HBO’s Gumbel: Equal criticism necessary

Bryant Gumbel’s closing thoughts that will air on tonight’s eposide of HBO’s “Real Sports” have nothing to do with HBO Sports chief Ross Greenburg leaving, but the exit that the U.S. women’s soccer team made in the World Cup Final:


“Can we stop coddling women in sports? Are we now so fearful of being labeled sexist that we can’t objectively assess the efforts of female athletes? Those are both valid questions that have come to the fore in the wake of the patronizing reactions that have followed the USA’s loss to Japan in the Women’s World Cup soccer final.

“For the record, in the final, a very determined but unheralded Japanese team won the championship, upsetting a U.S. team that was heavily favored and ranked number one in the world of Women’s Soccer. En route to the loss, the American women failed to cash in on a wealth of early scoring chances, twice blew late leads with sloppy mistakes, and then got badly outclassed in penalty kicks.

“Had a men’s team turned in a similar performance, papers and pundits nationwide would have had a field day assailing the players, criticizing the coach, and demanding widespread changes to a men’s national team that flat out choked. Yet the common reaction to this ladies’ loss were simply expressions of empathy for the defeat of the unfortunate darlings and pride in their oh-so-heroic effort.

“Look, I have no desire to see anyone assail the women’s game or their athletes unfairly. But if the definition of true equality is treating folks honestly, without regard for race or gender, then it’s time we started critiquing women athletes in the same way we do the men. I’m sure some won’t like it, but blind praise is worthless in the absence of fair criticism.”

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