A few weeks ago, I got an email from a reader named Marla Siegel. I know we have a lot of female readers and Colts fans, and I always enjoy hearing their perspective on things. I’ve asked Marla to give us all some insight into what it’s like for a woman who is also a die-hard football fan. It’s harder than you think! This is the second of three installments. You can read yesterday’s discussion of how other women react to Marla here.
Not All Men Will Get You Either (But, In The Infamous Words of Meatloaf, Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad):
Because I hadn’t yet discovered the affirming, ‘you-love-what-I-love-and-hate-what-I-hate’ comfort of cyber-communities like this one, I set off for a local bar in search of those answers. (And, well, maybe also in search of a couple cocktails—insert obligatory Purple Drank joke here—with which to drown my Colts-related sorrows). The thing about bars, or at least the admittedly lowbrow ones I hang out in, is that they tend to feature sports-related programming blaring nonstop in the background. Those inescapable post-Super Bowl clips and recaps were like pouring an entire ocean’s worth of salt into my gaping wounds; and also further proof that ESPN, with the hopeful exception of the charmingly candid Paul Kuharsky, totally hates me. A few guys happened to notice me wincing, and politely inquired as to the source of my discomfort. These three guys reacted to my ever-so-attractive sniffling and whimpering over Indy’s defeat with a little more understanding than my female friend had, as they happened to be sports fans themselves. In retrospect, though, each of the three also conveniently represented one of the common male reactions to female football fanaticism that I’ve encountered:
This guy just loves yammering merrily on about football with absolutely anyone who’ll pretend to listen. If no human is able or willing to oblige, he’s the guy who tries gamely to share his random NFL opinions with inanimate objects, like the remote control or his perpetually empty beer mug. He’s not particularly deterred when they don’t respond. He doesn’t care about your gender; it’s quite possible he doesn’t even notice it. If he does eventually pick up on the fact that you’re shaped and sized differently than most of his male sports buddies, he’ll confide how psyched he is to have found an “awesomely guy-like woman” who’d rather gush about the game than those screechy shoe-obsessed shrews from Sex in the City.
Easily recognizable characteristics: hasn’t taken off his favorite player’s jersey since purchasing it sometime back during Bush’s first term; overreliance on goofy sports metaphors, which he enjoys awkwardly wedging into nearly every sentence of the conversation; a cheerful but intense passion for the game that makes you feel validated in your own wacko obsession.
- I’ll need to see your Wonderlic score before we can proceed…:
This guy admits, albeit a little reluctantly, that he thinks it’s cool you know a bit about sports. He’s just overly concerned with making sure that bit you know isn’t any bigger than the bit he knows. He refuses to let even your most basic football-related observation go by unchallenged (“but, statistically speaking, can the Colts’ pass rush be considered genuinely elite or merely a step above adequate?”) After your first five comments are dissected and parsed to the extreme, you start to wonder whether this conversation is more tiresome and headache-inducing than it’s worth. However, you can’t help but respect this guy once you figure out where he’s coming from: he truly cherishes and values the game. To him, football fandom is a special fraternity of which he’s proud to be a part, and he feels obliged to make sure you’re worthy of membership. After you’ve taken those first tentative steps towards gaining his trust by proving you can even, say, distinguish between a quarterback and a cornerback, this guy may start to solicit and value your input. Like that long-elusive Lombardi trophy we finally secured in 2007, winning over finicky fans like this is an arduous but ultimately rewarding challenge.
Easily recognizable characteristics: a penchant for tossing out obscure statistics and historical factoids even when they’re not necessarily relevant to the conversation; frequent references to his own blog, on which he alternately impresses and depresses his readers with 100,000 word scholarly analyses of any and all minor facets of the game; and a confession, usually after his third scotch, that he’s been burned before by phony female football fans who’ve turned out to love the idea of donning a cutesy little pink Romo jersey a la Jessica Simpson far more than the actual on-field action.
- Can’t you and your never-played-the-game self just stick to cooking me up some artery-clogging halftime snacks?
To this guy, there are women and there are sports fanatics, and the idea of these two demographic categories overlapping disrupts his antiquated view of how the world should be. He’s the one who says “So you REALLY like football that much, huh? Really? Is there, like, a reason for that or…?” about three different times before he gives up trying to converse with you at all, opting to merely scowl and shake his head a few dozen times instead. He thinks maybe your love for football means you’re less ‘feminine’, and has been known to make unfunny cracks about “certain chicks” running a little low on estrogen that makes everyone else within ear shot cringe even as he laughs uproariously at his own devilish wit. His own appreciation for the game is as shallow as a kiddie pool: he views weekly football games primarily as an excuse to amp up his beer consumption, shout at a higher decibel than usual and dream up derogatory nicknames for players on the opposing teams. However, he’s generally forgotten all about the game within a few minutes of its conclusion. The ultimate outcome—and the various little triumphs and defeats that occur within every match-up—don’t hold much interest for him. And, as a woman who dares to love football more than what he deems properly ‘girly’ pursuits like shopping, baking and maybe hair braiding, you interest him even less. Fortunately, as females continue to make a great impact on the sports world as participants, journalists and fans, this sort of gender-biased cluelessness is becoming mercifully obsolete.
Easily recognizable characteristics: He dislikes you. It’s visceral and immediate. He lacks both the ability and desire to mask his contempt. You can also identify this type by the fact that he spends large chunks of every football game insinuating with the subtlety of a jackhammer that every fan and player on the opposing team is—har dee har har—homosexual. Even the guys stuck hanging out with him start to edge their bar stools farther and farther away until they’re barely within shouting distance by halftime.
Ed note: For the record, I fancy myself as Guy #2, but I treat everyone that way…not just the ladies. This article will appear in the Articles sidebar in its completed form. Tomorrow: What drives a woman to football?