Sports Savvy: Survey Says!

If you open any issue of Sports Illustrated, you’ll probably come across a story covering the strides women have made in athletics, by playing, coaching, and owning sports teams. And rightly so! But there’s some uncharted territory which isn’t often addressed. So I set out to uncover if society has made as many strides in how we perceive women sports FANS. Because I speak sports as a second language, I’ve encountered reactions (from men and women alike) ranging from surprise, adoration and camaraderie, to disbelief, intimidation and insults. Now wait, I know what you’re thinking because I hear it a lot: “Every guy would love for their girlfriend to know that much about sports,” This is often the initial reaction from both men and women, but it hasn’t always been my personal experience. To find the social sweet spot in terms of sports knowledge, I needed to get unbiased information.  To find out at what point on the knowledge spectrum the feelings of camaraderie and adoration shift to disbelief and intimidation,  I surveyed men and women who identify as sports fans (on any level). First, I asked male fans what level of sports knowledge they find most attractive.  Roughly 80 percent would prefer their mate to have sports knowledge equal to theirs.  Most said they’d love their ladies to be able to participate in conversations and enjoy talking game with them.  Sadly, only 35 percent of those men actually have women around them who are on a level playing field with them, so to speak.  This correlates to the meager 30 percent of female fans surveyed who said they know as much as the guys do when talking sports. Next, the surveys really got intriguing when I began asking people how they view the group of lady sports fans who do say they’ve got a leg up on the guys. Let’s begin by stating that only 2 percent of women surveyed identified themselves as knowing more about sports than their male counterparts.  (Zero men admitted to generally knowing less than female fans.)  But those women are out there.  In general, other women seem to admire these all-knowing sports Sirens-using adjectives like impressive, strong and intelligent to describe them. Female survey participants also conveyed respect for ladies who can out-talk the guys and even envy their perceived social advantage.  Not so fast though.  Some women were willing to admit that they’ve been jealous of, intimidated by, and even doubtful of gals who seem to know more about sports than their male counterparts. Now, when you ask men to talk about women who know more than them in the sports arena … the answers weren’t as supportive.  As I mentioned earlier, if a girl is “on their level,” the guys are all for it.  It’s when the scales are tipped in the ladies’ direction that it gets serious! Thirteen percent of men said they’d prefer their mate to know less about sports than them, citing vanity on their part and perceived masculinity of the women as their reasoning.  Other descriptors were: “cool but not attractive,”  “attempting to prove themselves” and “trying to fit in to a niche.” On the positive side though, was the smaller sector (8 percent), who said they’d like their female mate to know more than them.  One even said it’d be “absolutely awesome to have a significant other who can provide more insight and analysis into sports than the rest of [his] friends.” So, back to our goal of identifying the moment at which the benefits of being a female sports fan turn into social obstacles. I think the answer to this, ironically, is when competition becomes involved. Jealousy, intimidation, trying to prove themselves … these are the draw-backs cited by both genders regarding women who out-smart in the sports department.  One could make the point that those negatives are all related to competition, which is generally something not seen as a “feminine” trait. One of the participants, in my opinion, said it best … humans just don’t want to “feel overwhelmed or inferior.”  So, without suggesting that anyone should temper or “dumb down” their personality to fit in, there are a few things that lady fans should keep in mind.  As with anything, moderation is best.  If you’re not into sports, consider taking an interest, as long as it’s genuine.  There’s a demand for it.  However, if your a sports enthusiast, don’t over-share.  It will be most attractive when it comes out naturally. Finally! The sweet spot: make conversation, but don’t try to prove yourself if no one’s asked you to.  But if they do … represent.  And never be afraid to show them “she means business.”  

Tags: lansing, Sports Savvy, survey, women and sports

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