Women's World Cup victors show why they lead parade

Story highlights

  • U.S. women's soccer team honored with parade in New York after third World Cup title
  • Amy Bass: Team feted in a way women never have been before

Amy Bass, a professor of history at the College of New Rochelle, has written widely on the cultural history of sports, including the book "Not the Triumph but the Struggle: The 1968 Olympics and the Making of the Black Athlete." As the supervisor of NBC's Olympic Research Room, she is a veteran of eight Olympics, with an Emmy win in 2012. Follow her on Twitter @bassab1. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN)Not since 1960, when figure skating gold medalist Carol Heiss Jenkins made her way through the Canyon of Heroes, has a ticker tape parade in New York been dedicated exclusively to a woman. That was until Friday, when the honor was bestowed upon the U.S. women's national soccer team following its victory in Sunday's World Cup.

Amy Bass
As the team made its way from Battery Place to Broadway, Lafayette Street to Chambers Street, ending at City Hall Plaza for a ceremony in its honor, thousands of people were there to mark history having been made: It is the first team to win a third Women's World Cup title. And these players are also making history in another way -- becoming the first women's team to be honored in this manner (there have been 159 ticker tape parades honoring only men, 12 that focused entirely on women and 23 with both).
Fans began filling up the parade route well before sunrise, with little girls dragging homemade signs that thanked the team "for letting us dream." Following the New York Police Department Band, the team's grande dames, Christie Rampone, the only one on this squad who also played on the victorious 1999 team, and Abby Wambach, whose 183 international goals stand alone, men or women, joined New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on a float. Not far behind, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio was joined by perennial standout Megan Rapinoe and Carli Lloyd, whose historic hat trick in the final almost seemed to guarantee a U.S. victory even before the halftime whistle blew.
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    But the estimated cost of this parade is a reminder that despite all of the well-deserved attention this team is getting, the women's side of soccer continues to play second fiddle to the men. At about $2 million, most of which the city will reportedly foot, the parade is costing about the same as the team won in prize money on Sunday night. In contrast, as PBS notes, last year in Brazil the German men's team netted some $35 million for its title, while the U.S. men received $8 million for losing in the first round of the knockout stage.
    And while many argue that the broadcast rights of the men's tournament more than justify the higher paychecks, in the United States, there is increasingly little merit to this line of argument. Sunday's final averaged more than 26 million viewers, the largest U.S. soccer audience in history, besting the record set last summer by the U.S.-Portugal match. To put it more bluntly, and in a way that sponsors might want to consider, the audience for this final was bigger than any NBA basketball final since 2010 -- and every single game of baseball's World Series since 2004.
    With this team then, the United States isn't trying to catch up with the rest of the world in terms of soccer fandom: It is leading, and Americans love to lead. This team didn't get a ticker tape parade because Alex Morgan is, as FIFA's website proclaimed, "easy on the eye," but rather because it won. While individual women have come before them through the Canyon of Heroes, from Amelia Earhart to Carol Heiss Jenkins to members of the 1984 Olympic team, this is different. These women earned their victory as a team wearing the red, white and blue. And they are being feted, as a team, in a way women never have been before.
    So Friday night, when the parade is over and the mountains of debris -- the Giants parade generated some 34 tons in 2012 -- are cleaned up, the city will continue to glow with pride. The Empire State Building will shine red, white and blue to celebrate this team, as will the lights on One World Trade Center's 408-foot spire.
    Isn't it amazing what happens when we watch women for a change?