Women's Sports Fighting for Recognition in Boston
Competing in a city long sidled with a racist reputation, sports teams and organizations in Boston have long worked toward equality, or at least a perception of it. But in the past few decades, a new battlefield has emerged in the sports-mad city's culture war - women's sports.
This fresh fight, taken up recently by a professional soccer organization and Title IX-backed activists at Boston's many colleges, isn't so much against anti-inclusive bigwigs - modern day Yawkeys - but against norms, financial constraints and fan interest.
The women don't have to prove they have a right to play. They have to prove they can - and people will ...view middle of the document...
As if to complete its "ashes-to-ashes" flavor, announcement coincided with the start of the 2003 Women's World Cup.
"We had some great sponsors," WUSA commissioner Tony DiCicco said. "The way our previous business plan worked, we had to reach a certain number for sponsorship. We knew that after tickets and licensing, we needed this much in sponsorship, and this much from investors. We weren't reaching the number in sponsors, therefore investors had to put in more money."
In the league's three-year run, Boston showed it can support a major professional women's soccer team as well as any city. The Breakers, without so much as a championship game appearance, averaged 7,674 fans, playing most home games in Boston University's small Nickerson Field. On June 1, 2002, 21,539 turned out to see the team play Mia Hamm's Washington Freedom at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro.
"I think the Boston Breakers was a well-run organization," DiCicco said. "The team got into the community very successfully, and they had a neat venue in downtown Boston. Even though they came in sixth place the first two years, there was still very good attendance."
DiCicco, a Connecticut native, said the Breakers helped cultivate a rabid soccer base among girls in Massachusetts.
"Massachusetts has one of the top state associations as far as the number of regular players," he said. "I've seen soccer grow in Massachusetts from where it was behind other New England, and now it's certainly as good as anywhere in the East. They develop some outstanding players."
Though the WUSA's future was very much in doubt just a few months ago, rekindled sponsor and fan interest has led many, including DiCicco, to be confident about a reformation. Currently, he said, any plans for a new WUSA have the original eight cities - including Boston.
"I can't get too specific, but we're working to reorganize," DiCicco said. "We've had a tremendous response from the grassroots community, and a pretty impressive response from sponsors. We're speaking to sponsors now including ones from the past and new ones that have come forward. We're trying to realistically see something in '04, and bridge into '05, when we hope to ramp back up to full operation."
Local Colleges Working to Equalize
The Breakers proved there's a market for women's sports in the Boston metro area. The question, then, is whether the schools that make the city the undisputed college capital of the Northeastern United States can cash in on the trend.
For them, however, it's not just a matter of money. Thanks to Title IX legislation, Boston's four Division 1 athletic programs - Harvard University, Boston University, Northeastern University and Boston College - don't have much choice but to given female athletes a shot.
Title IX, passed in 1972, demands proportional representation for women's sports in terms of scholarship dollars, numbers of athletes and access to peripherals such as travel budgets, practice time...