New York Times Article on Letterman and the Soccer Team

© New York Times - July 21, 1999

Having spent Monday with the country's political leaders, the Women's World Cup champions met Tuesday with the talk show host David Letterman, the team's self-appointed spiritual leader.

It was Letterman's comedy of lechery that tagged this team as "Babe City" and turned soccer moms from a desirous political demographic to the more licentiously covetous "soccer mamas!"

On Tuesday night's "Late Show With David Letterman," the host deflated the rear wheels of the political bandwagon that has insinuated its way into the American soccer team's entourage, attempting to turn the post-victory celebration into a pre-election photo opportunity.

Noting that the players had given President Clinton a jersey at a White House celebration on Monday, Letterman said archly, "Clinton got all excited because it's the first time in a long time a woman has given him a piece of clothing that wasn't considered evidence."

Doing his part for international relations and the brotherhood of man (and women), Letterman thanked the players for defeating China, "the angry, nasty Communist Red menace." And using a little 1950's humor from the laugh riot House Un-American Activities Committee, Letterman wondered why there was uncertainty about whether the United States team would soon appear on a cereal box of the breakfast of champions.

"Are the Wheaties people a little soft on Communism?" he said.

Letterman went on for as long as he could about how superbly athletic and graceful the players were, about what terrific role models they were, how nice and smart and intelligent they were, but finally he could not resist their sensual attraction.

"They're just hot," he said. "Certifiably babes," he said later.

As two of team's stars, Brandi Chastain and Mia Hamm, walked onstage in shorts and yellow T-shirts inscribed with "World Champs," they were given a standing ovation and serenaded by chants of "U-S-A-! U-S-A!" As they explained the intricacies of the penalty-kick finale of the tournament, Letterman said, "I don't know if we can say this, but terrific legs, my God, great legs."

Hamm said that she favored continuing with sudden-death overtime instead of deciding a game with penalty kicks. "It's frustrating," she said. "We'd love to keep playing, and we've talked about dragging dead bodies off one by one."

Discussing how goalkeeper Briana Scurry had stretched the rules by coming forward from the goal line to block one of the Chinese penalty kicks, Letterman said, "I think in this particular case our goalkeeper maybe indicated she had had a little too much spirit with that rule."

Chastain deflected the controversy over the way Scurry had punched away the penalty kick.

"Bri has a lot of spirit and she made a great save that was in the spirit of the rules," Chastain said.

Asked what went through her mind when Chastain kicked a ball into her own goal two minutes into the quarterfinal match against Germany, Hamm said, "Sub!"

The whole team appeared on stage, with defender Joy Fawcett carrying the championship trophy. While some expressed concern during the tournament that the team had been portrayed in a sexual manner, Hamm said after last night's appearance that Letterman's comments had been made "in a way that's positive for us."

"He was talking tongue in cheek," Hamm said. "He's a comedian."