For decades, football season has been my favorite boyfriend. It’s like that Lebanese Parisian lover you met abroad who comes back into your life for a spell every year right on time, just like he said he would. His perfect timing coincides with the dog days of summer and the time of year when television goes off to die. He shows up yet again to fill you with joy, camaraderie, tradition, tailgating, and excessive aggression toward an entire group of people for four hours simply because they wear different (super-ugly) colors and worship a different (incredibly dumb) mascot.
Then he’s gone and you’ll miss him, but you’re ready to free yourself of your Thursday through Monday night commitment because let’s be honest, setting your lineup every week by Thursday kick-off isn’t exactly in your job description so you don’t really care, and you know that come next autumn, Mr. Lebanese Parisian lover will be right on time like always.
I am a woman and I like sports.
This year, NBC Olympics Chief Marketing Officer John Miller explained the tape-delay of Olympics events by suggesting that the majority of primetime viewers are women, and women don’t care about watching sports in real-time. Nay, women aren’t even sports fans by his estimate! He said, “The people who watch the Olympics are not particularly sports fans. More women watch the Games than men, and for the women, they’re less interested in the result … It’s sort of like the ultimate reality show and mini-series wrapped into one.”
John Miller, you can suck my dick. I’ve been watching football and basketball since before I could talk. (For the record I don’t give a shit about basketball anymore but my father is a lifelong fan and he brought up his daughters to know what the sport was and how to watch it—which you can sure as hell bet wasn’t on a tape delay.) I could write a dissertation about how sexist that idiot’s comments are and how dare NBC employ such a vacuum bag, but it really speaks to me on a broader sense. There is a disparaging disconnect between sports and women.
“My son had onesie jerseys from four different teams waiting on the shelf before he was born.”
In 2014, Ray Rice, running back for the Baltimore Ravens, punched his then-fiancée, now wife, in the face, knocking her out to such an extent that he had to drag her out of the elevator in which the assault took place. The entire thing was recorded by security cameras which is why I also know her legs wouldn’t let the elevator door close because she was, you know, knocked out. He first tried to move her with his feet because his hands were full. Initially, Rice received a two-game suspension from the NFL. (Once the video became public, he was suspended indefinitely because the public outcry was audible from space–not because the NFL initially thought he should be suspended for the crime. Nothing like upping the punishment once people can see the whole picture.)
Then in 2015, Sheldon Richardson, defensive end for the New York Jets, tested positive for marijuana and was suspended by the NFL for four games. Let that sink in. I am now officially rooting for a sport that thinks smoking weed is twice as offensive as beating up a woman. How in tarnation have we landed here? Money? It has to be money-driven, right? Ray Rice is a high-profile, high-performing, high-priced player. So money trumps domestic violence. And the NFL doesn’t care about women. Barf.
I don’t have the answers. I feel like a traitor. I watched less football in 2015 than I have in years. Admittedly that was because, days before football season began, I gave birth. But I didn’t let it go. I didn’t stand my ground and say, “I give you up, football, until you change your evil ways”—but unlike the unconditional love I now feel for my son, my devotion to football developed some limits.
I grew up in the Deep South, where I cheered on the sidelines for ten years. I went away to a Division 1 college with a storied football program, where I attended every game and grew to cry when the marching band played the fight song. I play fantasy football, wake up early to watch the draft, and worship my home state’s NFL team. My son had onesie jerseys from four different teams waiting on the shelf before he was born.
I love football. But as a woman, does it love me?