American Popular Culture Home American Popular Culture Home
American Popular Culture Home About Americana Contact Americana American Popular Culture Archive
Emerging Pop Culture
Magazine Home
Become a member!
Receive our
Sports in American Popular CultureVisit the Sports Archive
 Not with a Bang, but a Whimper

Quietly and with no paparazzi, a little less than a year ago, Carla Overbeck walked onto the wide green field with the U.S. national team for the last time. While the diligent sports reporters divided themselves between writing stories about an event at Louisiana State University and a sum of $252 million, Overbeck, longtime captain of the women's soccer team, retired.

"The whole of feminine history has been man-made," Simone de Beauvoir tells us in The Second Sex. "Men have always held the lot of woman in their hands; and they have determined what it should be, not according to her interest, but rather with regard to their own projects, their fears, and their needs."

With these sentiments, Beauvoir reminds us of a catastrophic catch-22, a somber self-fulfilling prophecy. Women do not occupy a prominent place in history because men first told and then wrote the history privileging their own male experience. Once we heard or read those histories, we presumed women had less to offer, a brutal cycle which, in turn, punctured and deflated the dreams of little girls, punctured and deflated the contributions of women.

After all, who ever heard of a founding mother?

Now let me ask you these things: how will women make history, including sports history, if writers neglect her story or if editors cut the few stories that are written or bury them in the lower left hand corner on page fourteen? How will little girls learn that they have important societal contributions to make? How will women's sports become lucrative, a lack we are told precludes reporting, with little media support?

I am writing this column about Carla Overbeck today, not about the Lakers' NBA championship, because nearly no one else did. I am going to write this history, this sports history, to add my own modest contribution toward ending the brutal cycle, to blow up the red balloon of a little girl's dreams, of a woman's desires, with helium, tie that balloon to her wrist, and let that balloon lift her high above the rooftops.

Carla Overbeck, I salute the massive contributions you made representing this country on the national soccer team. Thank you for the gold medal, thank you for the World Cup, but, most of all, thank you, as Beauvoir phrased it, for refusing to resign yourself to your lot without attempting to take any action. All we need to see real and lasting change in this world is more women like you to take action and (if you will permit me to say so humbly) more women like me to write about it. Then and finally, the Cinderella myth will disappear like a magic pumpkin of a carriage disappears at the stroke of midnight.

For those of you who think I have been too melodramatic, too metaphysical, too philosophical, too hyperbolic, too dramatic, let me ask you this: did you see a single newspaper that carried the story of Michael Jordan's retirement in the lower left hand corner on page fourteen, the location at which I found Overbeck's retirement article? If Shaq were to retire next year with two NBA championship titles under his belt, where would the story be?

Now let me be clear: I am a huge Laker fan. I cheered during the finals; I almost threw out my elbow waving at Phil Jackson during the victory parade. But I do look forward to the day when we can celebrate women's contributions to history, to sports with as much zeal as we celebrate the men's. Perhaps then the contributions of a stellar athlete like Carla Overbeck can be celebrated not with a whimper, but a bang.

June 2001

[back to top]

Home | About Us | Contact | Archive

All materials on this site © 2001 Americana: The Institute for the Study of American Popular Culture
Website Created by Cave Painting