Story originally appeared in the Daily Californian on Sept. 11, 2013.
When I tell a guy I know a lot about sports, I get the same amused look just about every time. It’s as if he’s thinking, “Nice try, sweetheart. Why don’t you run along now and paint your nails?”
I hate that look, and I don’t deserve it.
The first thing I purchased with my allowance money was a little wooden plaque celebrating Barry Bonds’ 500th home run. The plaque cost me $33, which was all the money I had saved, and my parents told me repeatedly that I was wasting it, but I was so into baseball and so admired Bonds that I insisted. (Let’s just remember that I was 7 at the time, OK? I had never even heard of steroids.)
I’m the girl who, last year, went to a fraternity party and decided to watch the finals of the Australian Open instead of socializing. While my roommate and her friend were outside and the usual chaos encircled me, I curled up on a couch in front of the TV, mesmerized by the shots Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray were hitting. I got plenty of weird looks, but hey, it was a great match.
In 2011, a friend tried to trick me by asking who the No. 1-ranked player in golf was. He expected me to say Tiger Woods, but I knew the answer was the lesser-known Luke Donald. For good measure, I added that Donald is a Brit but attended Northwestern University and mostly lives in Florida, that he hits the ball relatively short distances but is extremely accurate, especially with his irons. It was great to see my friend’s jaw drop.
In this day and age, it just isn’t right to assume that females don’t care much about sports and know little about them.
At my sorority house, we sit around and watch baseball and football. Last year, when the Giants made it to the playoffs and then won the World Series, I thought we were going to get a noise complaint from all the screaming. Many girls in the house have fantasy football teams.
Sports have become more female-friendly since Title IX, which expanded athletic opportunities for women in sports, passed in the early 1970s. I played tee ball as a little kid, then played soccer for almost 10 years. I ski raced for a year and competed in equestrian jumping events for seven years. Loads of girls have been exposed to sports in ways that didn’t happen with earlier generations.
Sports are, of course, everywhere on TV these days, and, at a time when people are fascinated with reality shows, sports are the ultimate reality TV. Sure, producers of shows such as “The Bachelor” can keep some people on the edge of their seats about whether Catherine or Lindsay will get a rose, but for real drama, look at Johnny Manziel, who has been at the heart of numerous scandals, including whether he was paid to sign autographs. Or, look at the Pirates. After two decades of losing seasons, can they win their division and perhaps — gasp — another World Series?
Enough girls care that people need to stop assuming we’re airheads about sports, or you may wind up like a friend of mine in eighth grade. When I told him about my love of the Steelers, he accused me of being a bandwagon fan, because the Steelers had just won their record sixth Super Bowl. Now, the bandwagon accusation isn’t one I take lightly. I explained that my dad grew up in Pittsburgh and that I’d been wearing black and gold since I could walk.
Then, I got slightly heated and started rattling off stats about the team. I ranted. I examined the depth charts and laid out the tradition of the Steelers. (Steel Curtain, anyone? The Immaculate Reception? I’ll go back to John Henry Johnson and Big Daddy Lipscomb in the ’50s, if you’d like.) I concluded by making the case that the Steelers were clearly the best team in the NFL since the advent of the Super Bowl.
A friend of the guy who had challenged me told him: “Dude, you just got owned.”