Friday, April 3, 2009

Actually, I Like Sports

A few weeks ago, I was enjoying my Monday morning ritual of reading the New York Times while peddling hard on an exercise bike at my local gym, when the fortysomething man on the bicycle next to me looked over. I was holding Sports Monday, staring admiringly at the clever layout presenting the men’s NCAA Final Four brackets on four big basketballs. But apparently I had offended his view of the social order. “Are you actually going to read the sports section?” he asked, incredulous. “Yes,” I answered. “I write books about sports.”

It was the “actually” that got to me. Like my reading the sports section was so unbelievable that he had to emphasize his shock. It’s been a while since I’ve encountered anyone who was unaware that sports is no longer an all-male domain. But this time it was pretty ironic, considering that at least half of the people panting and sweating on the cardio machines around him were female.

I’ve been an athlete and a sports fan since I was little. I grew up going to Mets and Yankees contests. Watching the football games of my dad’s alma mater, the University of Texas, was practically a religious experience in our house. One of the proudest moments of my childhood took place during a neighborhood softball game, when I hit the rubber softball so hard that it broke a pane of glass in the lamppost across the street from our house. One of my favorite dates in high school involved making my computer nerd boyfriend watch me hit line drives at our local batting range.

Over the years, I’ve seen women athletes go from being anonymous competitors to household names. I’ve witnessed younger generations of females embrace playing sports as a right, rather than a privilege. I’ve met women who have built careers in sports journalism, sports marketing, and sports management.

I’m pretty sure most of those women have had to deal with their share of incredulous jerks who couldn’t believe they had any interest in sports. Fortunately, their passion drove them forward, past doubters and naysayers. I’ve been inspired by them, as well as by the many pioneer athletes I’ve interviewed who stopped at nothing to play the games they loved. With the power of their stories propelling me, a chauvinist on a stationery bicycle doesn’t have a chance.


Linda Zajac said...

It sounds like the guy was probably married to someone who had zero interest in sports. I couldn't resist this one.....

!!!!!! G O U C O N N !!!!!!!!!!

(That's where I do most of my research)

Teacherninja said...

I had the same reaction as a stay-at-home dad my daughter's first year. I'd be in the grocery store and someone would say, "Oh, are you babysitting for Mommy today?"

I hate when people call you spending time with our own child "babysitting." What is that about?

Now I'm an elementary school teacher surrounded mostly be women and can tell you that many of them are sports fans.

Bigotry and stereotypes get is nowhere.

PS Just noticed the new logo! Nice.