Difference feminists reject "the big time" as a crude, ugly, and destructive male pursuit. They celebrate the U.S. women's comparative innocence. "In an era when the egos of male athletes are dwarfed only by their paychecks, the World Cup women, minimum wagers by pro-sports standards, reminded the country that sports superstars can be gracious and grateful," coos Newsweek. CNN's Bruce Morton observes approvingly that unlike male athletes, the female players don't "have million dollar contracts or big shoe deals. They actually seem to play because they love their game."
Meanwhile, the World Cup coverage exalts players who focus on their families. Several articles applaud "soccer moms" Carla Overbeck and Joy Fawcett, as well as Hamm's devotion to her Marine husband overseas ("We've sacrificed so much," Hamm told USA Today). Even the World Cup's CEO, Marla Messing, is glowingly profiled for stepping aside to stay home with her kids. She "plans to turn her attention from filling stadiums nationwide to bringing a much smaller crowd together: her family," the Post reports. Now "her most serious ambition is to get reacquainted with her husband ... and daughters."
4. Playing dirty. Difference feminists portray women's soccer as more civil and noble than men's soccer. As Vecsey puts it, women eschew "the cynical fouls and flagrant flops of the men." Equality feminists draw a different lesson: The World Cup showed that women can body-slam, curse, and cheat just like men.
Each of these vices has an exemplar on the U.S. team. Akers has been elected to represent body-slamming, with the Post's William Gildea calling her "the Dick Butkus of women's soccer." A 13-year-old boy interviewed by the Los Angeles Times pays her the ultimate adolescent male compliment: "Michelle Akers, she's my thug."
Chastain represents crude language as well as physical immodesty. Before the championship game, she was notorious for defending her Gear spread by observing, "I ran my ass off for this body." After she kicked the winning goal, ABC put a microphone in her face and asked her to tell the nation about Akers. "She's the toughest goddamn player I've ever played with or against," Chastain blurted. Sportswriters chuckle at Chastain's "salty" language and call it "another step" toward gender parity in athletics.
The team's goalie, Briana Scurry, represents cheating. It was she, more than Chastain, who won the game by blocking one Chinese kick in the shootout. Scurry did it by sneaking forward, against the rules, to narrow the shooter's angle before the kick. Far from chastising Scurry, male sportswriters are congratulating her on her "savvy." "Yes, she said later, she knew she was breaking the rules," concludes Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times. "But because the referees didn't call it, it apparently falls under the heading of gamesmanship. 'Everybody does it,' she said. 'It's only cheating if you get caught.' Sports equality indeed."