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SportsMonday: Young Girls Seeing Stars

We had my daughter Alana's small ninth birthday party at the Red Stars women's soccer game at Toyota Park on Sunday. Taking a page from the Blackhawk book, the team started the game at 5 p.m. (a few years ago, the Blackhawks decided to move up the start time on many Sunday evening games to 6 p.m. - and parents everywhere thanked them for it).

Most of the park was closed for the contest, which the home team lost 3-2 to a squad actually called FC Pride. Before games, boring soccer teams who can't think for themselves parade their players onto their home pitch holding hands with kids because that's what teams do in the top leagues and at the World Cup. I'm thinking pre-game FC Pride parades have to be far more entertaining.

The Red Stars are named after the red stars in the middle of the Chicago flag. Of course they play their games in Bridgeview but maybe that small southwestern suburb has stars in its flag as well. I couldn't find any Bridgeview flags to confirm. The team is averaging maybe three or four thousand fans per game this summer and that sort of a crowd fits nicely into the quarter or so of the stadium that spreads up and out from the benches on the east side of the field.

I suppose the primary question, besides why soccer teams that play primarily in the summer would put their prime seats and luxury suites on the sunny and oftentimes scorching side of the field, is whether there is a future for women's pro soccer.

Attendance was more than 6,000 on Sunday - I suppose that is a good sign. And the Chicago Bandits and the Chicago Sky are still making it in the North American Professional Softball League and the WNBA, respectively. Nobody is getting rich in these endeavors but they are still in business. Still, I don't think anyone would say they know whether any of these teams will still be around in five years.

I do know it is a great deal more satisfying taking Alana to see the Red Stars than the Bulls or Blackhawks. The dreadful Luvabulls and Ice Crew girls are the only women in the spotlight at those events and Alana notices - big time.

Do the guys who run these teams have daughters? And are they happy to continually send them the message that their place at sporting events is on the sideline, leading cheers or skating around in slutty outfits for the enjoyment of the boys in the spotlight?

On the other hand, I can't watch the WNBA for more than five minutes. A decent boys high school game in Chicago is far, far more exciting than anything women's professional basketball can deliver. And the fact that no one in the league seems willing to even consider trying to add a little pizazz to the game like, say, Bob Cousy did way back when when the NBA needed a spark, is oh so dim.

Pro softball doesn't do it for me either.

The Pride and the Red Stars played very entertaining soccer on Sunday. I hope that counts for something. It helped that the teams scored early and, for soccer, often. I am a fan of the game but scoreless ties and plenty of 1-0 finals make me angry. Sometimes two teams play compelling soccer and just happen not to score or a single tally makes the difference.

Far more frequently overly conservative game plans result in a boring back-and-forth and in the end we've wasted 90 minutes with chicken . . . salad teams that refused to take the chances needed to achieve anything worth having in sports.

That definitely wasn't a problem Sunday. And my daughter, and my son and my other daughter (well, she's a little young and was mostly concerned about yet another kind of parade - that was the one featuring different forms of junk food and drink being trotted out by various vendors in our section) and the rest of our group had a real good time . . . especially after the sun finally went down behind the western grandstand about 20 minutes into the second half.

Bears Bite
Egad - is anyone paying even a little bit of attention still optimistic about the Bears after that debacle against Oakland on Saturday?

How would that be possible after watching the defense give up huge swaths of yardage to the absolutely unremarkable Jason Campbell and his band of unknown skill players on one side of the ball and Jay Cutler run for his life on the other?

The fact that the Bears' terrible defense and Chris Williams' inability to stop a simple speed rush were incredibly bad signs was covered in terrific detail in the local papers on Sunday.

But there is another side to this. In the first week of the preseason, against a Cowboy team many observers are describing as the most talented in Big D since the 1994 squad brought home the franchise's third Super Bowl in four years, the Raiders recorded four sacks in the game's first 20 plays.

It might be that Oakland, which has been bad for a half-dozen years now and maybe is finally starting to take advantage of the drafting advantages that go with that status, won first-half battles more than the Bears lost.

In other words, this is one of the things that happens in the preseason - a young group with much to prove hits the ground running and gets a little ahead of the competition no matter what team it is.

And of course there is the fact that . . . preseason games mean nothing! Yep, I have repeated this fact during the preseasons the past several years and I suppose I always will when writing about the practice games that receive an inordinate amount of attention in a football-mad metropolis.

We won't really start to know anything (other than perhaps the fact that the Bears' age on defense is almost certainly going to result in more injuries like Urlacher's pulled calf in the first series than would be suffered by a younger crew) until the true kickoff in three weeks.


Jim "Coach" Coffman brings you SportsMonday in this space every, um, Monday. He welcomes your comments.

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