Friday, November 6, 2009

New Mexico/BYU's Bitchslap

ESPN ran a story about a recent match between BYU and New Mexico's women's teams which has become infamous for the elbows-to-the-ribs and ponytail-yank antics of New Mexico player Elizabeth Lambert. Fans of the sport are groaning, because this is what it takes to get a non-Olympics/World Cup/WPS Final into headlines - replays of bitchslap.

It seems to start with a fairly standard but decidedly unkosher elbow to the rib - as New Mexico's Lambert was sitting right behind a BYU player, the latter dug her elbow into Lambert's ribs. Lambert gave it right back, but less subtly and perhaps with more force. You could see that Lambert was furious. She proceeded to play violently through the rest of the match - incredibly yanking one player to the ground by her ponytail, and kicking a ball pointlessly into the face of an opponent, who was on the ground [This may not have been Lambert - see comments].

The obvious question is: where the hell was the referee? (Lambert picked up just one yellow card.) In that ESPN highlight video, there were two or three incidents that looked red card worthy - and they were on the ball, too, so the ref must have seen them. That she committed those offenses is bad, but that she was on the field for the duration of the match is worse because it suggests that the people controlling the match were not taking it seriously.

Anyway, it's a low point for women's soccer and I'm not going to link to the video here. If you want to find it, it's easy enough. Shame is, looking around for footage of great tackling in women's soccer, I struggled to find anything. A reminder of just how awful coverage of the women's game is. There are some fantastic defenders out there - in the WPS and internationally.

I did find this strange highlight video from a WPS match that celebrates some great keeping but looks to me like a chaotic game. Still, it's physical but clean play. But before you watch that, enjoy this photo montage celebrating the world's #1 badass, Nadine Angerer:

I also recommend this lovely montage celebrating "tough female footballers." The gal who put this together didn't have much to work with - not because there aren't great moments out there - but those moments are not recorded, broadcast, and rebroadcast. I am not sure all of the video clips are worthy of celebration, but some are and she's put in some fantastic photos and scored it all to Christina Aguilera, for good measure. Actually - I take back my equivocation: it's the best highlight reel of women's soccer I've ever seen - if one side seems weak, it's because the other is that much stronger (and yes, I'm quoting Aguilera here).


  1. Actually, I don't think it was Lambert who kicks the ball in the girl's face - that was another defender. Lambert had fouled her just outside the box.

    It's a little confusing from the video.

  2. Hi, Jennifer.
    I've been following your blog via Google Reader for a few months now. Today I did not expect to see my "Tough Female Footballers" video on here! Thank you for the compliments. I cut together this video as a response to men who belittle women's sports, as an empowering message for young girls and women, and as a "Thank you" to female soccer players of past & present.
    Thanks again your comments.

  3. Kristina, I had no idea that was your video! Fantastic - because it really is great.

  4. wearing the pony tail is just provocation.

  5. Spot on about the ref. Is this kind of aggression common practice in the Mountain West Conference? Or even collegiate soccer in general? Apart from the ref's seeming lack of concern, the commentators really only arced up about the pony-tail pull. (And even then the studio soccer expert, Julie Foudy, admitted hair pulling is de rigueur.) You got the impression that the intentional trips, the slaps to the head, reckless kick at the ball under a player, and the scything tackle were just a normal part of a rough caper. If you can't stand the heat, etc. The scything tackle in particular would have automatically attracted a red card in the EPL, as well as a lengthy suspension.

  6. None of that was ordinary play - that's why I put up the "tough" highlight reel at the end of the post - to show examples of aggressive, physical but clean play in womens games. ESPN has never been my network for reporting on anything involving women - that spot was just awful, and I'll bet Julie Foudy feels dirty for having been roped into it.

    Marshall-Stacks: I completely agree. I am an "alice band" person. It's my way of imagining that I have something in common with Berbatov.

  7. Great post Jennifer. Anyone interested in a historical analysis of why women's sports are treated so differently to men's check out this great article:

  8. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  9. Thank you Holly - that's a great article!

  10. Was not sure where to post this:


Feedback? Let me know what you think. Just an FYI: all comments posted to this blog are recorded, whether I publish them or not. I do not publish generally hateful comments - whether they be directed at me or at players and teams or other readers. I appreciate reader feedback, especially from those whose contributions add nuance and complexity to the story.

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