Let no one claim that the U.S. women's soccer team can't beat men. They have, in fact, already unseated the 2007 New England Patriots as the most unlikable winning sports team in modern American history. This is an extraordinary accomplishment in its own right, as it is very hard to be both unlikable and a winner in America. Winning covers up many sins. Even Michael Vick was forgiven after he had a decent season with the Eagles. We love winners in our culture, but it is truly hard to love these ladies.
I will be told that this apparent unlikability is due to sexism — my sexism, the system's sexism, everyone's sexism, the sexism in the water supply. We have trouble liking the women's soccer team, and celebrating its successes, because they are women and we are misogynists, or so the story will go. But that excuse doesn't hold. Most of the "misogynists" criticizing Megan Rapinoe's squad still love to see American women take gold at the Olympics. It was easy to root for Simone Biles and Lindsey Vonn. But it's not so easy with this particular collection of female athletes.
The reason for the difficulty probably has something to do with incidents like this, where three of the players dropped the American flag on the ground and stepped on it during the victory celebration. Snopes says it is "mostly false" to claim that the women dropped the flag and stepped on it, but that is literally what happened. It was an act of careless disregard rather than political protest, but still, it's gross and hard to watch.
It also didn't help that the ladies ran around the field gloating gratuitously after easily dispatching vastly inferior teams like Thailand. The whining about "equal pay" has added to the insufferability factor, as have the national anthem protests and the constant Trump-bashing. I'm no Trump sycophant myself, but it's annoying when athletes — especially athletes who are supposed to represent America, as a whole — insist on being political. The drunken belligerence isn't terribly appealing either, especially when grown adult women are on video declaring, "Hide yo kids ... I got the keys to the mothaf***ing city and I'm coming for all y'all b*tches." It's difficult to be likable while speaking like that.
But I think the real problem with this team was encapsulated in one short video of Megan Rapinoe at the victory parade yesterday. Holding the trophy in one hand and a bottle of champagne in the other, Rapinoe twice declared: "I deserve this." When asked what she deserves, she answered, "Everything." This clip has been predictably celebrated by feminists as empowering and inspirational, but many fans of team sports find it extremely off-putting — and for good reason. I imagine even the inspired feminists would see the problem if it were Tom Brady hoisting the Lombardi Trophy and shouting, "I deserve this." But whatever else you might say about Tom Brady, he certainly wouldn't do that. Brady knows that he should always give credit to the team — and he does, obsessively so.
It is difficult to root for people who are self-glorifying and narcissistic. And the self-glorifying narcissism of female athletes is even more annoying because it comes dressed as empowerment. There are plenty of jerks playing male sports. But nobody hesitates to call them jerks, and nobody is tempted to hail their jerkiness as a sign of strength. We all just say, "Wow what a jerk," nod in agreement with each other, and move on. Female jerks, on the other hand, will have a whole chorus of cheerleaders welling up with pride and insisting that boorish, stupid behavior from a woman is actually beautiful. And that just makes the behavior all the more irritating to the sane and reasonable among us.