Playing the Game

We found ourselves in Kansas City for a wedding this past weekend.  My husband had done some homework and found that the Kansas City Royals would be playing the Detroit Tigers that Sunday afternoon.  For reasons that we do not understand, the Tigers is Daryl’s declared favorite team.  We do not understand this because a) we live nowhere near Michigan and b) we never watch baseball.  Our only guess is that they were the opposing team when we went to a Rangers game last year and Daryl likes to be contrary.

I had concerns about getting home sometime after midnight on a school night, but my husband insisted that the “family day” activities would be a great experience and a lot of fun.  And they could sleep in the car.  Right.

Anyway, he was right that it was a lot of fun.  We enjoyed the free face painting and balloon animals, carousel rides and miniature golf.  All the kids got a souvenir and got it signed by Slugger, the mascot.  We shared “nachos in a helmet” – a plastic batting helmet full of nachos.

As we settled in for the start of the game, however, I had a conversation with Jane that made me sad.  We had great seats – up high, but directly behind home plate.  They were announcing the players and people were finding their seats.

Seemingly out of the blue, Jane commented, “I can see why Auntie Grace gets so upset about equality.”

I looked around, wondering if there were some scantily-clad “cheerleaders” somewhere, but I didn’t find any.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Well, all the big sporting events that people go to see.  They are always men.  I mean, there are softball teams but there aren’t big stadiums and professional teams that people go to watch.  And women can’t even play football at all.  It’s really not fair.”

“That’s true,” I said.  And I couldn’t think of anything else to say.

In fact, there’s not much to say that would make her feel better.  Here’s a girl – a very strong and athletic girl, who is just reaching a competitive sporting environment and what does she see ahead of her?  Those boys playing football are not working harder than she is.  They aren’t more competitive than her or more dedicated.  They practice more than her team does, but not because of a lack of dedication on the girls’ parts.  They practice more because we live in Texas and this state is bat-s**t crazy about football.

No, the fact is that this is the society we live in.  People go to watch men’s sports more than women’s sports simply because that’s the way it’s always been.  They grew up rooting for their favorite football or baseball team.  You can start a women’s professional basketball or soccer league and the players can be really good, but people aren’t going to go because… well… they aren’t invested in those teams.

Add to that the persistent perception so many have that women are the “weaker” sex.  And that most sports spectators are men and many of them have this fear that an interest in women’s sports might somehow reduce their manliness.  And then there’s just the general skew of society toward all things male and things aren’t likely to improve too much in her lifetime.

So what can I say?  I can point out men who do support women’s athletics, like my mom’s boyfriend.  I can remind her that in the long run, she’s better off depending on her mind than her prowess on the volleyball court anyway.  I can urge her to stand up for equality when she can.  I can try to teach her the nuances of living in this world female.  I can encourage her to fight for change but not get disheartened when it is slow to come.  I can point out how much better off she is than her great-great grandmother was.  And I can agree, that yes, it really is not fair. Now, honey, let’s enjoy the game anyway.

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