I am as male as one could be, but the criticism by predominantly male commentators about the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team (USWNT) defeating Thailand by a score of 13 goals to zero in a Group F match at this year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup soccer tournament is extremely annoying and downright sexist.
I encourage everyone to read this column, written by Arwa Mahdawi and published by The Guardian, about sexist double standards against women in sports, and read the column in its entirety, even if you don’t agree with Mahdawi’s criticism of how the USWNT celebrated scoring goals after already being ahead.
There have been two main points of criticism that the misogynists of the sports community have leveled against the USWNT. First, the misogynists of the sports community have criticized the USWNT for running up a massive margin of victory, or running up the score, against Thailand. Second, the misogynists of the sports community have criticized the USWNT for celebrating goals that they scored after they were already ahead by a large margin late in the second half of their game against Thailand. Mahdawi’s column focuses mainly on the second point of criticism, so I’ll focus on the first point of criticism in this blog post, and every opinion in this blog post below the separator is mine.
I’m going to rebut the criticisms of the USWNT scoring a massive amount of goals against Thailand by making a few points.
First, in the group stage of the Women’s World Cup, goal differential and goals scored is used as a tiebreaker should there be identical group points (which are determined by win-draw-loss records) for the winner of the group and/or a spot in the elimination stage. The USWNT’s strongest competition in their group appears to be Sweden, a team that is probably on par with the USWNT, so the USWNT couldn’t back off late in their game against Thailand and play to not lose or draw, as, if Sweden were to defeat Thailand by a very large margin, there is the risk of the USWNT not getting the higher seed of the Group F teams in the elimination stage if, for example, the USWNT defeats Chile and plays to a draw against Sweden. Complaints about running up the score where goal or point differential, goal or point ratio, and/or goals or points scored is used as a tiebreaker are absolutely absurd, since there is every incentive under such a system to run up a massive goal differential.
Second, aside from some exceptions, it’s an insult to an athlete or a group of athletes to tell them to not perform at their best. In sports car endurance racing, such as the 24 Hours of Le Mans race that is taking place in the same country where the Women’s World Cup is being held this weekend, there may arise a situation where one car is leading the race by several laps or more ahead of the second-place car, thus, late in the race, there would, in that scenario, be incentive for the driver of the leading car to run at a pace less than full speed, but still fast enough to win the race. The risk of a crash or mechanical failure causing the car to not be able to continue in the race at any point in an automobile race is very high in an extremely long race like the 24 Hours of Le Mans, so there is incentive in that situation for the driver of a car with a massive lead to race to not lose. Soccer is a game played over 90 minutes of playing time plus any stoppage time added on to one or both 45-minute halves, and athletes in an elite soccer competition like the Women’s World Cup are conditioned to play their sport to the best of their ability for 90 minutes plus stoppage time. Unlike automobile racing, there isn’t the component of the equipment being used to play the game being as much of an athlete as the human competitor is in soccer, as neither team in a soccer match is going to lose a game if the ball is damaged in the normal course of play. To tell a team of soccer players to not play at their best for 90 minutes plus stoppage time is an insult to them; it would be like telling an elite swimmer to swim more slowly after building up a big lead.
Third, male athletes are a lot less likely to be criticized for dominant athletic performances than female athletes are. A famous example of a dominant performance by a male athlete occurred in the 2000 U.S. Open men’s golf tournament at Pebble Beach Golf Links in California, where Tiger Woods won the tournament by 15 strokes, which, to this day, still stands as the largest-ever margin of victory in a men’s stroke play major golf tournament, over his nearest competitor. There was very little criticism of Tiger by the sports media after his 2000 U.S. Open victory; in fact, Tiger’s performance at Pebble Beach was regarded by the sports media, and even some of his competitors, as a phenomenal achievement.
If you wouldn’t complain about dominant athletic performances by male athletes, don’t complain about dominant athletic performances by female athletes.