August 25, 2003

Why men don't watch women's sports.: I just know we can have some intelligent discourse about this topic! This well thought out and funny article is a good starting point. The writer makes a great point when he notes that those men who won't watch women's sports because "they're just not good enough" will still watch the Little League World Series. Ouch. Guilty as charged.

posted by vito90 to culture at 09:04 AM - 20 comments

I watched the WUSA final yesterday and it was pretty damn good. (It also seemed to feature less diving than is commonly seen in, say, a World Cup game.) I watch women’s tennis. I could not possibly care less about the LL World Series. I think two things work against the popularity of women’s sports in North America. One is the “I could do that, too” factor—none of us can stop Shaq, none of us can play with Serena, but . . . I’m 6’4” and can play a little basketball. Legitimately or not, I tend to think that much of the WNBA would have trouble dealing with my size, and I think most guys think the same way, which doesn’t lead to respect for the game. I also think that Americans are generally only interested in watching “the very best” play. The World Cup arouses interest here every four years but MLS struggles because it only gets the best in the world when they turn 35. Americans don’t want to watch anything in which the stakes are not Being the Best in the World (see also the “World” Series). And being the Best Female(s) in the world is not as attractive because it is qualified. Yes, I'm talking out of my ass here, but then being a fan isn't really rational, is it?

posted by Mookieproof at 10:14 AM on August 25, 2003

I watch WUSA games as well. I watch the games every once in a while for the same reason that I suspect many do- I don't have Direct TV or FoxSportsWorld, so WUSA games are almost the only televised soccer games I get to see. I'm not so sure that the WNBA's woes are so much about which sex is playing, but rather it being a young upstart league. Regardless of sex, doesn't every upstart league have difficulties from the get go? I think a new men's pro league would have the same difficulties.

posted by ttrendel at 10:35 AM on August 25, 2003

Mini-rant here... It's one's right not to think things through, but there's never really a good reason to be inconsistent on this topic. The problem isn't reasons people give for not liking women's sports -- particular the "gender-inappropriate" sports like women's hoops -- but the hostility towards them. I think that the X Games and the WNBA are both marketing-generated ventures, but in the male audience, the attitudes towards between them are completely different. If people don't like the X Games, they tend to simply turn away. No comment. No grousing. It's as if it never existed. If people don't like the WNBA, they whine and ridicule, as if their quality of life is being affected. And they complain that the XFL got canned for poor ratings while the WNBA still exists despite worse ratings, as if to prove that PC ruled the day. Which would make sense, if the XFL had a similar parent league pointing its gun at the networks, in the way the NBA does in sponsoring the WNBA or the way that the NCAA does to CBS to make sure that some of its non-revenue championships get televised. And quiet as kept, the Arena League found its way onto network television, so it's not as if you need to be an elite jock to get on TV sets if you're male.

posted by jackhererra at 10:40 AM on August 25, 2003

Just curious... how many of us would tune in if the models of Victoria's Secret were playing a basketball game against the cast of Baywatch? And we're talking about horrible basketball playing, but hot girls in bikinis and thongs running up and down the court. I sure would watch it... perhaps even record or TiVo it. Doesn't that say a lot? For men, women's sports is not about the sport itself, is it? It's about the entertainment factor that these women provide to men... and generally, that translates into how sexy they look in their outfits running around... the appeal of women's tennis is that a lot of them are HOT and running around in outfits that get shorter and tighter... Anna Kournakova is a pretty aweful tennis player, yet people go to watch her matches? Why? for the "very best" play? No... because they want to see Anna running around in her tight Adidas outfits. Would we watch Heidi Klum vs. Pamela Anderson in one on one basketball for the "very best" play? I don't think so... I'd rather watch Heidi Klum double dribble around Pamela Anderson than watch a bunch of WNBA players that I don't know... Let's face it fellas... it's not about athletic talent... it's really about sex and the entertainment value of it for us.

posted by jhwoo82 at 10:42 AM on August 25, 2003

I definitely would've watched the WUSA final had I not been on the road and if I had access to whatever station was broadcasting it. I have a definite respect for these women for a lot of reasons, one of the main ones being the salary cut that Mia Hamm and other "big stars" took to keep the league floating. The highest paid players in the league make somewhere in the ballpark of $60,000 a year, unheard of for a professional athlete. Sure, one or two of them get endorsement deals, and they make almost twice what I do to do something they love, but it's refreshing to see an athlete care more about their league or team than they do about themselves. Then again, I'd rather watch WUSA or Mexican Soccer or Billiards than a baseball game, so I'm probably not representative of the USian male sports fan target market. My theory about the LLWS, though, is that it's a way for many men to relive their old days playing ball and people have an emotional attachment to watching kids give it their all and either succeed or fail.

posted by Ufez Jones at 10:47 AM on August 25, 2003

I think it's because we're all secretly, yet openly, indulging our homoerotic fantasizing by watching men's sports. It's a socially acceptable behaviour and feeds our innate need to watch sweaty men do sweaty man things. This is further entrenched within the sports themselves which feature a lot of men hugging and slapping each other on the ass on the way to the team showers. Sexualizing women is easier in a non-sports forum. Like Penthouse Forum. Just a bunch of deviant behaviour socialized in our own puritan way. Ya bunch of sickos.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 11:11 AM on August 25, 2003

I'll sometimes spend 12 hours on a Sunday watching NFL games, but I never watch Arena football and I don't feel guilty about it. The NFL has generations of fans that know the history, storylines and people involved with their teams, something that not many women's sports have. Maybe in 25 years there will be people reminiscing about the legendary WUSA final of 2003.

