The World Cup victory by the U.S. women's soccer team was the latest feel-good moment in the evolution of women's sports. Interest, whether measured by live attendance or TV viewership, has never been higher. The U.S. team's 5-2 win over Japan unleashed a celebration by the players in Vancouver, and in myriad places across the country where viewing parties were the rage.
While showcasing the players' athleticism, skill, teamwork and determination, the World Cup also put a spotlight on a larger point:
The battle for respect and equity is far from over.
Consider that while the U.S. women's team earned a record $2 million for its victory, Germany's men's team won $35 million for winning its World Cup last year. Overall, the women's teams shared a prize pool of $15 million; the men divvied up $358 million.
The women were forced to play on artificial turf, which is harder on one's legs, bakes in the sun and produces different bounces from grass. A group of women headed by America's Abby Wambach last year filed a gender discrimination lawsuit, later withdrawn, because men have played on nothing but natural grass. This year's World Cup women should have received hazardous-duty pay.
And those stirring commercials by Nationwide Insurance and Nike -- will they air on telecasts of men's games?
Still, progress is undeniable. Today's American women athletes are the children of the first generation of mothers who grew up with Title IX, the federal law banning gender discrimination in education. Girls' participation in high school sports has risen for 25 straight years. Strong role models abound -- from the UConn women's basketball team to Little League Baseball player Mo'ne Davis; from Olympic skiers and swimmers to tennis player Serena Williams.
These are times and people to celebrate. So rejoice in the U.S. victory. Call for a parade up the Canyon of Heroes. Marvel at Carli Lloyd, her finale hat trick and that audacious 55-yard goal. But keep pushing, too, for fairness -- in all sports -- for your daughters, sisters and mothers. That would be the biggest win by far.