My first season as a basketball fan
I’m 72; graduated high school in 1968. Girls grades in gym class were partially based on whether our gym uniforms were washed and ironed. In basketball, we could only dribble three times before we had to pass the ball, you know, so our reproductive organs wouldn’t fall out due to too much exercise. It is an absolute joy watching women athletes in ANY game or sport.
My youngest daughter was never an athlete; her asthma was too bad when she was a child. But she fell hard for women’s soccer when the national team began its glorious run about a decade ago. One of their biggest, most important victories was winning a lawsuit for equal pay.
Now we all are fierce supporters of the Chicago Red Stars and will be rooting for the national team at the World Cup. It’s as much about advocating for women’s rights in professional sports as it is about watching the play.
We need more of us in the seats. For some reason we still insist as a culture that it’s only worth our time to watch men.
This was great. I would encourage you to check out the WNBA this summer - it’s a great league and so fun to watch. Also, the Women’s World Cup this summer is going to be 🔥. Women’s professional soccer is the cusp of a global explosion and this tournament is going to be fantastic (which may not be great news for the USWNT but is for the larger world). Some years ago we happened to be in Portland when the Thorns were playing and decided to check it out (it was amazing - Alex Morgan scored the only goal and we saw Megan Rapinoe on the street after the game). The stadium was packed (attendance of around 14k, which at the time was unprecedented) and my wife spent most of the game marveling at the fact that all of these people were here to watch women’s sports. It completely blew her mind. Here’s to a future where this support is normal and not extraordinary.
Loved this! My 15 yo daughter just joined softball (varsity--only enough players to field one team) and she is thriving in the power of team, of together, of making their way together. This resonates with my resistance to sport in the past and seeing how and why women are so often excluded from the mainstream narrative. Thank you.
My older brother got all the attention around sports and most everything else. It’s was the sign of the times. Unfortunately.
I have 2 daughters who kick ass. I loved watching them in sports of any kind. My eldest hit a grand slam in softball. I lost my voice screaming.
They are strong and confident.
I loved reading this. You have helped me realize something pretty big. I played basketball in middle and high school. I was the tall girl who doesn’t jump high which seemed to really irritate the adults, particularly the male coaches and Dads of other teammates. I tried my hardest and they still yelled at me to jump higher, during practices and games. I really love and loved basketball yet it has haunted me that I also hate it. I realize that I can love it again as I realize what assholes those coaches and parents were. Thank you for helping me start to unravel this. I miss basketball!
Thank you for your perspective! I, too, am a brand new fan.
Yes, there was always way too much all-things-male in watching sports at my grandparent's... The smoke-filled living room ( always with the recliner having THE designated occupant) offered no hope of my ever fitting in in any small space, not even beside my dad. The loud cheers, guffaws, rivalry all seemed so foreign and hostile. Happy Thanksgiving... I'll go stir something. There was that one uncle anyway....😳
I am grateful now to see my grandaughters in track, competitive gymnastics, and "baby" soccer. ( I have been informed that broccoli helps you run faster.)
These exponentially wonderful children explain their sports to me through their experiences. Heck, yeah, why not try the pole vault; especially since no one else wanted to.
They make me smile....that's how women step forward to do SO MANY things.
Women's college sports are such a great on-ramp to new fandom! I love college sports in general, but the women's March Madness tournament was so much better than the men's tournament this year, and it felt like people actually NOTICED that.
It's interesting to me that women's college soccer doesn't get more airtime considering it's the pipeline to the wildly successful USWNT (cannot WAIT for the women's World Cup)!
As a fellow Girl Sports Mom, I remain conflicted about the state of youth sports in general, about my daughter's ridiculously competitive DFW club soccer team (as always, we take it to another level in TX), but on the other hand, as you say...there is SOMETHING there worth preserving and growing for our girls.
Anyway, CONGRATS to the Iowa women's team, they have a great thing going there and it should be fun to watch! Caitlin Clark is such a fun Iowa Ambassador.
