She’s Shouting at Tom Brady Louder Than I Am: When Did Women Become Bigger Sports Fans Than Men?

MMD April 5, 2014 0

This past football season I finally got my 7-year-old son to get into a Sunday spent watching some football. I’m not the biggest sports fan in the world, but I do happen to think that Sundays spent pigging out in front of the set throughout the Fall watching a pigskin fly is a must. Sure, he indulged me last season and the one before, but with enormous Legos projects in front of him, his attention barely on the screen. This year he made a precious declaration: “I like the Jets.” Hold your tongue. In my house I laid down the rules upon becoming a father that we weren’t a “this team house” or a “that team house.” My father, God rest his soul, was a Red Sox fan, but ours was ultimately a Yankees house. With football, I too had a Jets phase, and even a Bills phase, but it was ultimately a Patriots house.

And so it was this past football season that I took my son to watch his Jets take on the Patriots at my friend’s house, home to some serious Patriots zealotry. While my buddy and his son were seemingly able to laugh off my son’s cheers when a Jet did something laudable (admittedly, this didn’t happen much), the same cannot be said for my friend’s wife, a typically quiet, gracious hostess who screamed so ferociously at the set that she scared my wee one. Like, for real.

By the time the Patriots were handily defeated in the SuperBowl she was inconsolable, putting her son, a diehard Brady fan, to shame. The college senior was able to convey his frustration eloquently and without tears; his mom – yeah, not so much. I thought back to the SuperBowl parties I went to when I was in college (OK, sure, it was the late ’80’s) I couldn’t even recall one female being in attendance. It was a guys-only affair, a day the ladies lay siege on the nearby mall where massive sales were taking place. Our girlfriends looked forward to SuperBowl Sunday for their plastic-fueled descent upon said mall. So what exactly happened…and when?

One week during the 2011 season I read both an article on which jerseys are top sellers among women and a Times piece – I kid you not!- dedicated to women watching football. That very same season a piece went up on about ESPN having launched espnW, a “brand designed to grow the female portion of ESPN’s audience.”

A portion of that piece read:

“‘W’ is mostly a website at this point, grown out of a blog born in December 2010. The content focuses on three areas: women’s sports, recreational athletes and more general content on men’s professional sports customized for female fans. It’s officially described as the ‘online destination for female sports fans and athletes.’

ESPN is late to the game. Forty years after the passage of Title IX, the federal law that required schools to create equal sports opportunities for girls, the worldwide leader in sports has discovered that women might be interested? Yet the fact that no obvious competitors are trying to beat ESPN to this market suggests the entire sports media world is just as far behind the times.

Women make up just under half of ESPN’s overall viewers, but they spend much less time actually watching sports on TV, said Kelly Johnson, ESPN director of media and promotion research. For example, the average man age 35-49 spends 227 hours a year watching sports on television. The average woman the same age spends just 92 hours a year watching sports on TV.

Yet the No. 3 television show this past January for women ages 18-49 was NBC’s ‘Sunday Night Football,’ according to Nielsen, behind ‘Dancing With the Stars’ and ‘Grey’s Anatomy.'”

Again, this was 2011. By now “Sunday Night Football” could have easily crept into the #2 slot, if not the #1. (If it’s still 3 maybe it’s behind one of the “Real Housewives” and that God-awful “Castle.”)

Beyond Title IX, we’re talking about a woman’s love of the game. Not her game. Not even a game. THE game: Yanks versus Red Sox, Giants against Green Bay, Lakers, and Knicks and so on. This is by no means a misogynistic diatribe, but moreover a “who moved my cheese” essay. Even as fathers continue to bring their child under their team’s wing, ever hopeful the fandom will not skip a generation yet keenly aware it certainly could, the SuperBowl and the World Series became big business about the same time it became a family affair to boot.

Some cavemen chalk the fanfare up to crushes on Jeter and his boy toy brethren but they’re missing the bigger picture. Either way, for the guy who’d rather his “old lady” stick to the chicken wing tending and salsa-making, cough up the cash for the caterer and let Jeter and Brady do what they do best. It’ll make their victory your victory once the final car pulls outta your driveway.


Article By: Vinnie Penn

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