Tuesday, January 29, 2013

What’s Up with This Gender Debate in Sports Love?

Okay, who out there likes sports? In particular, who enjoys hockey? I do. Not a shock if you have hung around here for any length of time. I mean, not every post I publish is about hockey but a good majority of them are. In fact I just counted and out of my 412 posts since I started this blog in October 2007 I tagged 57 with something related to hockey or the Bruins. 14%? Not a bad stat. But also clearly not all I ever write about (despite what some of you might think come playoff time).

As most of you know by now my first novel, Ripple the Twine, is about a female Sportswriter from Boston who is obsessed with the Bruins. I used to be that girl too; many years ago I was quite the hockey fan. I went to lots of games with friends and family, professional or even just my high school games in town. The Beanpot was something I grew up watching every winter. But I let hockey slide when I got more into football back in the Nineties and only revived my intense love of the ice when I wrote the book. You all know the story by now.

When I came back to hockey a lot had changed as far as rules and the like and I wasn’t well versed in how to follow along with more than the puck. Then I started thinking about it and realized that back in the day I called myself a big fan of the Bruins but if we’re being honest here I didn’t know anything more than the names/numbers on the back of the guys sweaters and that if the puck went in the net you scored a goal.

But no one was kicking me out of The Garden or laughing at me because I couldn’t talk Goalie GAA and didn’t know what a two-way forward was. I stood up and cheered when those pucks hit the twine along with the other 17,000 some odd people and I’d wager that a good majority of them were just like me.

No, not female. Clueless in general. But not because of gender.

Fast forward to doing the research for Ripple, I got into a whole world of new information. I mean I was writing the character of a Bruins-obsessed Sportswriter. A female one in a man-centric world. I had to know more about the sport so I could make her convincing. I had to know what would make her tick and I really started to pay attention to the game. To the players, how plays form, how a winger knows exactly what his line mate is going to do and why. How it’s so much more than scoring and/or stopping goals.

And let me tell you I was hooked. Pun intended.

The action, the pace, the skill level of these athletes is, in my opinion, unmatched in the world of sports. Because they train and battle just as hard as any other athlete but they do it on a slippery surface in skates at extremely high rates of speed. Hardcore.

And then there was the cuteness. Now as a self-proclaimed Tomboy I’m pretty much always going to have a thing for the rough and tumbled Townie types. Not sure just what that is? Here’s a visual guide:

Andy Ference, Keith Yandle, Carey Price, Zach Parise, Rick Nash, Patrick Kane, Jerome Iginla

It seemed great that I could watch sports and appreciate the game play but that as a female (who is attracted to men) I got the best of both worlds in that I could appreciate the hotness of the players too. I never thought twice that it would be considered a bad thing to think a guy was attractive. All those guys in that graphic up there are current roster players on one team or another (But yeah, I omitted Sydney Crosby just because).

It never occurred to me that females were frowned upon in a sports community because they could enjoy a good looking man in addition to a hard hitting sport. Or that their knowledge of a sport would be called into question because of their gender. Or that just because they like the color pink they’d be labeled idiots in the eyes of the “official” sports police: aka men.

It never occurred to me I’d have to defend my knowledge base to men. I just liked talking about and watching sports.

Kathryn Tappen moved from NESN to NHLSN and she certainly isn’t laughed at. Naoko Funayama is the ice-level commentator for the Bruins. It never occurred to me that females would let themselves be frowned upon. And then I came across this controversial article the other day (this is a re-post of the one from the NY Rangers site that was taken down after the deluge of backlash that ensued).

You should read it, I’ll wait.

You got all that? Yeah I just have one question for the writer of this article:

Um…what the fuck?

Now here’s the thing. Do I begrudge this writer her opinion? No not in the least. If she’s more comfortable going to 70% off sales and asking the man in her life for advice on how to be a fan of sports then that’s her business. What I can’t get behind is her willingness to just put it out there so casually as if the entire female population should nod along in agreement and start saying ‘Oh good, finally I can stop watching sports seeing as though I only did it for my dad/grampa/husband/brother/boyfriend/uncle/friend and get back to Macy’s where I belong.”

The Rangers were smart and took it down but this narrow view going up at all makes me sad. I wonder if the man in her life is writing the ‘Men’s Guide to Asking Women About Shopping’. Because lord knows none of them ever did anything for themselves before we came along, right ladies? Thank goodness we were able to save them from all that confusion!