posted by dusted at 12:10 PM on August 25, 2003

I was going to slam the Little League World Series in this discussion, because I think it's lame and exploitative to put 12-year-olds through the pressure of a big media spotlight. However, what happened at the end of this year's championship may redeem the event: Tokyo's players raced into center field after the game, bowing to the bust of stadium namesake Howard J. Lamade, a tradition that began with Tokyo Kitasuna in 2001. This time, Boynton Beach's players, rather than hanging their heads, ran out to join them. The victory lap, which both teams ran together, turned into a footrace.

posted by rcade at 12:22 PM on August 25, 2003

I watch women's sports because, in my opinion, they play harder at the top levels. I can't stomach NBA basketball because it all comes across as showmanship, and individual play. When I watch women's basketball (college and pro) or women's soccer, I see competitors out to prove something, and therefore a lot of heart. This isn't just the case in women's sports. I watch college basketball, and prefer to go to minor league baseball games. These players are putting their heart and soul into these games, and it shows. Lastly, I can't afford to watch men's professional sports. The contracts of the players and the greed of the owners equals astonomical ticket and concession prices. No thanks.

posted by scully at 12:43 PM on August 25, 2003

I second terrapin's monetary concerns. The quality of play is often just as good, if not different. Anyone who either fears or loathes the progress of female proffesional atheletics has personal issues to examine.
Care to discuss?

posted by lilnemo at 03:22 PM on August 25, 2003

For me there's not big rhyme or reason for what I watch. Sure, I'd watch little league baseball. Hell, I'll watch tee-ball. Probably because I grew up playing baseball. offtopic/ I would have given my right arm to play in the little league world series at age 12, as would most of my teammates. The problem is not the series, but as in any sports, parents pushing kids into things they don't want to do. /offtopic As far as women sports, I love women's tennis and soccer and any olympic events. It has nothing to do with how they look. I wouldn't watch two hours of Kournakova play tennis because I know she'll lose. Watching victoria secret models play basketball has nothing do with sports. The WNBA? I'd rather watch paint dry. I have no idea why, but it has nothing to do with loathing the progress of females. I wish them all the luck in the world, and I hope for them it works. Nothing's more wonderful than having an outlet for what you want to do. I just won't be watching it. There's a danger of making this a black and white issue, that if you don't enjoy a certain womens sport it must be because of chauvinistic reasons. And that's not always so.

posted by justgary at 03:49 PM on August 25, 2003

Point taken.
Who says we can't have intelligent discourse on SpoFi? The Bastards...

posted by lilnemo at 04:47 PM on August 25, 2003

I second justgary's comments. They are almost exactly what I was about to post, but he saved me the carpal tunnel! Kudos, justgary!

posted by therev at 06:36 PM on August 25, 2003

I am immediately sceptical of any article titled "Why [patricular group] do/does (not) do [x]." You might have different results after talking to men who watch Olympic-esque sports (track and field, curling, gymnastics, skiing, swimming). Generally, such women and men are more equal, in a name-recognition sense. And part of watching Arena Football or Little League Baseball (or junior hockey or up-and-coming whatever) is trying to pick out the next big star and comparing the level of play of the amateurs to the bigs. I watch women's hockey and skiing when I find it. But I have no interest in tennis or basketball so I'd never watch the leagues mentioned. (Hey, Mr. Sportswriter: psycho-analyse that, watching women in full gear.)

posted by Philfromhavelock at 10:50 PM on August 25, 2003

Kudos, justgary! My pleasure :)

posted by justgary at 11:12 PM on August 25, 2003

I've tried watching women's football. I'm sorry, but it's dreadful. I want the women to become better. I even read the Guardian's weekly reports on the women's game. But I just can't stomach watching a game. If I was a basketball afficionado, I would probably feel the same way about the WNBA. I don't like tennis, but I would say that women's tennis is a better game than men's tennis. Women compete in athletics just as well as men. For some reason, team sports don't seem to work as well.

posted by salmacis at 06:58 AM on August 26, 2003

the only women's sport I will watch is women's college basketball, and sometimes women's bowling or golf. The rest, strangely enough, bore me.

posted by corpse at 07:48 AM on August 26, 2003

I enjoy women's international soccer matches, but that's pretty much the only women's sport I'll sti through outside of the olympics. I'll watch Women's bowling, too, but that's more like watching a documentary on the Discovery Channel than it is like watching a sport. Same with Men's bowling.

posted by Samsonov14 at 07:56 AM on August 26, 2003

I don't want to sound like a queer, dude - but I think figure skating kicks ass. Actually, all stupidity aside - I think to an extent we're socialized to have girls more interested in girls games, and boys interested in boys games - starting from a young age when we begin to develop differently and are encouraged in school, and organized sports to operate apart. Boys and girls are essentially separeated in these activites after grade 4 or 5. The Oylmpics seem to be the exception - since there is more than just competition being observed, there's national pride. And I do think figure skating kicks ass - I think the pressure to perform in figure skating is perhaps equaled - but not surpassed in any other sport. And the costumes are pretty. Not much of a tennis fan. However the Italian Women's Olympic Vollyeball Team is an entirely different story.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 09:49 AM on August 26, 2003

I've voluntarily attended women's college basketball games. And I liked it. I watch the women's NCAA tourney as well. I think it's mostly just a love of the college game, as I have zero interest in the WNBA. The crowd in Cameron is a little different for the women's games. It's more of a family affair. When I vociferously encouraged UNC player Jessica Gaspar to briefly place her lips on my hindquarters, I got some interesting looks.

posted by mbd1 at 10:23 AM on August 26, 2003

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