Ladies and Gentlemen

Now that the college football season is over, it seems a majority of sports fanatics will be turning their attention to the NFL playoffs and, in early February, the Super Bowl. We’re deep in the NBA and NHL seasons, too, but right now, football is the big deal.

I got thinking about how we watch sports, and I began noticing a few differences between men and women.

Men love being analytical, and they suck up stats like sponges. For them, a sports event is mainly about who is fastest, strongest, or who has more skill. They look at teams from a purely numerical standpoint: Which player has the skill set and the numbers that will give the overall team the biggest advantage.

They think about team chemistry, too, but I think it’s a question motivated primarily by numbers. Given a choice between a player with a terrific personality but mediocre stats and one with “issues” and terrific stats, the stereotypical male sports fan will take the athlete with the better numbers.

Women, on the other hand, enjoy the numbers part, but they’re more interested in the stories behind players or teams, the character issues, and the emotional climate of a team. Case in point: I’m a woman. I get excited about stats like anyone, but I can’t necessarily hold them all in my head for quick recall, especially when debating players’ merits. But tell me about an athlete’s dad, or how he came to the United States and worked his way up to where he is now, or anything like that, and it’s locked in. I may not be able to bring up all the details in a future discussion, but I’ve “invested” in that athlete. I care.

I can watch most professional team sports without being rabidly loyal to one team over another. Last year, when the Yankees made an early exit from the postseason, I was disappointed because I’d been listening to their games on the radio all season. I knew all the backstories. But once they were out, I got just as drawn to the improbable run of the Tigers, and I was as thrilled as anyone when the Cardinals won the World Series.

Same thing for the NFL. I don’t really care who has the best numerical team. It’d be cool if the Saints won so soon after Hurricane Katrina. It’d also be cool if the Chargers won, because their quarterback has waited a long time to be a starter. It’d also be cool if Indianapolis won, just because, in my opinion, they’re fun to watch.

Keep in mind: these are just my observations. They’re totally unscientific, and I think most people will find that they’re somewhere in the middle of my male and female mindsets.

Which is fine. After all, men and women already have enough going on between them that leads to confusion and misunderstanding without throwing sports into the mix.

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6 Comments on “Ladies and Gentlemen”

  1. halfnotes Says:

    It’s pretty much the same in any discipline. College is usually easier than real life, whether it’s for football, medicine, law, engineering, or music.

  2. ombudsben Says:

    Hey Halfnotes!

    Good post. In the 1980s the SF Chronicle had a columnist named Joan Ryan who wrote about the same phenomena or dichotomy; spectator sports by gender.

    Will Clark was a Giants’ star then, and she wrote of how much she enjoyed watching his fluid swing. She wrote of an aesthetic element to enjoying the game, while men often want abstract and objecive metrics.

    What you wrote of team chemistry made me smile. It’s something Gumbo and I have spoken of in the past; he thinks it has little value, while I tell him the TC on the Twins’ caps stands for Team Chemistry or True Champions!

  3. ombudsben Says:

    By the way, you might want to tweak something in your post. The Indians last lost the world series in 1997 and 1995; they haven’t won since 1948.

    Last year, it was the Cardinals. Just a minor note in an enjoyable post–I look forward to comparing notes this year.

  4. halfnotes Says:

    Ombudsben,

    OOOOH, I’m an idiot! Of course I knew that; just goes to show that is always good to have someone else proofread your stuff! Thanks very much … fixing that faux pas right now!

  5. halfnotes Says:

    Ombudsben,

    OK, fixed! I always hate it when I discover a stupid mistake like that after the post goes up. Thanks for being kind and saying it was just a minor detail; I’m sure any self-respecting Cardinals fan would’ve been thoroughly insulted! And as for Indians fans, they can keep dreaming, right? Maybe now that I’ve said it, they’ll win it this year. Or maybe the Twins. Honestly, I have no idea, and I think the season is way to long to make meaningful predictions at this point.


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