There are numerous forms of sexism which irk me: the assumption on the part of some that we are mentally and physically the weaker gender, the presumption that women should be overruled when it comes to decision-making power over their reproductive cycles, the corporate glass ceilings that still exist which often permit women to do the same work for less pay, with fewer opportunities for advancement. These are among the more obvious examples and there are plenty more from which to choose. But as a lifelong sports fan about to welcome the official start of the football season, I am reminded again of the generally-accepted prejudice when it comes to women and sports. And I am not talking about small-minded attitudes about our individual athletic ability, although that rankles as well. My personal tale for the week revolves around a male-dominated office environment and a 2012 NFL Fantasy Football League.
I was born into this cruel world a Chicago Cubs fan and an ardent student of professional baseball, mentored by a statistic-loving father. Baseball will always be my first love in the sporting world, but several years ago, my enthusiasm for that particular game met its match when I gave football a serious look. Up to that time, I had written off the occupation as unnecessarily violent and complicated, code for “It makes me feel dumb.” I could sing-rap every verse to the 1985 Chicago Bears’ playoff anthem, “The Super Bowl Shuffle,” but I didn’t understand the roles of the men on the field that weren’t quarterbacking or field goal kicking, nor did I care to try. It seemed like too much investment.
But decades of disappointment experienced at the hands of The Loveable Losers (Where were you during “The Bartman Incident?” Every Cubs fan has a memory.) and some initiation into the world of office sports pools turned this woman into a hyper-competitive gridiron addict. I have written about my up-and-down emotional journey with a Pick-a-Winner (PAW) contest in which I have participated for the past six years. I join New York Jets fans the world over in detesting Brett Favre. Long story short, after a deep immersion in the NFL for more than a half-decade, I know my shit.
This season in addition to regular participation in PAW, I am branching out my sports wagering empire to include a Fantasy League Football team through my current workplace, via Yahoo! Sports. Last year, my company was a little less ambitious, containing efforts to a weekly, straightforward pool, during the course of which I CLEANED UP! I won far more money than any other male participant, and it would be positively indecent to discuss the can of whoop ass I opened up during the special Super Bowl edition. But do you think this success buys any respect or even an admission that I might just be a real football fan? Nope, instead I was treated to the requisite, unimaginative jokes about women selecting winners based on the attractiveness of a club’s uniform color.
On Tuesday nights, I attend a kickboxing class, my favorite release of physical aggression, and the Commissioner of the company’s league scheduled the draft to begin right around the time I’m jumping rope with my fellow students. I understand that not everyone’s itinerary can be accommodated so rather than just rely on the chancy auto pick function, which makes team selections in the event of absenteeism, I asked my boyfriend to stand in for me. Regardless of the lamentable fact that he is an Indianapolis Colts fan, I trust him completely. He understands the seriousness with which I take this and we have been discussing the draft, the order in which I’d like my positions selected and who I would ideally like to fill them, for weeks. It must be mentioned that JC takes his assignment so ardently, he is logging on before the start of the madness to do some additional research. Perhaps a training injury took place this week of which we’re not aware. It’s really gratifying to have such a partner.
But instead of congratulating me for capable delegation and the investment in a relationship of equals, I am dealing with predictable accusations that I have secured “a ringer.” Sigh. Sometimes the chauvinistic ignorance is nearly too much to bear.
I realize that some of the “teasing” is a legitimate attempt to drive me from the League, to turn it into the non-threatening boys’ club it was intended to be. Sadly it really stings a certain section of the male populace to lose to a girl, as if that somehow inverts their masculinity. I’m hardly Susan B. Anthony or anything, but I feel I’d be doing a disservice to myself as well as my gender to run from these attitudes simply because they’re unpleasant. So once the draft concludes, I suppose I’ll have to keep making my point with understated, superior management skills. The “Woman’s Curse” is not menstruation. It is dogged, multi-tasking competence and willful patriarchal arrogance.