The Women’s World Cup of Dysfunction and Narcissism

By Joseph D'Hippolito Published on August 31, 2023

Heywood Hale Broun, a sports journalist for more than two decades with CBS, once made an astute observation usually associated with John Wooden, the legendary college basketball coach. Sports don’t develop character. Sports reveal character.

If Broun is right, then the performance and behavior of the United States’ team during the recent Women’s World Cup not only revealed the players’ character. It also reflected the nation’s accelerating societal chaos.

For Americans, the tournament and its aftermath featured the toxic combination of narcissism, entitlement, “woke” politics, pervasive popular fatigue and the politicized bitterness.

From Excellence to Mediocrity

Since the Women’s World Cup began in 1991, the United States won four of the first seven tournaments, finishing no lower than third. But this year, the Americans barely survived group play before Sweden eliminated them in the Round of 16 on penalty kicks following 120 minutes of scoreless regulation and extra time, soccer’s term for overtime.

While numerous analysts offered numerous explanations for the team’s subpar performance, Carli Lloyd — who won two Women’s World Cups and two Olympic gold medals for the United States — cited a more disturbing trend.

“It is no longer ‘We want to win because we want to win,’ ” said Lloyd, whose 134 career goals ranks fourth internationally. “No, we want everything that comes with winning, and we think we can just roll out and win games. That’s not the case, and teams see that. They see the arrogance in the U.S. and see that they’re not this unstoppable team. They see that (the United States is) able to be broken down and beaten.”

Lloyd, a commentator for Fox Sports during the tournament, used the Americans’ behavior after ending group play with a scoreless tie against Portugal to prove her point.

Several players danced, sang and took selfies with adoring fans, as Fox Sports showed. But if a late shot from Portugal’s Ana Capeta found the net rather than a goal post, the Americans would have been eliminated.

“There’s a difference between being respectful of the fans and saying hello to your family, but to be dancing, to be smiling?” Lloyd asked. “I’ve never witnessed something like that. You’re lucky not to be going home right now. There’s too many distractions. There’s too much emphasis on ‘How many followers do I have?’ or doing photoshoots and doing this and doing that.”

The frivolity included midfielder Megan Rapinoe, one of the best players in American soccer history yet perhaps the most obvious target of Lloyd’s criticism, though Lloyd never mentioned her former teammate directly.

Ms. Narcissism

Rapinoe turned the national team into her personal platform for “woke” causes, as The Stream recently reported, thereby destroying team morale and widespread fan support. During the Women’s World Cup, some players would place their hands over their hearts or sing during the national anthem, while others refused as a political protest.

“I don’t think the respect of wearing the crest, playing for your country and doing everything in your power to fight for your teammates was there,” Lloyd said last year. “The mentality changed and it became toxic.”

But Rapinoe also used the squad to launch a second career as a fashion influencer, as Lloyd’s remark about photoshoots implied.

In 2020, one year after leading the United States to its fourth Women’s World Cup championship, Rapinoe became the face for a women’s luxury fashion brand. In 2021, she appeared at that year’s Met Gala, then launched her own collection through Nike.

“With the exception of using my mouth,” Rapinoe told CNN, “(fashion) is the chief way that I express myself every day.”

Alexi Lalas, who represented the United States in two World Cups, is not impressed.

“All of the good, all of the positive, all of the fame, all of the fortune and all of the attention that you get is based off of one thing,” Lalas said on Fox Sports about the team. “It’s not because you’re incredible as a person. It’s because you’re incredible as a soccer player, and you win on a consistent basis. All of those accolades and all of that praise has come because you have won.”

Hypersensitivity Personified

Rapinoe responded in an interview Aug. 22 with The Atlantic. Her comments not only reflected her “woke” fanaticism. They exposed an utter lack of perspective or humility. The midfielder started by donning the mantle of collective victimhood:

I think, just in general, the way that our team was spoken about over the course of the tournament, it was fake. In 2019, we were ultra-confident, ultra-swaggy — and won everything. And even though we won, we did it in bad taste, according to our critics. This time, we weren’t confident enough, and we don’t have the right ‘mentality.’ And so we lost. It’s just so disingenuous. There’s no way for us to win, and there’s no way for us to lose.

Rapinoe wasted little time in attacking the favorite “woke” bogeyman while responding to Lalas’ and Lloyd’s criticism:

Yeah, it was really disappointing — and the speed with which those comments got into the atmosphere. Everybody on the right — and everybody who was using hateful language and these tropes — it’s like they have just been waiting since, I don’t know, 2016? 2019? They’ve been waiting for this team to stumble. But when we are perfect, then we are accused of thinking that we’re perfect.

Really, what’s happening is that the right wing wants this to be true: They want women to believe that you can’t fight for things and be excellent; you can’t ask for what you deserve and be successful. But the reality is, we’re doing that.

Rapinoe even equated criticism of her and her team with criticism of all women, and took the opportunity to promote both abortion and transgenderism:

One thing that America does really well is backlash. I think there’s a huge backlash against women happening right now. I think we see that with the overturning of Roe v. Wade. We’re seeing that with the trans(gender) argument in sports.

Finally, Rapinoe accused the opinionated Lalas of being an ideological stooge: “Does Alexi know exactly what he’s saying? If I was saying stuff that anchors on Fox News are also saying, I would be worried about the cosign.”

Backlash and Implications

Rapinoe might live in denial but one of her former teammates, who watched her try to organize players to kneel during the anthem, knows the truth.

“I’ve seen Megan Rapinoe almost bully players into kneeling because she really wants to stand up for something in her particular way,” said goalkeeper Hope Solo, who won two Olympic gold medals and a Women’s World Cup while amassing a world-record 102 shutouts.

Thanks to Rapinoe’s obnoxious influence, many of her teammates embraced the “woke” causes she promoted, especially her position on the anthem and her opposition to President Donald Trump. In the process, the team alienated Americans to the point where many cheered against them against international opponents, as The Stream reported.

“I have never rooted harder for a US team to fail,” David Frishkorn tweeted after the Women’s World Cup.

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Politics and personalities aside, however, the merriment Rapinoe and some of her teammates expressed after the tie against Portugal revealed a vanity that permeates the culture — and that previous generations once found abhorrent.

“I’d lay odds that the players Rapinoe influenced were all from that special class of children U.S. citizens are raising today — the children of children who were raised as special,” Dr. Don Rhudy wrote. “Then they went home when dark fell where dad and mom celebrated them.”

For Rhudy, the ramifications are frightening.

“Are these the children and the youth we must depend on to defend America and American values from our domestic and foreign totalitarians!” he asked. “Are they strong enough? I will give odds they aren’t.”

 

Joseph D’Hippolito has written commentaries for such outlets as the Jerusalem Post, the American Thinker and Front Page Magazine. He works as a free-lance writer.

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