honor roll of Latin nations at the highest echelon of the women’s tournament as you do in men’s soccer. You’ll barely find any South Asian or Middle Eastern nations at all. The reason? Our sexism isn’t in the same stratosphere as theirs.

Girls from America can rightly expect to participate in sports and find their high school, college and national teams will be on approximately equal footing with the boys, if not in media exposure then in facilities, support and travel. Even in famously progressive Canada some of the World Cup games have been played on astroturf—a second-rate playing surface that can be dangerous. Elite men would never be asked to play on anything besides grass. Girls growing up in parts of the Latin and Eastern worlds contend with physical safety concerns daily and wildly uncompetitive educational, much less athletic, opportunities.

Mexico’s women’s team just got their own jerseys for the first time here in 2015. We sent a group of college-educated women with some personal endorsement deals to Canada. We can and will do better someday, but damn, compared with the rest of the globe, we’re not half bad.

Alright AJ, I’ll toss it back over to you (without my hands!) to start the picking process.

pridgenIAJ: Yet another World Cup heartbreaker for Her Majesty as England’s Lionesses dominated a calculated but non-effective Japan for two halves Wednesday—ending with nightmare of nightmares against the current World Cup holders.

In extra time with a game knotted at one, a momentary lapse in England’s defensive front released Japan’s Nahomi Kawusumi who set up an excellent ball from the right. England’s Laura Bassett attempted to clear as she was doubled but pushed the sphere over her own keeper Karen Bardsley’s head. The ball brushed the bottom of the bar and rolled into the net, releasing the familiar specter of a half-century of close calls, near misses and divine intervention in favor of anyone who faces the British.

Bassett’s stoppage time own goal puts the Lionesses back on the 747 home for a third-place consolation round against Germany and the Japanese in position to close out their second World Cup victory in a row against the American women.

Personally, I was rooting for Red Coats vs. Revolutionaries for this 4th of July weekend, but instead we get the much-needed rematch of the 2011 Cup when America lost to Japan and the dynasty that was created in 1999 first began to show some cracks in the foundation.

The back jersey placards for Sunday’s final are essentially the same as four years ago. The Nadeshiko have improved offensively from the 2011 surprise winner and are the world’s most creatively coached, calculated and precise front. Flip the coin and the US women bolster an unflappable defensive side anchored by Hope Solo who thus far is dialed like a rotary phone (*if, you know, there were still rotary phones) in this World Cup. The veteran keeper seems to be mentally and physically willing her team to superiority.

In 2011, Japan claimed victory just four months after the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami killed more than 15,000 people. They defeated the heavily favored US team, twice rallying from behind to force penalty kicks. In 2012, the United States had their revenge at the London Olympics, besting Japan in the gold-medal round for a third-consecutive top podium finish in the Games.

The rubber match is set for 4 p.m. Pacific Sunday, July 5, from BC Place in Vancouver.

The line opened Thursday at US Women -.5 and Japan +.5  with the moneyline at -155 and +400 respectively. It’s the lopsided Japan moneyline that intrigues me most because for the last two weeks, the own goal gift from England notwithstanding, they’ve looked every bit the world’s best. The US in that time struggled to beat Colombia in the round of 16 and early on looked rattled and disorganized against no. 1 Germany—but prevailed 2-0 and is playing its most surgical and physical tournament soccer since the London Games.

Bettors should know Japan has bested the US team just once in 31 tries. While these two weeks have showed the US women may be sliding down the rocky and rooty downhill decline of its two decades of dominance—think England’s men starting around 1970—they still are, as Kyle mentioned above, the world’s standard-bearer.

Giving up that half a goal at the window is small price to pay to root for what is perhaps the last stellar match of this soccer empire’s majestic run.

I take the US -.5

KM, take us home.

maginI

KM: As stated above I know pretty much nothing about soccer. Do you know you can’t just sub into and out of a game willy-nilly?

Imagine the scoring boost (maybe 2 goal games!) you could get if players got to step out for a blow at will and you could play lineup-chess against an opposing coach.

It’s SOP in North America’s two end-to-end goal sports (basketball and hockey) and I much prefer the pace in each of those to soccer’s interminable jogging. Anyway, enough with fixing a sport I don’t watch.

Three things went into my pick:

  1. We’re trekking a familiar path to world dominance. Just 70 summers ago we faced off against and toppled Germany and Japan in order. I like our prospects for a repeat over that particular field.
  2. US Forward Sydney Leroux really, really pisses off Canadians. Maple Hamm defected from Up North to join USWNT and is now reviled in her birth country. Anyone who can rile Canadians into a fury where they aren’t punctuating every sentence with a ‘soorry’ is worth her weight in gold, or a cup.
  3. Size. While soccer appears to be a small person’s game, it can’t hurt that USWNT has a 3-4 inch advantage nearly player-for-player over Japan. ‘Merica.

Anyway, I’ll join you in taking U.S. -5. Vancouver isn’t far from a bunch of soccer-heads in the American PNW, so hopefully we’ll have a little homefield advantage to boot.

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  1. Let’s see, Kyle doesn’t like soccer, and he wants the DH in the National League. How very American (League) of him. I am sure he likes the progressive offensive mentality of the CFL too.