I was driving my three girls home from the Queens Botanical Gardens and as I merged onto a highway overpass that would take us home, our van overlooked some athletic fields where several teams were playing soccer.
“Daddy, do girls play soccer?” one of my three daughters asked.
“Yes, of course,” I said.
“Then I want to be a soccer player!” she said
“Yes, me too!” one of her sisters chimed in.
They expounded on their plans to dominate the sport of soccer. I reminded them they could play both soccer and hockey and they agreed that they could excel at both sports.
What struck me about this conversation was not my girls’ enthusiasm for soccer, but that they thought, at their early age, that they could be limited because they were girls. It was heartbreaking that in just over four years, they could conceive of being constrained in what games they play.
It was an interesting discovery that before they were three years old, my daughters craved representation of females in media; they were very conscious of what characters were in front of them. Most cartoon characters are boys, and the female characters in most popular children’s television are either princesses or fashion-obsessed mice. There are some notable exceptions (Dora the Explorer and Doc McStuffins), but even in cartoons with some positive female role models, they are usually a small part of the larger action.
This is one of the reasons my wife and I bring our girls to professional women’s hockey. The Metropolitan Riveters of the National Women’s Hockey League have been a must-see for our family. Besides being a fun sport to watch, women’s professional hockey, by the very fact of its existence, provides an invaluable service for the parents of girls. Our daughters can see women held in high esteem and being celebrated for hard work in their chosen field.
While my wife is a stay-at-home Mom for now, she is active in local civic affairs and has a leadership role in her local Community Supported Agriculture Group. We like to think that we don’t avoid the facts of life but present the world as honestly as possible, but there is no reason our girls should think that there are limits to what sports they can play.
A former co-worker who has daughters older than mine said that girls are more likely to drop out of playing sports when they reach age 10; she noted that her oldest daughter made it through that age with her love of sport intact. It was a relief.
While hockey for me is a more interesting sport than soccer, I’m happy to have my girls interested in soccer. It is an easier concept to teach. Everyone knows how to kick a ball and run after it; hockey requires players to be proficient ice skaters to play.
I’m cautious about pushing hockey on my girls too hard, not because I really care if they play hockey, but I’m determined that they remain interested in playing sports.
So yes, girls play soccer and much more. Let it always be so.
It’s an encouraging sign for soccer in America that we are starting to have riots outside of games. This past weekend supporters of NYCFC and the Red Bulls clashed outside Yankee Stadium before a game. It was incredibly tame stuff by soccer hooligan standards; we are still behind Europe in both soccer skills and organized gang violence among soccer supporters. But it’s a start.
I have not been to a professional soccer game in my life and I could not name a single player on NYCFC. But I believe that you have to take sides and stick with your team loyalty. There is no room in this world for weakness and indecision. I chose to support NYCFC as my local soccer team and here’s why.
Reasons New Yorkers should support NYCFC as your New York soccer team:
NYCFC plays in New York City. NYCFC plays at Yankee Stadium in The Bronx. Their rival “New York” teams the Red Bulls play at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey and the Cosmos play outside the city also at James M. Shuart Stadium on the Hofstra University campus in Uniondale, Long Island.
NYCFC is not named after a shitty energy drink or failed team of the past. I’ll admit NYCFC is not a very original name for a soccer team. It simply stands for New York City Football Club. But the Red Bulls are named for a shitty energy drink after initially being called the MetroStars. And while the Cosmos at least have some history in New York prior to their revival in 2010, it is as a failed attempt in the 1970s and 1980s to get Americans interested in soccer.
Getting on the ground floor of fandom. New York City FC started just last year. It’s early enough in this team’s history to get in on the ground floor and be able to tell your grandchildren you were there from the beginning.
Better aesthetics. A team should have a logo and colors you are proud to wear, especially if the team doesn’t do so well. NYCFC has a better color scheme and logo than its rivals. That their team is named for an energy drink makes Red Bulls fans pathetic enough. The New York Cosmos are trying to relive the 1970s, which is good in some respects maybe but not when it comes to sports jerseys and logos. The Cosmos designs should have gone the way of the line green leisure suit.
They can only get better. NYCFC lost to the Red Bulls 7-0, which is a humiliating defeat in a traditionally low-scoring game such as soccer. So the team can only get better. And for Yankee fans, we finally get to experience what it’s like to have the camaraderie of the underdog. I no longer have to think about the Jets to experience that. NYCFC has yet to experience any glory days. Our best days, and even our mediocre days, are still ahead of us.
So I urge my fellow New Yorkers to support NYCFC. It is at its beginning and will eventually achieve greatness.