Saturday, February 5, 2011

Just A Fan

I read skimmed a couple articles on women and sports and liking sports and the difficulties of being a female fan and OMG women talk about how the players are hot and guys don't want to hear that yadda yadda. I started to feel my hackles go up about it and thought about writing a thousand word screed on the topic and then I just...didn't have the energy to. So you'll still get a thousand words, it's just not gonna be angry.

Here's the deal: I LOVE sports. Obviously. And yet: I never think of it as me being a GIRL who likes sports. I just consider myself a PERSON who likes sports. I've never even pondered that guys would be threatened by a girl who actually knows sports. Seriously? Is it 1950? Most of the ones I know are thrilled that a girl knows something. Sure, I've definitely mentioned the times when men have talked down to me about sports and how that drives me nuts. I'm all, "Uh. Yeah. I know." I can't really read most of the comments on Deadspin without wanting to punch a guy in the nuts. But most guys have been completely cool about the whole thing. When I went to Louisiana in September I made friends with an entire group of guys who thought that me knowing sports was pretty awesome. Hell, when I WENT to LSU, we (my girl friends and I) made friends with guys who appreciated us and discussed football with us. IF a guy ever had a problem with me and felt threatened by me liking sports, well, frankly, that's HIS problem, not mine.

And I know I'm not alone in this. I follow at least four female writers who know personal fouls from offsides. They write for sports blogs, they write about sports in print. It's funny that sports marketing is just NOW figuring out that marketing to women might make some sense.

Maybe I'm lucky to have grown up in Northern California where every single last girl I know was told from an early age that she could do anything she wanted, play anything, follow anything. We were all fans of different things. We didn't have to give up our femininity to be sports fan. My best friend in grade school's dad was a basketball coach and she knew more about basketball than I could ever hope to AND was the girliest girl I knew. My female cousin (the jerk one I mentioned recently) followed the 49ers long before I became a devotee of the sport. I knew the Giants from an early age and wasn't alone in my grade school class among the girls to have a first crush on Will Clark.

Maybe it's because I went to college in the deep South where girls knowing college football is not a passive thing. My level of football knowledge for a female at an SEC school is about average. We aren't compelled into or forced either, girls genuinely enjoy it. That's the status quo. I still get texts or facebook comments or tweets from my college girl friends come football season that are basically "GEAUX TIGERS!" Or more complex like "WTF is our secondary doing?!" And I love that we can rally around this.

Maybe it's because I was lucky enough to grow up in the era of Title IX where women were given the opportunity to play sports and be involved in athletics at every turn. We ALL played something at some point (me, not very well) growing up. We played with the boys after school. This was the NORM. The divide between femininity and being a fan of sports didn't occur to me. We weren't LESS because of it. We were more.

I talk the same smack with my guy friends that I would with my girl sports fan friends and don't even think twice about it. Should I have been? I doubt it. If I didn't tell my ex-TAMU football player friend how badly they were gonna get beat in the Cotton Bowl, he'd wonder what was wrong with me.

Maybe it's because I have this mom, who quietly and without thinking about it, does this job that is still 85% male and never uses her gender to make excuses. I was discussing this and Andy said, "That's cuz you're mom's kinda like a dude." I was like, "No! She's totally feminine!" But what he meant was the way she interacts with the world is sort of more male like than what we describe as typically female. I definitely think some of my personality has been informed by this. Even that comment is annoying though. Why do we see these personality traits as typically identified with one gender or another? Why isn't it just BEING who that PERSON is? Because that's how I see my sports fandom. It's gender neutral. It's a thing I like. One of many. I also like shoes and purses. These things, in my universe, go together. If you want to make my sports fandom more difficult because I'm female, well then, dude, you got some insecurity issues.

Funny enough: My mom gave me grief earlier about my newfound hockey fandom. "Since when did you start liking hockey? Why are you going to a game before the bar exam? I thought you weren't doing anything before the bar exam." I started to get upset about THIS until I realized her problem was that I was doing stuff without her and not so much that I was excited about hockey. Ah. Momz.

When I watch football I get to hang out in Northern California with my awesome mishmash of different friends from different backgrounds of different levels of fandom and know that they see me as me and have no problem with that. A female sports fan who dons team colors and yells at the TV makes perfect sense. And I see them as them and love each of them individually. Chuck making the football double entendre jokes and Michael thinking Mark Sanchez is hot and David and Sara just for being there. I hope every woman all over the country gets the same sort of nonjudgmental viewing experience on Sunday that I am lucky enough to enjoy all season long.

For now, I'm going to bed in my elegant brass bed with my flower bed spread, my hockey tickets secured to my mirror and a regulation LSU helmet on my bookshelf and I will think absolutely nothing about what that means. You shouldn't either.

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