The newfangled treadmills at the gym I go to have TVs attached, and usually, I try to match my appointment with the treadmill with a baseball game. This past Friday, though, there was no baseball while I was working up a sweat. So as I channel surfed, I bumped into coverage of the Wimbledon tennis tournament.
It was immediately clear, from the roars of the crowd, that I’d landed in the middle of a very intense match. Serena Williams, the American force of nature who’s on an incredible winning streak, was facing Britain’s own Heather Watson. And Watson was getting the better of Williams in the deciding third set.
The British fans cheered deliriously both when Watson would make a good shot, and also when Williams would make a bad shot. Which raised my patriotic hackles a bit, and got me invested in the match very quickly, even though I’m not really a tennis fan.
Williams was making uncharacteristic errors. She seemed a bit off-balance. And it really felt like it was Serena against the entire stadium. But, on the verge of elimination, Williams found her calm, cool, collected inner assassin and won a game with four straight 100+ mph service aces to put the Brit on the ropes. And Williams went on to win the third and deciding set, earning the right to play her big sister Venus in the next round. They’ve been around for so long that somehow, I’d begun taking them for granted. But the Williams sisters are one of the most remarkable stories in all of sports.
Then, last night, the U.S. Women’s team won the World Cup, blitzing the Japanese team and going up 4-0 in the first half of the first half. They played a fantastic game, and seemed to absorb a lot of physical contact in the process. The win was especially sweet for those team members who were on the team four years ago, when the Americans seemed to outplay the Japanese women, but lost in heartbreaking fashion. It was pretty good for us fans who watched back then, too.
At the end of the weekend, it occurred to me that we—or I—have come a long way when it comes to women in sports. I posted last year about how Title IX opened the doors for women participating in sports.
That’s been a big change in my lifetime, so I’ve been conscious, as I watched some of these events, that I’m watching women play. It was kind of a novelty.
These days, I watch because they’re damn good, and it’s fun to watch.