A few months ago I wrote a post about being a woman and a sports fan, and all the weird dynamics and minor indignities that involves. Consider the following recent anecdotes as fitting into that folder.
Lately I’ve been hanging out in my favorite neighborhood bar to do some work or reading while catching a bit of whatever game I’m interested in watching (usually a Giants game). Turns out, the sight of an unaccompanied woman watching a game at a bar in the afternoon or early evening seems to draw the curious attention of men. I usually see them looking at me somewhat sideways as if to think, “what is she doing?, is she waiting for someone?” And then, more often than not, they talk to me. Not always, it seems to me, out of any design to try to strike up something flirtatious but simply to figure out what I am doing there.
Once they confirm I’m actually there for the game, I get a range of responses. Sometimes, when it quickly becomes clear that I know more about the particular team or teams than they do, it proceeds to what I can only interpret as a slightly embarrassed attempt to abort the conversation fairly quickly after they realize they are oddly unable to contribute to the conversation past what I already know. (I almost get the feeling that they thought they were going to get a chance to explain to me who Kevin Durant is, or something; such as when the guy who kept asking me multiple times why I like the Thunder didn’t seem to believe my first, second, and third response – because I like Durant’s and especially Westbrook’s game. “No really, why are you actually watching this game?” he seemed to ask.)
Other times, there is delighted surprise. The most notable of these was the man who emphatically congratulated me on being on top of things enough to know to wear Timmy’s jersey on days when he is pitching. As though it was really surprising that I kept track of the rotation. A few minutes later, out of the blue, he rotated 180 percent around (we were sitting back to back) and delivered, in what I am pretty sure was an attempt to strike up a flirtation, one of the stranger opening lines I’ve heard: “So, since you are obviously very intelligent because you like baseball, you must be reading something really interesting.” This man seemed like a pretty decent guy, and wasn’t being offensive or invasive, but I had to suppress laughter at his somewhat tortured attempt to find a way to connect liking baseball and flirting with me – it wasn’t a very convincing segue, as there are, in fact, thousands upon thousands of not terribly astute baseball fans and, while I love the sport passionately, I’ve never associated that fact with possessing a particularly keen mind. But hey, at least he thought it was a good idea to tell a woman she must be smart.
More irritating was the genuine sense of surprise I received from another man who I was talking to in the course of a job interview. Somehow, baseball came up, and I mentioned I was a Giants fan, and that I also liked the A’s. He nodded slightly, as if to indicate that it was well humored of me to play along, and then, in what seemed like a bit of a test, indicated his admiration of the general manager of the A’s by referring to him casually by name. I responded in a manner that illustrated I knew who he was talking about, and then when he followed this up by asking me why, then, the A’s haven’t made it to the World Series, I said “well, we just have to get past the Tigers finally in the play-offs, especially Verlander. But he isn’t having a good season so far this year so who knows.” At this point, he gave himself away when he paused, cocked his head back ever so slightly, and said, “Wow, you really do know your baseball.” As though I hadn’t been serious at all earlier when I said, quite unambiguously, that I am a huge Giants and As fan.
Now, in all fairness, maybe he thought I only brought up my fandom because I was in the position of being interviewed, and he thought I was trying to play along. But it also felt very much to me like the response I’ve gotten from countless other men when I start talking competently about the basics of a division, or the histories between teams, or the profile of a certain player – oh, she actually is a baseball fan. She doesn’t just watch the games because her boyfriend does, or pay attention during the postseason. Oh. Weird.
And finally, to cap off this series of small vignettes, I have been watching and very much enjoying the World Cup recently (not without, I admit, a certain amount of guilt over the massive waste of money and disruption of poor neighborhoods that it has produced). This has been particularly fun because football is a sport I actually do not know all that much about – in this way, I fulfill the stereotype of being American at least, if not gender normative. So, I’ve been learning a lot about a sport, which is something I absolutely love doing. Now the other day, I learned what off-sides is and how it works as a rule. It takes a moment of explaining but, it is far from the most complicated concept I’ve ever come across – the variations of types and consequences of basketball fouls, for example, seem more elaborate to me than off-sides. Yet my fiancé, after explaining this to me, told me I should display my understanding of the concept to other men whenever possible, to give them shit – because apparently, a common joke in football loving countries is something along the lines of “you know women – they can never understand off-sides.”
Every game since, I’ve been sharpening my eye for off-sides – and hopefully I’ll have many opportunities in the years to come to use this skill to subtly, but emphatically, tell some sexists to go fuck themselves.