Posted by: birdmaddgirl | 4 February 2013

the contradictions and perils of being a sportsgirl

i’m a terrifically uncoordinated, spatially-challenged person; bookish and trapped in my brain as a kid, and never encouraged really to be physically active. basically since birth, though, i’ve been a sports-watcher. yes, there are funny old photographs of me in a high chair plunked down in front of a dolphins game, rapt. i grew up with don shula and dan marino’s ‘fins – a fine recipe for perennial optimism without any real payoff that made for a surprisingly solid team loyalty streak. i had the great fortune to live a stone’s throw from fenway park for a while – i could actually hear the roar of the crowd on a spring evening just by opening my dorm window – to have had a baseball-aficionado boyfriend in college who taught me a ton about the game – including how to love it when it breaks your heart, he grew up a mets fan – and to be able to just walk up to the box office and get a $10 bleacher seat for a red sox game that night or to walk in the yawkey way entrance after the 8th inning to see pedro martinez pitch against the yankees – back before the grady little post-season snafu. since college, i got to appreciate hockey with my roommate-soulmate, who grew up playing and watching. football is my first love, and baseball has carved a warm place in my heart (but i’ll watch just about anything, really). i’ve been a red sox season ticket holder since 2004 and i am on a mission to go to a home game for every major league team (12/30 so far) and have often roadtripped to minor league games. all this by way of saying, i love sports. i love being part of communities of fans. i love sticking with my team even when it seems hopeless – you never know when you might get to see history made. i know what stats mean. i understand rules and penalties. i know players. i know sports.

i find, though, that knowing and loving sports presents some strange challenges in my life.

perhaps the most difficult to reconcile is the unending contradictions in sports fandom and personal morality. let’s face it: professional athletes are, by and large, people who have been put on a certain type of pedestal from a very young age. they are often out of touch with the reality that the majority of americans live in. they live by different rules. they have a lot of entitlement. (side note: no, i actually don’t think athletes are overpaid, but that’s a different subject altogether.) they get more and they get away with shit. and the culture within sports in general is anathema to much of what i hold dear. there’s a lot of hierarchy, racism, misogyny, homophobia, violence, and fear instilled in athletes from a young age. they are often not supported with the tools they need to cope with situations off the field. the scandals that attend major athletic programs at universities around the country are the best examples of how the culture and system fails these people, young men most especially. then there are cheating issues of various types. how can i root for a team, give them my loyalty, my time, and my money, under these conditions? i don’t know. sometimes i don’t – i stopped watching the dolphins during most of the jimmy johnson years because i think he’s a jerkface (i made an exception for marino’s last season). i had warmed to the pats for a while until they started adding known problem-players like terrell owens and randy moss to the roster. i was glad when the a-rod trade fell through. it’s not realistic to expect these guys to be saints and perfect role models all the time. they’re human, they will make mistakes. but can i, in good conscience, support a team of thugs or super entitled sour-faces? i can’t. but it’s hard to give up on my team, too. (see: last few years of red sox baseball, sigh.) it’s a contradiction i can’t resolve. in some ways, the culture at the top is starting to change, which gives me hope that things will get better over time. however, fuck you, DC football team. you don’t deserve to exist.

then there are the perils of being a girl who likes sports. there are two that come up most often, and they’re equally maddening. the one that seems to pop up more is the ego-bruising factor. for some reason, there are certain guys out there in the world who are personally and deeply offended that a girl would understand sports. and lord forbid i should know more about it than a dude. i have done a lot of game-watching in bars; sometimes i’ll go out by myself for dinner and a couple drinks to watch a football or baseball game, especially at times when i haven’t had a tv. girl alone at a bar is instant invitation for pick up lines, pathetic but true. i can’t even begin to count how many times i’ve been interrupted by a guy who wants to make chitchat while i’m *trying to watch the game.* sometimes i’ve been excited and tried to talk to them about the game. this, i’ve found, does not go over well. having an opinion about which relief pitcher should be warming up is not sexy, i guess. more usually these guys are shocked that i don’t want to talk to them at all. because *i’m trying to watch the game.* i have been called a bitch, a dyke, and some ridiculously terrible things that i refuse to repeat for just wanting to sit at a bar and shout loudly at stupid play-calls – something that is totally awesome if another guy is doing it, but an affront to american masculinity if it’s a lady. you would think that being into sports would actually be a plus in the dating department, but my experience has been mostly the opposite. of course, there are lots of men who don’t get their panties in a twist – i’ve dated some of them (i generally like sports much more than my partners, but they usually humor me at least) and have long-standing sports-watching plans with many others. i salute you. and i thank you for giving out some basic respect, even as i resent the fact that this isn’t just standard operating procedure.

the other peril is less entertaining and straight-up infuriating. it’s the dudes who just can’t believe that a girl knows anything about sports and seems to think she has no right to. period. why it should be so surprising, i can’t fathom. this most recently came up for me when a co-worker basically accused me of cheating in our office fantasy hockey league by asking me who was sitting with me during the draft to help me with my picks. oh, hey, go to hell, dude. just because i’m the only girl playing in your stupid fantasy league doesn’t mean you get to belittle me and be a misogynist jerk without getting told off for it. i can read stats just fine all by my lonesome, thanks. some girls like sports, understand sports, and possibly know more about sports than you do. we don’t need your special help and guidance because we are not confused about nickel defense. it’s not really any more shocking than the notion that not all guys care about sports. this whole experience is still kind of a sore spot for me (and it’s not a stand-alone one), but i just don’t even want to get that far into it.

sports are an emotional outlet – and clearly i have a lot of thoughts about them, mostly positive, actually. i’ve spent an uncountable number of hours in my life watching sports, at home, in bars, at beautiful or run-down or straight up strange stadiums, with friends, with strangers, all alone. i’ve seen some magical, historical moments and lots of pedestrian boring plays. i’ll spend many many more hours and dollars, happily, even when we suck, even when we blow the playoff game. there’s always next season. pitchers and catchers: 8 days.

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Responses

  1. as a fellow female who likes sports, AMEN.

  2. Thanks for writing this, really great stuff. The second and last paragraphs remind me of my reasons for attempting a sports blog back in the day, and then neatly summarize most of those reasons more concisely and literately than I ever did or could. Brava.
    Also: boys sure seem to hate sharing interests with non-boys. Sports, gaming, literature, politics, &c, &c, &c…

    • i wish you did have a blog – sports or otherwise. it would be fun to read. plus boys who are good at sharing should be more vocal 🙂


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