In which I continue to make a feminist case for my sports fandom the old-fashioned way--with a Top Ten List. It's coming to you in a series of posts. Consider this my response to well-meaning friends who look at me incredulously and point out that the sports world is saturated with macho posturing; it frequently excuses the bad behavior of its heroes; it celebrates brute force; it's history is poisoned by cheating and drug-use; and it is often actively and explicitly hostile to women.
Because, folks, I still love sports and I love being a sports fan.
Need to catch up on my other reasons why I'm both a feminist and a sports fans? Check it:
#8 SPORTS ARE ONE OF THE FEW REALMS WHERE ADULTS PLAY.
Sports are joyful. Otherwise sophisticated adults run around and get dirty; they take risks and they sweat. They jump just to see how high they can go. They run just to see what it feels like to move fast. By turns, athletes cheer on and comfort their teammates. Their intense focus is broken only when something surprising or thrilling happens--and they celebrate with a giddiness that we are too accustomed to associating with little kids.
Sports, let us never forget, are about playing games.
And it's not just about the athletes themselves. Sports create spaces where fans too permit themselves to play. Fans are gleeful. We see it in Fenway Park fans who sing "Sweet Caroline" with thousands of strangers-turned-comrades, and in Red Wings hockey fans who sing "Don't Stop Believin'," crescendoeing together at the line, "... born and raised in SOUTH DETOOOIIITTT." We also see it in college football fans who hoist up one of their own and, pumping their arms, lift her high for each point scored. From face-paint to favorite chants to bucket-thumping, from the tradition of ringing your keys in unison during "key" plays to singing and swaying "Take Me Out To the Ballgame" during the seventh-inning stretch, there is really no comparable space in our society where adults can be playful and goofy.
It is not that manners go out the window--the stadium has its own rules of etiquette, as we see with the bleacher backlash on fans who have too much to drink, say, or inappropriately interject themselves into the game.
In the sports arena, playfulness is prioritized both on and off the field (or court, or rink, or mat, or track). It is an inverse of the day-to-day societal instructions to keep our emotions sedated and our movement, limited. In the bleachers, it's not weird to high-five strangers or to stomp your feet or to burst into song. Even in front of a television, watching a game at a bar or with friends in a living room, it's not weird to jump up and scream with joy. Under any other circumstances ... it is.
Sports normalize playfulness for adults, both athletes and fans. I, for one, can't imagine sitting the game out. It's too much fun.
About the Images:
Top photo pictures Laura Harper and Crystal Kelly of the Sacramento Monarchs celebrating on the court in 2008; via the WNBA.
Side photo pictures Mario Chalmers as he goes up for a game-tying three-pointer with time running out against Memphis. Kansas would go on to win the 2008 game in overtime; via Sports Illustrated.
Last photo pictures Natasha Kai (left) and Heather O'Reilly of the U.S. soccer team that got past Brazil 1-0 in the championship match at the Beijing Olympic Games; via Sports Illustrated.
*** My list is primarily focusing on professional sports... though I trust you smart people can extrapolate easily enough about how this same feminist reasoning applies to collegiate, school, community, and youth leagues.