Sex Sells Soccer (And Other Things Too)

Sydney_Leroux_Article1

Sydney Leroux is a member of the US Women’s National Soccer Team. She’s a star athlete, she’s a standout competitor, and she has a compelling story. She’s a Phenom and she’s also a fox.

Sydney is a soccer forward who is aggressive, physical, unafraid, and hungry. She always wanted to play with the best, so much so that it became a consuming ambition. It was sometimes the only thing that she knew about herself. The public — and marketers — have embraced her as she appears to embrace herself: heavily tatted, bold, fun-loving, beautiful and free.

Since we’re on the eve of the 2015 Women’s World Cup, ESPN is doing their part to pump the event. A documentary about Sydney recently aired on ESPN’s Sports Center and as I watched in wonder I was captivated. “Syd the Kid” has a hard luck, rags-to-riches, rise to soccer fame kind of story that pulls you in and also freaks you out. And it doesn’t hurt that she’s not hard on the eyes either. Sydney’s story is told in full elsewhere, but for now I’ll share this:

Sydney was born in Canada but she has an American father. She is bi-racial, a mix produced by her mother, Sandi, a former softball player on the Canadian national team, and her father, Ray Chadwick, a baseball player who’d briefly pitched in the big leagues, yet left her and then disappeared. Her father (and mother) gave her fast-twitch muscles, the dimples that punctuate her smile, creamy, pale-brown skin, and, from her father, American citizenship.

In order to fulfill her dream of playing for the US National Soccer Team, Sydney would have to move to the US as a young, 14 year-old teenager. The first attempt to live in the US ended dismally. The second time she tried living in the US she went to Scottsdale, Arizona, where Les Armstrong, a well-respected coach, and his club team, Sereno Soccer Club, were waiting. She got on a plane, flew away, and left her single mother behind.

Leroux hated it. She hated school, the “whiteness” of Scottsdale, and the feeling of being alone. “I didn’t like who I was,” she told reporters. “I didn’t like my hair. I didn’t like the color of my skin. I didn’t like that I was different.” She moved from host family to host family, house to house. She packed her bags more than once. “I don’t know if anyone could understand what it was like to be 14, 15 and have no one,” she says. “I wanted to quit, I wanted to give up so many times. I just wanted to come home.”

And then, after all of the pain, there was gain. https://godandsports.net/2013/10/09/no-pain-no-gain/

Sydney made the 2012 US Olympic team, was the youngest member of that team and yet she scored a goal in the Olympic quarterfinals against New Zealand. Her fresh, favorable face appeared in newspapers around the world, the picture of joy. She became the team’s symbol of freedom and individuality. And she won a gold medal. Not too shabby.

United States's forward Sydney Leroux celebrates after scoring the second goal during the London 2012 Olympic Games women's football match between the USA and New Zealand at St James' Park in Newcastle, north-east England on August 3, 2012. AFP PHOTO / ANDREW YATESANDREW YATES/AFP/GettyImages
United States’s forward Sydney Leroux celebrates after scoring the second goal during the London 2012 Olympic Games women’s football match between the USA and New Zealand at St James’ Park in Newcastle, north-east England on August 3, 2012.
But after watching the documentary and being mesmerized by her mass and magnetism, I found out that she posed for ESPN The Magazine’s “The Body Issue” in 2013. Was I disappointed? Or surprised? Probably both. She is such a pure heart who has such a powerful testimony, my sheltered, shielded and in some respects shaded view of sports was nearly shattered. I see the world of sports from a God perspective, not a “bod” perspective. It’s about God and sports, right?

So we all know that “sex sells.” Fine. Or not. But soccer? Female athletes have long since posed for photo shoots because they are attractive. NASCAR race car driver Danica Patrick and Tennis star Serena Williams and countless other ladies have gone bare and borne it all to promote themselves and their sport. Because they have a wide, pretty smile and long, wavy hair and a cute, curvy physique does it qualify then for the final round of approval of men and women? Apparently so.

So is there anything WRONG with being sexy and sporty? For many yes. But for many others, I guess not.

Read more about Sydney at http://grantland.com/features/sydney-leroux-womens-world-cup-2015/  

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