“Do you know what an off-cutter is?”
“Her boyfriend likes football, that is why she must is wearing that Chelsea jersey…”
“Let the boys watch cricket, why don’t you come and help me in the kitchen?”
If you boast of the unbelievable trait of taking more than a passing interest in sports, chances are you may have heard one of the above statements from a parent, friend or better (or worse) half more than a couple of times. As sports come and go, be it Cricket, football, Tennis or Formula 1, the very idea that a woman could take legitimate, unassisted interest in the world of sports is very hard to believe for most people, including our mothers and aunts. One of my aunts wonders to this day why I haven’t forgiven her for excluding me from the list of cousins for whom she booked tickets for the India-Pak World Cup Semi-Final in 2011 (Imagine!!!!).
Let us scratch the surface a little. From an early age, we encourage many gender stereotypes within children. Girls are meant to play with dolls, boys are meant to kick balls. So much so, that we end up reinforcing these stereotypes even as we grow up. Girls who play sports are always ‘tomboyish’, and girls who follow sports, well there isn’t even a term for them, such is the irony.
Invariably, if I keep myself abreast of any spots statistics, I am told I must be doing it to impress my boyfriend. I don’t know how much knowing Suresh Raina’s batting average will help our relationship, but I can’t be genuinely interested so this must be another one of those ways to a man’s heart.
Another thing to think about, every time I express a sporting opinion to my friends, I am thoroughly grilled, as though we are on BBC Mastermind. “Differentiate between third man and fine leg”, would any guy who says he likes cricket be asked that question? Or someone who says they like Manchester United, would they be asked to list the years in which the club won the league trophy? Why must I answer questions on the internal mechanics of a Formula 1 car, when I watch a race only for the thrill that it brings on a Sunday evening? Personally, I am not the type of person that intensely scrutinizes every aspect of every play during every game. But just because I might not know which sports blog had the best recap of last night’s game or find myself struggling to name the top 5 run scorers in a league, that doesn’t make me any less of a fan.
Watching sports has always been about the thrill of watching people compete, marvelling at their extraordinary abilities and celebrating their triumph as our own. When you support a team or a player , you place your faith into them , and ‘affiliate’ yourself to their performances, whether good or bad. One of the main reasons we like to watch competitions is because we look to the winners as our role models. When I watch the precise moves of Rafael Nadal or Maria Sharapova, their intensity and hard work is truly inspiring to me. Another reason is the unpredictability of sports. A game is never over, till the last ball has been kicked into the goal, smashed down the court or hit out of the ground. An uncertainty like that can be very exciting to the audience. None of these things takes into account whether you are a man or a woman.
This may seem like a trivial topic, but it just hits home the point that we are far away from ridding ourselves of the stereotypes that we had grown up with, infact sometimes we help them along the way.
Is a female fan fundamentally different from a male fan? Does one bleed red and the other bleed blue? Of course, the answer is “no”.
Fans of any sport are identical in their passion, their commitment and their devotion to the sport. More importantly, they are really no different at all in their basic human qualities.
About the Author
I love the world of food, books & sports. I live in Mumbai, work in Marketing and have managed Indian brands such as All Out & Axis Bank.
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