Friday, February 24, 2006

Girl and Sports Fan - Not a Paradox

Note: Contains reference to a racist sports team name.
So, I am reading a book right now (shocking!), and came across this stereotype which I feel compelled to address. The stereotype is that women don't like or understand sports. I recognize that there are women who don't like and/or understand
sports. But there are men too. But for some reason this stereotype persists. Persist such that people are surprised that I watch football and hockey - and have always done so. They are surprised that I grew up watching football with my parents
(both of them). They are surprised even though most of these people know several women who watch sports. In my office, it was the women who started the football pools (a man did run the basketball pool).

One of the reasons I stopped reading Cosmo and Marie Clare were the eponymous articles about how to meet a man that always included the tip: Go to a sporting event, pretend you enjoy it. That bugs me on so many levels.

Now I did have one discussion with a guy who said that all the sports he watches are sports he plays or has played, so in that sense I am different. I don't know if that is something that truly breaks down across gender lines, but I didn't play
team sports in school. I took tennis and sailing lessons over summers but never achieved a level of competence that encouraged me to continue. (Which is not to say that I was terrible, it is only to say that since I wasn't naturally fabulous, my laziness took over). My dad played football in high school, in part he was short (not hitting the growth spurt until late) and skinny so felt the need to participate in something tough. My mother played field hockey in high school, but she didn't get into NHL hockey until after my brother became interested.

One of my favorite moments from "Ellen" (sitcom, not talk show) was the Thanksgiving episode (Redskins were playing - woo!) where they asked everyone to bring a pie. I have forgotten the character names at this point, but two homosexual men and two
heterosexual men (one played by the amazing Jeremy Piven) are watching the game. There is various cheering and comments as a trick play is executed which we the audience cannot see. One of the heterosexual states that it was a great flea flicker. One of the homosexuals responds that it was actually a reverse because it got handed to another back rather than to the quarterback. The heterosexuals politely pshaw, until the announcers backs up that it was a reverse. Meanwhile, pies have been brought out and the two heterosexual characters are now discussing whether there is a hint of cloves in the pie they are eating, while the two homosexuals continue discussing the game.

I grew up knowing the Redskins players. I knew that the Cowboys were bad. I have clear memories of the Skins trip to the Superbowl. My mother even helped me look up the player roster so I could put the correct numbers on the picture I drew of
Joe Theisman and Darrell Green fishing for Dolphins. I'm on the waiting list for Redskins tickets (fingers crossed, everyone - this could be my year). And I split tickets to the Capitals with my brother one year (if there weren't some many games, I still be doing it). And I accept that not everyone with two X chromosomes feels this way. What bugs me is the assumption that I don't like sports. That that's where the baseline indicator is, in defiance of my experience.