Column

Oliver: Let’s hear it for continued progress of women in sports

Joan Oliver
Joan Oliver

If you have been watching the FIFA Women’s World Cup tournament, then more than likely you’ve seen some incredible soccer. These women can play.

Matches have been fast-paced, exciting and not without some controversy, particularly with the video-assisted review.

It’s a shame that our country seems to get excited for women’s sports only when it’s the U.S. against the world, such as this tournament and the Olympics.

Maybe that’s why I get choked up every time I see the Nike TV commercial titled “Dream With Us.” Or the one called “Dream Crazier” that features Serena Williams narrating.

Both show women who broke barriers and those who are continuing to do so.

Those of us who have been around for a few rounds of World Cup tournaments no doubt remember Michelle Akers, Mia Hamm, Brandi Chastain and Abby Wambach. Maybe you, too, thought that those teams would lead to greater exposure for women’s sports in the U.S.

Sadly, although progress has been made, it’s still hard to get behind teams that aren’t promoted. If you can’t fill seats or gain fans through media coverage, then leagues don’t stick around long.

If you’ve been watching those World Cup matches, did you know that one of the stars of the Australian national team – Sam Kerr – plays here in Chicago for the Red Stars? How about U.S. National Team players Julie Ertz and Alyssa Naeher? Yes, they play here too.

Now that I know that, I’m going to go out of my way to catch as many games as I can.

It’s not unlike what was happening with the pre-Rocky Wirtz Chicago Blackhawks. It was hard to be a Blackhawks fan because they weren’t being shown on TV. Once they were, I became an avid fan.

We need to do that with our women’s teams.

Have you been watching WNBA games? If you haven’t checked out our Chicago Sky, then you’re missing out on some quality basketball. They are near the top of their division, and even when they lose, they usually are not out of it.

Here’s hoping that names such as Courtney Vandersloot, Diamond DeShields, Allie Quigley and Cheyenne Parker become household names here in the Chicago area.

As the U.S. Women’s National Team continues its march toward the World Cup final, it’s a great time to revel in women’s sports.

Nike’s “Dream With Us” ad, featuring Crystal Dunn (soccer), Elena Delle Donne (basketball), Gabby Douglas (gymnastics) and Serena Williams (tennis), among others, shows just how far women have come.

However, it asks some interesting questions: “What’s your dream? To win championships? A scholarship? Do you want to be a bigger athlete than Serena Williams? Or do you want to be the first girl to play for the New York Yankees? Can you be the generation that ends gender inequality? Or will you show that champions in your sport can also look like you? Maybe your dream is to be the first 13-year-old to go pro. Or to push your sport to accept everyone just as they are. But the craziest of dream of all is the one that starts a million more.”

The commercial ends with the words “Dream with us” over a shot of U.S. soccer player Mallory Pugh looking back as the U.S National Women’s Team enters a stadium.

Here’s hoping a million more crazy dreams are spawned. Because if you haven’t already noticed, these women can really play.

• Joan Oliver is a former Northwest Herald assistant news editor. She has been associated with the Northwest Herald since 1990. She can be reached at jolivercolumn@gmail.com.

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