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What We Talk About When We Talk About Megan Rapinoe

July 12, 2019
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(Maja Hitij/Getty Images)

1. A Failure to Communicate

I promise you I’ll never come back to Megan Rapinoe again. (Until she launches her presidential exploratory committee.)

But I had an insight yesterday about the conflict about Rapinoe and the US WNT: I think this is one of those cases where the two sides are simply talking past each other because they come from radically different worldviews.

I’ve gotten a lot of angry emails this week about this subject. Most (but not all) of them are from women. Most (but not all) of them make the following argument: “You wouldn’t be complaining about their conduct if they were male athletes.”

So here’s where these women’s worldview comes from: I’m guessing that they are infrequent consumers of sports (relative to most men) and that even to the extent that they watch sporting events, I suspect that they consume little to no sports-related entertainment. By which I mean sports talk radio, sports podcasts, or TV sports shows (such as SportsCenter, MLB Tonight, or Volume vs. Anger).

I’m sure that there are exceptions to this rule, but can we mostly agree that the relative to men, women listen to much less sports talk radio, etc?

Okay, so if you’re a woman who doesn’t spend much time swimming in that pool, you hear the complaints about the US WNT and you’re like “What the hell? Why are they complaining about this? It must be sexism.” It makes no sense to you.

But if you’re a consumer of sports-related entertainment, you hear this complaint from women and their complaint makes no sense to you. Because “these athletes celebrate too much and are ruining the game” has been a staple subject of conversation and debate for . . . well, at least for at least 30 years, since that’s when I started listening to sports-talk radio in Philly.

Listen to enough sports-talk and you’ll notice a handful of recurring themes:

  • These athletes are paid too much! They’re a bunch of selfish, lazy bums!
  • These owners don’t care about anything but money and they’re treating the players terribly!
  • Player X is tearing this locker room apart and they ought to trade him!
  • You’d be crazy to trade Player X because you’ll never get equivalent value!
  • This new stadium deal is gonna save our city!
  • This new stadium deal is highway robbery!
  • Baltimore fans are the worst!

Okay, no one ever argues about that last one. It’s just a fact. Science.

But you see what I’m getting at: That in the world of people who care about sports writ large, there are a number of recurring debates that are pretty much always happening, somewhere.

And one of these eternal debates is about how players conduct themselves in celebration.

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard Sal from Manayunk call in to complain about how “NBA players these days are grabbing their gonads after dunks and celebrating like idiots and they ought to be classy, like Dr. J was back in the day!”

Or, “How dare TO run out to kneel down on the Star in Dallas—that’s an act of war!”

Or, “Puig shouldn’t show up a pitcher like that after a homer! You just put your head down and run that bases! What a bum!”

There’s even a shorthand for this worldview: “When you get to the end zone, act like you’ve been there before.”

So when we start arguing about Rapinoe and the US WNT, what we really have is two sides who don’t understand where the other is starting from.

Women have never heard these arguments before, and assume that the men making them have never made them in any other contexts. And the men can’t understand why women don’t view these criticisms as a totally pedestrian part of the sports conversation.

So what we have here is not really a disagreement, so much as a misunderstanding.

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2. Trumpy Media Gone Wild!

This Daily Beastpieceabout the White House social media “summit” is only the second-best piece about the Trumpist online media this week:

Notably, the group so far doesn’t appear to include anyone who has actually been banned from major social platforms, even though those bans have played a significant role in driving accusations on the right that the social giants are biased. Pro-Trump figures like anti-Muslim activist Laura Loomer, InfoWars conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, and Proud Boys men’s group founder Gavin McInnes, for example, don’t appear to have been invited.