LPGA at a crossroads; German soccer’s renewal; FIFA follies

What I’m reading about sports and the media on Monday, July 5:

• The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review examines the travails of the LPGA as the U.S. Women’s Open gets underway at Oakmont Country Club. The recession and the lack of high-profile American stars to succeed the retired Annika Sorenstam and Lorena Ochoa have given new commissioner Michael Whan plenty to tackle. He sounds like many of his predecessors over the years, however, with this age-old pronouncement that is unlikely to resonate:

“There’s nothing wrong with our product. We just need to have more people see it.”

Tell that to women’s sports activists who can’t be bothered with something that isn’t related directly to Title IX, or can’t be blamed on the male sports culture. Sports business has never been their strong suit, but the ailing women’s sports industry needs all the backing it can get. The challenges facing the 60-year-old LPGA are far more critical than whether cheerleading should be declared a college sport, but guess what is getting most of the heat and light this summer?

Argh, exhale! It’s only Monday, right? To say that I’m restless about the way things are, and especially the conventional “wisdom” that informs perceptions of women in sports from the very women who claim to exalt them, would be a severe understatement.

• Another topic I’ve gotten really interested in following seriously in recent months is athlete development. My friend Tom Dunmore at Pitch Invasion today rounds up some good pieces exploring how the German youth soccer system was completely overhauled a decade ago, and is now yielding many of the young players who have been setting the World Cup on fire. This article from Ralph Honigstein at SI.com also explains how at the very youngest levels, skill development and the mastery of fundamentals is stressed over competition. Hello, USA?

• Stefan Fatsis has left South Africa, but gives the whole FIFA aristocracy a good spanking over at The New Republic’s World Cup blog. Like many American sports journalists digging into the politics, cronyism and corruption at FIFA, Fatsis is aghast at what he sees. These guys make the IOC look like pikers, but as the controversy over refereeing illustrates, Sepp Blatter and the boys are accountable to no one.

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