I’m not saying that women shouldn’t ask those in the know for help if sports is something they don’t understand and want to take a more active role in enjoying. And I’m definitely not saying they shouldn’t ask a man for that help. All I’m saying is why assume it has to be something a man knows and a woman doesn’t? Or that a man cares more than a woman?

In our house my husband taught me the finer points of baseball and I taught him the finer points of football and hockey. Neither of us looked down on the other for not knowing. Matt does most of the cooking. He’s the romantic one most of the time. I know lots of stuff about tools and construction.

Does this make us any less man or woman? Hell no.

So as the controversy continues to swirl about this posting I beg all of you to think more about how this relates to the perceived notions of the sexes and their roles in society and not how women can be just as big fans of sports as men.

Because in the end I don’t think the article had as much to do with sports fandom as a gender’s alleged place in the lineup.

Photos from here, here, and here


Launna said...

I love your open honest post Jenn and I don't think there is anything wrong with loving sports and being a woman. I used to be a massive baseball game, I new all the players, their RBI's... I knew everything about the game.. The same about Basketball... I followed for me, for the love that I had for the game and I am a really girly girl... nothing wrong with loving sports though;)

Anonymous said...

Um...what century is this? I didn't read the article itself but I read the article about the article and I saw an excerpt or two. Smh. Though I'm not surprised this would show up on the Rangers website, of all teams.

Back when I was in high school working on one of the school plays the star of the show was holding court backstage during a rehearsal. Very cool preppy/jock kinda guy. Anyway I'll never forget what he said that night: "I love women. And I love sports. But I can't stand women (who work) in sports." He was referring to the Linda Cohn/Suzy Kolber/Erin Andrews types, sideline reporters and whatnot. I probably laughed at the time, but honestly I don't notice 80% of them. The only ones I do notice are when they are bumbling idiots and/or you can tell they only got the job b/c they're hot. I'll never forget the 2003 SCF, when the Niedermayer bros were on opposite teams. The dumb reporter asked their mom who she's rooting for. "Rob, because Scott's won before." Then The Devils won game 1 and the bimbo asked the same question for Game 2. "Still rooting for Rob." Yeah, like she'd jump ship after *one game* of a 7-game series? Ugh.

Which reminds me...Diana forgot more about hockey than I'll ever know, and she used to hate baseball until she married me. But now she knows about 100 players by name, including most of the Red Sox. She even has a favorite player (Pedroia of course). At first, when I was much younger, I thought it would be better if I didn't date a sports fan (because I'm obsessed w/ sports and would inevitably scare her away with my incessant rambling) but once I met Di that all went out the window.

Honestly, I think my sports love would have died out if women like her and my mom and others hadn't been around to nurture it.

Jenn Flynn-Shon said...

See this is exactly what I'm talking about - women do enjoy sports and it has nothing to do with either 1) the men in their lives forcing it or 2) the gal being too timid to say she doesn't enjoy it just to apease him. Glad you admit it proudly just like me :-)

Jenn Flynn-Shon said...

Your opening question - hello, exactly! I was cringing the entire time I read the article (it is pretty short I suggest you give it a once over. Just hold your jaw) thinking she had to be kidding. But it came off as serious so I don't think so. Scary. Why not just put on her big girl pants and say "um, hunny, I hate hockey, so not my thing but you enjoy the game with your friends" because clearly she's sitting there with her bow in her hair looking pretty and pretending to be interested but he's not really noticing because he's watching the game so she took her frustrations out by getting her attention online instead. Pansy. Ugh, I could go on for hours but I'll stop. Its just maddening.

Well if Diana was going to pick a favorite player in baseball when she started getting into the game I'm glad to hear who it is - can't find a much more clutch player than Pedie. And a Red Sox player to boot. Nothing bad about that!

I grew up watching baseball with my Grampa, football with my Dad and hockey with my Aunt. In Boston. I mean if ever there was a town that sports love is nurtured in men and women from birth that would be the town. I had no chance but to come out a fan of something. And now it seems more of the women in my family are fans than the men. So I guess pretty much what I'm trying to say is thanks to the writer of this article for giving me a topic for my blog but in the long run she can suck it :-)