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ON WOMEN AND SPORTS

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An important announcement

Samantha Ponder, human being.
Samantha Ponder, human being.
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

I'm not sure when I got sports. I didn't like sports, and then I did. The light was off, and then it was on and I was a crazy person yelling "THAT'S AN ILLEGAL SHIFT" at televisions in bars.

When I was growing up, I didn't like sports.  My dad watched NFL football, Formula 1 racing, World Superbike, and the Tour de France. My mom hated all sports. I played lacrosse in high school, and that was it.

And then one day, I got sports. I understood. I got the tension in your ears when the game is about to come on and the reporters in the studio throw it to the booth at the game, and I got the sweats when it's 3rd and 2 and your team is on their opponent's 38 yard line and goddamn it, we can make this drive count if we just get two fucking yards. I got sports hard and bad and obsessively and compulsively.  I've forgotten about jobs I've had and people I've met but I'll remember wheel routes on second down forever.

You got sports, too. I don't know how it felt for you, but you know how it happened, and the moment it did, you were different, because now you had sports.

Samantha Ponder and I would likely have very little to talk about, as she went to Liberty University and is married to Christian Ponder, and I am a largely agnostic lesbian who is unable to keep a houseplant alive. But we got Sports. She got it at Liberty University, I got it in 2005 in Ann Arbor with a team quarterbacked by a robot.

Michelle Beadle got Sports, and she has a show on ESPN where she discusses sports. She talked back to Stephen A. Smith about his remarks regarding the Ray Rice domestic violence case a few days ago, and now her Twitter mentions are full of threats and expletives and morons.

But this isn't about Samantha Ponder, or Michelle Beadle, for that matter. It's not about Ray Rice or domestic violence, or Stephen A. Smith and "embracing the debate" all the way to hell.

It's about sports, and who gets to talk about them, and who doesn't. It's about how when we talk about sports, we tend to talk about them like they're for one group of people, and other people aren't allowed in. It's about how when you're a woman and you want to talk about sports, you'd better be super hot or else you won't get on television, but if you are super hot and a woman talking about sports on television, people will assume you slept your way to the top.

It's about how women like Sam Ponder or Michelle Beadle, or Erin Andrews, or Doris Burke can never win because they are women first and foremost and must be constantly reminded that there's no place in sports for women, no real place, not really. We have to be twice as good to do half as well as this guy, and even he doesn't have people telling him that his horrible announcing is why men shouldn't be allowed to talk about sports on television.

This sports thing that we love is not for us. It can be about us, and feature us, but it's not for us. The way sports are portrayed sometimes, the whole thing is for the Boys of Summer and "man caves" and a group of people who see sports as the last bastion against women, as if we will come into your living room and decoupage your tables without your consent if you don't watch every single baseball game WGN shows on Saturday afternoons. Our love, my love, for sports and for the culture that surrounds it and is embedded within it isn't real enough. Or maybe it's too real. Or maybe that's the reason why you're gay, Jane*.

Goddamn, I love sports. Despite all the bullshit and the sexism and the complete lack of comprehension many in the sports world have for issues regarding women, I still love sports. I still love football and basketball and hockey and soccer and tailgating and getting into arguments about recruiting and reminiscing about batshit games like Oklahoma-Colorado 2007 and staying up late reading long-form pieces from the Sports Illustrated vault and getting so excited the night before the first game of the season that you can't sleep, you don't want to sleep, because tomorrow sports will be happening.

I just wish sports loved me back.

*This actually was said to me.