Among the many painful lessons learned from the U.S. Women's World Cup squad's magical run and yesterday's utter collapse -- you can't legislate enthusiasm.
Local news stories painted a feel-good picture of yesterday's contest, which was broadcast before a moderate crowd at Civic Center Plaza on a big screen. The overriding message, once again, was that this isn't just a sporting event -- it's some sort of empowerment exercise for girls and young women.
This, for a lack of a better word, is getting old. We are doing a disservice to both the young women of America and the women on the team by reducing those handful of world-class athletes into role models for legions of girls who are already out on the soccer fields.
We send a questionable message to the younger generation when, as a society, we attempt to push an interest in women's sports as a top-down rather than a bottom-up exercise. The city's decision to erect large screens to watch the knockout rounds, as it did during the men's World Cup last year, was not a response to a demand but an act of reciprocal political correctness.
But, here's the thing: By playing so well, with such tenacity, with such skill and determination, and by producing two of the greatest wins any U.S. national team has yet authored -- the Women's World Cup squad created that demand. On Sunday, bars were teeming. Raucous screams echoed through the streets as well-struck American shots found the back of the net (it is a treat in this nation to be able to divine the score of a soccer match by bursts of crowd noise).
Our side lost the game -- oh, did it ever. But it didn't lose everything. It won thousands, hopefully millions of fans. Fans who'll follow this team not because of societal pressure or a sense of obligation but interest -- interest generated by three consecutive transcendent games and the promise of more.
They are, after all, our national team. Nothing more. And certainly nothing less.