Women’s soccer fans waited six years for this—the return of a professional league. Those years felt long. Odyssean, practically. But now it’s back in the shape of the WPS...and, heavens, is it boring like never before.
Don’t get me wrong: I was one of the firsts in line for Boston Breakers inaugural season tickets. I broke out all my Breakers blue that I had packed up back in 2003 after the collapse of the WUSA, thinking, Yes! Vintage Meinert jersey! (I’ve since added a Smith shirt to my collection, FYI.) I buy products of the WPS’s sponsors, watch Fox Soccer Channel every Sunday, and secretly hope St. Louis Athletica will gain enough steam to roll over every team in the league to meet the Breakers in the WPS’s first championship match, where, of course, they will fall victim to a dominant and healthy Boston squad that will be courteous enough to not run the score up too high.
But wait—here’s where the helium quickly leaves my Go WPS! balloon: Fanaticism aside, I am seriously struggling to devote myself to this league. There is little excitement or passion on these fields and even less flair. We have world-class players that either aren’t making world-class plays, or are making such small amounts of world-class plays that they’re easily forgotten as world class. Plus, I’d imagine it’s particularly difficult to be consistently inventive and creative when there aren’t exactly inventive or creative players around you. And the one thing about the lack of creativity in this league that makes me shake in my shoes is this: For the players do display awesomeness on a weekly basis (Hi, Kelly! Hi, Marta! Hi, Aya!), can or should the WPS expect them to return next season when they could possibly find better, more competitive challenges in Germany, Sweden, or France?
And now, making matters only worse and truly sucking any passionate parts of the game off the field, we have a commissioner handing out suspensions for words spoken or for seconds of rough play that resulted in possibly nothing more than a bruise or a cut (I’m talking about the Christine Latham/Joanna Lohman suspensions now, not the Wambach one, which not only was the most ridiculous and mindless foul ever committed by a woman wearing cleats, but also a real blow to the “world classiness” of the league, with Daniela out for the season). You know, as a fan (and one with disposable income, in case you’re reading, Antonucci) I like to see the players get a little heated under the collar every now and again. It’s a good reminder that this game isn’t always as pretty as all the ponytails suggest. Plus, who are these suspensions protecting? A sincerely sub-par refereeing staff? Players that don’t know how to duck? But alas, Lohman has already sat out her one-game suspension, and Latham—a good, physical, and aggressive forward who, with minor exceptions, always brings a spark to the Breakers’ front line—is on schedule to sit out two.
For someone who truly wants this league to succeed in a glorious way, but is getting worn down by a product that’s only average on its best weekends, what now? I fear I’ve exhausted the following positive mantras: It’s still early. Give them time. They just need to gel. And so now I’m faced with a choice: Pack my bags and try my luck in Europe, or adopt a new, only semi-positive line of thinking—I guess it’s better than nothing.