I cannot tell you how many times I have been approached by a boy saying, “You are a Patriots fan, aren’t you?”
“I am,” I respond.
“I bet you can’t name ten players on the team,” They retort with a smug look on their face.
“I bet you I can name fifteen,” I say. Then, I name fifteen–and their positions.
After these conversations, I cannot pretend that I do not feel a sense of pride. I will admit I feel like I just won a little Super Bowl of my own on the inside.
But, then of course, the boy has to say something like, “I bet you just stared at the roster and memorized those names for when people ask you.” This just leaves me in a disarray. Boys are more consumed with themselves and their own egos than I originally thought. When they look at me, they see an unathletic, dumb teenage girl, but little do they know, I am one of the most competitive and biggest sports-enthusiasts out there. I love the feeling of supporting my hometown teams and cheering them on with all members of my family. When you grow up in the town of Foxboro, Massachusetts, your culture is consumed with sports.
Sundays are for football and only football. Summers are full of games at the famous Fenway Park with season tickets two rows behind the Red Sox dugout. Basketball is always on and ready to be analyzed by my collegiate athlete of an older brother and truly the biggest basketball fan I know– my younger brother. You might be thinking that I just enjoy sports because I am the middle child in a family of all boys. Truth is, you are probably right. But, my sport is–wait for it– hockey. Where did my obsession with hockey come from? I have no explanation. Ever since the 1980 USA Olympic hockey team beat the Soviet Union to win the gold at Lake Placid, I have been hooked. Of course, I was not alive for that game, but Miracle is my favorite movie of all time (I can even recite Herb Brooks’ speech from memory). Anyways, I digress.
Boys say that they like girls who know sports. But truthfully, men hate when girls can analyze sports and know what they are talking about. High school boys get defensive when you show them up with stats and analysis because they feel inferior and like you just stepped over the line. They like girls who will watch sports, but not girls who actually know what a Pick-Six is and can spot a block in the back before the flag is thrown. It is intimidating. I have been dwelling on this for a while now because of how I am treated when guys find out how much I know about sports. They engage in conversation with me and will start pointing out flaws within my teams, which they assume I will have no response for. They are not prepared for me to my hold my own and once they hear my retorts, they immediately get scared– and defensive.
I recently read an article from a female ESPN sports writer, Stacey Pressman, who clearly has experience with being a woman in a “man’s world.” She wrote, “Guys can accept questions, corrections and explanations relating to the intricacies of the game from other guys. But there is very little patience, even slight annoyance, when a woman adds insight that extends beyond the color of the uniforms and the basic you’ve-got-four-chances-to-go-10-yards fundamentals.” It’s true. I even hear men speaking of female sports reporters as “dumb” and “not knowing what they are talking about.” The fact of the matter is that female sports reporters spend just as much time watching and analyzing sports as male reporters, but are still not given the respect that male reporters are given.
Why is it this way? Personally, I believe that sports, especially football, hold a certain degree of masculinity to them. Sports that girls cannot simply understand because they have never played them are “guy’s sports.” Admittedly, I have never played football (besides in the winter with my brothers), so therefore, I do not know of the conditioning and intensity of games that players go through. Nor do I know what it is like to go out on the ice and skate tirelessly for twenty minutes at a time. I learn what I know about sports from what I observe on the playing field and from my brothers and from watching SportsCenter on Saturday and Sunday mornings. I follow my favorite athletes on social media and stay up to date with the team Twitter for updates about games, injuries, and inactive lists. I watch sports for the excitement and suspense, just like any other person. The jitters you get in the final minutes of a close game and the glory of witnessing your team come back to defy the odds are what I enjoy so much as well. I do not watch sports to prove a point about feminism or to engage in arguments with boys about specific teams, but I watch sports for the love of the game. Doesn’t that makes us all equal? It is not who knows more about sports or who can defend their team best, but our focus should be why we watch the teams we watch and how they bring something new into our lives. Sports and our teams give us hope and give us something to believe in when times are tough. It should not matter if you are a boy or a girl, but that you hold the same interests and goals at heart. Sports can offer different escapes for everyone but at the end of the day, we spend our time watching and cheering on the teams we do all because of the love of the game.