The modern Olympic Games have always been a chick-flick moment for women who finally have the camera long enough to turn America's head. They haven't batted their eyes, but performed flips for enough mass adoration to last
The headiest time of this
Suddenly, women were bringing a rich, new meaning to gender equity. Paydays were on the way for athletic women who seemed bound for perpetual endorsement deals, commercial appearances and pro career opportunities. The revolution never materialized, though.
All but one of five pro leagues spawned by the Atlanta Games, the WNBA, has been shuttered. And in the aftermath of the Athens Summer Olympics and the Turin Winter Games, no single woman emerged as a mainstream hit on America's pop-culture charts. Only one woman (non-Olympian
The Olympics used to make up for some of the fame -- and pay -- differential between women and men, but that has changed since
As the 2008 Beijing Games begin, there will be women whose names will be rightly added to the list of great American athletes, but increasingly, their achievements will likely occur in an Olympic vacuum, with expiration dates on their celebrity.
What happened to ponytail power? It's a combination of complex issues, but you can begin with the residual "we've-been-duped" effect surrounding
She sold her book, appeared in Nike ads and amassed millions in endorsement deals. All this, even as doping suspicions began to billow around Jones when the BALCO scandal broke in 2003. Earnestly, emphatically, and always with grace, she declared herself clean, having never tested positive, with her samples as pure as a mountain stream.
It was all a lie. As much as everyone wanted to believe Jones -- and at the time, America women weren't considered as vulnerable to cheating temptations as their male counterparts -- she turned out to be as dirty as any Harry. Last year, she was forced to confess at least some of her doping sins when Jones was sent to prison for perjury about her steroid use and her part in a check-fraud scam. Jones isn't scheduled for release until Sept. 5 -- or 10 days after the closing ceremonies of the Beijing Summer Games.
She'll be there, though, as the ghost of burden for America track novas like
The Jones hangover is off the track and in the pool, too.
The Jones backlash isn't the only obstacle for women, though. What's the shelf life of an Olympic queen when newspaper editors, slain by budgets cuts in recent years, are devoting fewer resources to the coverage of women's sports? There is less room for the WNBA stories loaded with Olympic cast members, and space is too tight for those "catching up with
What's in Vogue? Fewer female Olympians, more
Hope is in the magic, though. And if anything, the Olympics present a box full of miracle possibilities. Maybe a wallflower will bloom as a human interest thriller. Maybe Torres will shed the skepticism for her legacy to prosper. Maybe gymnast