Sunday, January 07, 2007

She's Got Game

A fan is a fan is a fan… The differences come in the way that fans express themselves. For example, in Chicago, hockey fans cheer throughout the National Anthem. That is just a tradition that has held true for many years. In St. Louis, Cardinal bleacher fans don’t stand up at the end of the game until there are two outs in the last inning. The expressions of fan-aticism vary from team to team and city to city and… gender to gender.

True female sports fans are just as knowledgeable as their male counterparts. When I first met Heather, a fellow bleacher buddy at the ballpark, the level of baseball knowledge she had attained over the years astounded me. She was like SportsCenter on two legs. A female fan can appreciate the powerful combination of a dominating goalie and a selfless defense in hockey. She grasps the importance of controlling the passing lanes on the basketball court and how devastating a weak offensive line can be to a football team, especially the quarterback. She understands balance and depth and talent and luck and every other buzzword in the world of sports.

How a female fan expresses all of that may be different, however. I noticed, while attending a hockey game the other night, a woman sitting near me who was loudly encouraging her team to play harder. And as she did so, she referred to the players by their first names. "C’MON DANNY!" she yelled. "Good job, Dennis." I laughed. But I laughed because I find myself doing the same thing. While many of my guy friends call me by my last name and I do so for some of them, I can’t do that with everyone. I don’t know what it is. But the choice of words does not dictate the depth of knowledge.

In 2005, there were reportedly nearly 3 million girls playing high school sports across the United States. The more girls who play ball means, reasonably, that there are more female sports fans coming up as well. Another recent report showed that nearly 34% of NFL fans are women. That’s about one-third of the NFL fan base. Female fans abound!

As the numbers increase, women will undoubtedly become more comfortable talking sports just like the guys. And the conversations won’t simply be about how hot Jim Edmonds looks in the white pants or what a dynamite smile Torry Holt has or how sexy Keith Tckachuk sounds on morning radio after getting only four hours of sleep. While all those things are true and are probably the reasons that many of us came to the game in the first place, female sports fans know their stuff.

And they’ve got just as much game as the guys.

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