YES!!! Loved this SO MUCH today!!! :D When my daughter played softball in Little League, she loved it. One night on the way home after a game (I don't think her team even won!) she said she might want to be a baseball player when she grew up--she was 8 then. My then husband, her step-dad, started laughing and told her that she couldn't do that because girls can't play baseball. He had only been to one of her games before that one, and acted bored the entire time. I told him to keep his thoughts to himself, and for her to do whatever she wanted to do! She lost interest in baseball pretty quickly after that though. Was it because of him and his comments? I don't know, but they sure didn't help! She did end up playing lacrosse in high school though, and she thoroughly enjoyed that experience! So did I!!! :D
This is the longer, conscious explanation for the gut feeling I’ve had since my daughter was born that I want to take her to Texas Women’s Volleyball and Basketball and Softball games and not just to DKR. I’m what they call a “double Longhorn”—got my Bachelors and MBA at UT—and it’s easy to forget that any sport besides football exists (I was also raised watching the Cowboys; I wrote a song about Barry Switzer when I was 10 🙄). Identifying that feeling of exclusion, in contrast to what it looks and (apparently) feels like to actually participate in women’s sports, is a great insight. Thank you for putting this all into words. And let me know when you’re in Austin; we’ll all go to a joy-filled game with our daughters!
My dad is a "sports guy" and having only daughters, turned me into a "sports guy" as well. I love watching baseball on tv and listening to the call on the radio. I love wrestling. I have complicated feelings about football but can't quit watching it. I love women's soccer and women's basketball. And despite all the hours of my life I spend (waste?) consuming sports and sports media and box scores, I am always mansplained what is happening and it will always piss me off.
Finally if you need a WNBA team the Phoenix Mercury have previous Iowa Hawkeye great Megan Gustafson AND Brittany Greiner and Diana Taurasi. Their season starts in May!
I played soccer from the time I was 6 until the end of my sophomore year in college. When the cool girl culture of it became tiresome and untenable for me, I switched to ultimate frisbee until I graduated, which had a competitive but wacky/playful ethic that was more my speed.
My mom had been a jock as a kid and then became a tv jock as an adult. She was my first (and best) soccer coach, and would watch anything that even vaguely qualified as sport on television. As a result, though I knew that sport was largely a man's world outside of our house, it was a woman's world for us. I don't miss it as an adult, but I'm glad to have grown up that way.
I went to HS 5 years after Title 9 was enacted. The large, well equipped gym with bleachers, a stage, a drinking fountain, rest rooms, locker rooms, a scoreboard and a wood floor that you’d get hollered at if you walked on it with street shoes was “The Boy’s Gym”. The small gym that students walked through the middle of to get from one side of the school to the other and in which school dances were held (no one cared about the floor) was “The Girls Gym”.
We cheerleaders decorated the boys lockers before games; no one even thought about celebrating the girls who were athletes.
How happy I am to watch women’s soccer, & to cheer on the Iowa Hawkeyes women’s basketball team. But I marvel how in some ways, we’ve come so far and in other ways, women are still relegated to “The Girls Gym”.
Coming on the heels of the Dominion Voting news yesterday, when I first saw the title I thought it said”pay,” not “play” which brought a huge smile to my face.
Reading your piece my smile remained. I started college in 1968. Watching the changes Title IX has nurtured (although with much less funding than the law intended) has been a joy. I remember watching a state high school basketball game on tv at least twenty-five years ago and marveling at the changes - the we’re not prissy, we dive for the ball, we take the charge and we shoot and dribble with the best - and thinking these women are not going to be stifled, they’re going to do big things and they’re not going to take any sh*t. What a boom in leadership, not just in sports, but in every profession and trade that attitude has spawned. America’s best chance to progress toward true equality is more women leaders in top positions. As RBG said when asked how many women on the SCOTUS was enough, she answered “Nine.” We will be a better country when that happens.
My eldest child got really into soccer as a young toddler and we had DVR'd every possible professional soccer game about 5 years ago so we had something to show him on TV that wasn't a mind numbing kids show, and his all-time favorite team from watching MLS, Premier League, Bundisliga, CONCACAF, etc. was the Canadian Women's National Team. I can still hear his little voice, "Watch Ca-na-da? Watch Ca-na-da?" It was adorable and such a "ok, this is awesome, how do we make sure we/society never effs this up" sort of situation.
I'm so glad you wrote about this. I'm using an article about Lia Thompson and gender policing in my composition class, and the most interesting response is from students who are athletes. They don't understand why people aren't more accepting and supportive. With your permission, I want to add this to the list they can use for their analysis papers - this would pair so nicely with that one. I played basketball in junior high (waaay back in 1979) and it's the same year I started my period. My parents had to work, so they couldn't go to games, and it was all just too much. But I loved basketball and volleyball because I understood strategy, which made me feel smart.