Heterosexuality Part of Formula for Popularity

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Byline: Mike Imrem

Let's break the code and acknowledge openly that to Americans, one of the most appealing characteristics of our women's soccer champions is their apparent heterosexuality.

Political correctness left that mostly unsaid, but it was an undertone throughout the competition.

Let's face it, the perception - accurately or not, fairly or not - is that lesbianism is widespread in women's professional sports. As a result, many parents of athletic daughters worry about them becoming involved in an alternative lifestyle.

That makes straight an easier sell, and it seemed to me that no one associated with the U.S. soccer team was inclined to downplay the angle. Instead it was subtly exploited. Not only were the women projected as sexy, but as heterosexy.

Protective parents could feel good about taking their soccer-playing daughters to these female role models. They didn't have to deal with the notion that if the kids aspired to and reached the sport's highest levels, they would be vulnerable to something negative.

Overall, the U.S. players tapped into the perfect formula to attract large crowds, television ratings and commercial endorsements.

First, they are not only All-American women, but they are all American women.

Second, they are predominantly white, a generally positive characteristic on Main Street U.S.A. and consequently on Madison Avenue, Michael Jordan and Ken Griffey Jr. notwithstanding.

Finally, there is that heterosexual image.

Now, sports is the one place sexual preference shouldn't matter. You lace them up, compete as intensely as possible and then are judged by the scoreboard.

Except it's so much more complicated than that because image still matters whether we're talking about an athlete's grooming, race, fashion, religion, accent or, yes, sexual preference.

As a society we still resist the concept of open homosexuality. We'll tolerate it, perhaps, but not embrace it. …