I don’t blog about it much (yet), but as my bio claims, I am a sports enthusiast. I geek out hard core on sports. Not like I know who Tom Brady is or I’ve heard of Kobe Bryant, I mean that I can tell you why you’d play a 3-4 defense versus a nickel package in certain situations, and I can name the 1978 Dodgers starting infield. It’s been like that for as long as I can remember. The ESPN landscape is now dotted with women — from Hannah Storm to Sage Steele — but it wasn’t always that way. In fact, when I was a growing up, I actually kept this little factoid to myself because a girl digging sports was just weird. Well, like the brown skin I hated so much in my youth but am so grateful for now in my 40s, being the chick who’s into sports has developed into a major asset. In not just a few ways, being a sports enthusiast has greatly benefitted me in my dealings with people.
Meeting Men Becomes Low-Hanging Fruit. First, let’s state the obvious. Single ladies, listen up. Watching sports is the easiest way to meet and break the ice with guys. The EASIEST. I’m an old lady, and let’s say I’m a 5-6 (adjusting for LA standards). Having this one quality instantly moves me up to a 6-7. As a happily married woman, I am the last person on earth who needs to meet guys, and yet they engage with me all the time because dudes like talking about sports. I primarily tweet about sports and the majority of my 580ish Twitter followers are guys ages 25-45 (i.e., the ESPN demographic). So even if you are an average-looking woman, this one trait alone gets you instant curiosity and respect from guys.
Access in the Corporate World. Not all connections have to be romantic. Obviously, mine can’t be since I’m married, but being into sports has benefitted me professionally. I am a secretary at a prestigious law firm where the partners are predominantly white men who went to USC and Ivy League law schools –very old boys network. Well, nothing is more old-boy-networky than sports. Two years ago, after having worked for him for over 15 years, my boss finally asked me if I wanted to be on his fantasy football team. It’s a firm fantasy football league, and only attorneys are allowed in, so I would have been the only non-attorney in the league, but I turned it down. One secretary told me that I had finally broken the glass ceiling, so I guess I’m like the Hillary Clinton of legal secretaries? Alas, I’m not ambitious in this particular arena, so it doesn’t really mean anything to me except that it’s cool that my boss holds me in such high regard (ha). Anyway, knowing sports can be your admittance into that clubby corporate world.
Athletes and Fandom Model Healthy Disagreement. Watching sports, as well as playing them, has shown me how to view conflict in a healthy way. When I see Kobe and Lebron try to crush each other for 48 minutes and then hug it out afterwards, it demonstrates to me that going at it in one area for a period of time doesn’t have to define an entire relationship. I am super comfortable hashing it out with people, sometimes heatedly, and then dropping it. (Maybe too comfortable.) It doesn’t mean we’re breaking up, or I can’t work with you, or we can’t be friends anymore. It just means we disagree. I think women are a little too keen on making nicey-nice and shying away from conflict. Conflict is not bad, and if you’ve ever watched a game and yelled “Suck it!” at a friend because your team just scored a touchdown, and then passed that same friend the nachos, then you get comfortable with conflict real fast. Knowing how to disagree and drop it is a valuable skill.
A Gateway to Social Issues. Sports often brings to light – and to certain audiences – issues that would otherwise be buried. Because sports has such broad appeal, what superstar athletes do makes news. Of course, there are the big and obvious headlines, like the Jameis Winston case, which speaks directly to rape culture and how an entire university and town (Tallahassee) conspired to keep a star athlete on the field by not investigating a student’s rape claim against FSU’s QB. However, sometimes the initial story is only the surface offence. In the case of former Clippers owner Donald Sterling, the initial story was how he referred to Magic Johnson and other black athletes in a racist manner. The real story as told by ESPN commentator Bomani Jones was Sterling’s – and others’ – discriminatory housing practices that served to oppress entire communities. Unfortunately, Sterling’s despicable housing policies, though known, weren’t newsworthy until he made the derogatory remarks against Magic Johnson. Whatever it takes, I guess. So, it’s often through sports that larger issues are brought to my awareness, and that knowledge makes me more conscious of how I interact with people, pushes to me question certain ideas, and inspires me to become involved in areas I’m particularly passionate about.
The Universal Language. World Cup, the Olympics, street ball. Sports brings people from all walks of life together. Playing sports is a true meritocracy, and no matter what your ethnicity, race, education, social or economic status, if you can play, you play. As a fan of sports, I have been able to meet people that I normally wouldn’t come in contact with in my everyday life. Thanks to social media, I’m never watching a game alone, and one of my favorite things is to watch a game on Twitter with people from pretty much all over the world — it’s like a giant living room. One of my favorite times of the week is Friday afternoon, when I get to spend a few hours in a sports chatroom with about thirty people from all over the country; we just shoot the shit about what happened in sports that week. The community I live in and work with is pretty homogenous, but sports allows me to come in contact with a much wider range of people and viewpoints, which frankly I crave because otherwise, BORING. Also, not the real world. Sports expands my otherwise uniform circle and gives me a starting point from which to connect with an exotic coterie of people.
Being into sports is often viewed as a guy-thing, and its fans can be unfairly characterized as oafs. Some are. (I’m looking at you big shirtless guy wearing a giant foam cheese wedge on your head in 20 degree weather.) Some fans simply enjoy athletic excellence and competition, and that’s cool, but sports has given me much more than a fun way to pass two or three hours. Following sports has given me a way to relate to a wide range of people and an interesting lens for viewing society. It’s given me a framework that’s served my life well in all areas. So ladies and other sports skeptics, perhaps this is an opportunity to reconsider sports and, rather than see it as something just for the testosterone-heavy, view it as a vehicle for contemplation and interaction.