When the Final Whistle Blows, Who Will Be Watching?

Back in 1972, when my husband and I married, Title IX was enacted.  It stated that “no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance…”  It opened up opportunities for girls and young women to participate in sports at a level they had previously been denied.  As a result of these educational opportunities, we now have professional women’s basketball teams and soccer teams, among other professional women’s sports.

Last night I was watching the CBS world news and saw a story about women’s professional soccer teams in our country and how many of them are dissolving because of lack of interest on the part of fans.  The news report showed women playing soccer to nearly empty stadiums.  It’s not much better for women’s professional basketball.  Title IX was enacted nearly forty years ago, and yet the opportunities it created for women in sports have not translated into viable careers for women.  For example, a rookie in the WNBA makes about $36,000 her first year.  Mind you, this is with a college degree.  Compare that to salaries for men in their rookie year in the NBA.  A top pick would be making over four million dollars, a low pick only about a measly million. Some of these rookies are coming to the NBA straight from high school.  I think they probably could survive on those numbers without getting a second job.

Now, you might think that I’m looking for someone to blame in all this, but the fault, dear women (to borrow from Shakespeare; thank you, Will) is not in our stars but in ourselves.  Yes, not many men watch women’s sports, but neither do women.  How many of us will sit on the couch next to our husbands to be near them while they watch football (Okay, guilty!  But I get my back rubbed…), yet we won’t watch a WNBA game or a WPGA tournament?  Furthermore, why is it that men like us to sit with them to watch these men’s sporting events but they won’t sit with us to watch women’s sports?

My husband and I are devoted college hoops fans.  We’re University of Connecticut alums.  Need I say more?  A couple of years ago, we drove up to Washington, D.C. to watch the UConn women play Georgetown.  A year ago we watched them in the first round of the NCAA playoffs in Norfolk.   However, when March Madness is over, do we ever turn on the WNBA and watch these amazing women in action?  No we don’t, and many of them are ex-UConn players.  Women will never be able to have the same career opportunities in sports if they don’t get the fan support.

This Sunday the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team will compete in the world finals.  How many of us will watch that event and then never turn on another women’s game for the rest of the year?  I’m making a change and declaring it right here and now.  I will begin tuning in to women’s games.  For every men’s game I watch, I will watch a women’s game.  My husband will sit next to me.  Yes, he will (I haven’t told him yet).  And I will allow him to give me a back rub while we’re watching.

About Coming East

I am a writer, wife, mother, and grandmother who thinks you're never too old until you're dead. My inspiration is Grandma Moses who became a successful artist in her late 70's. If I don't do something pretty soon, though, I'll have to find someone older for inspiration.
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14 Responses to When the Final Whistle Blows, Who Will Be Watching?

  1. Just a little update (but don’t worry, I won’t do this everytime)
    Watched the women’s soccer match last week-end. Greg and I had plans to go to an Angel’s baseball game this week so I knew I better find a women’s sport to watch, if I was to keep up with the challenge. Great soccer match! Totally loved it! A couple of days later, on a local tv station, they were discussing differences between men and women athletes. It was quite interesting but I would have never listened if I hadn’t watched that soccer game. And I would have never watched the game if it hadn’t been for your post. Baby steps. Just wanted you to know!

    • comingeast says:

      Wow! I’m impressed. We watched, too, and though we were disappointed our women lost, it was great to see how the Japanese women pulled together and didn’t give up. I was happy for them.By the way, my husband is taking the challenge, too. Thanks for the update, LDC.

  2. huffygirl says:

    Well said CE. I confess I don’t watch women’s sports, but I don’t watch much men’s either.
    Despite 40 years of progress, and many paying lip service to it, I think women are still objectified for their looks and not their talents. If women on professional sports teams were sexy, busty and wearing skimpy outfits, men would be knocking each other over to get to the stadium. But they’re not – they’re fit and muscular, and because of this, look a lot like the men who are playing the same sports. But people feel the men’s games are more exciting, more interesting, because the men are bad boys – they’re tattooed, they’re gansters, the’re self-proclaimed “studs”, and millionaires – such “role models” for the men and young boys watching them. I guess that makes them more interesting than the women.

    • comingeast says:

      You said it so well, H.G. My husband read this post last night and said he’d be glad to watch women’s sports with me, only I get to rub his back. And just to set the record straight, I don’t fault women who aren’t interested in sports; it’s women like me who enjoy watching sports but don’t watch women’s sports. Oh, and I fault men who will watch any sport where men are involved but will never turn on a channel featuring a women’s game. Thanks for your great comment.

  3. Margie says:

    Interesting observations. I don’t go to major league sports games in protest of the high wages these men get paid. I know my boycott makes no difference, but I think it is ridiculous that these players make millions of dollars a year to play games.
    Women’s sports are rarely televised here in Canada. The only exception is curling in the winter, and I think the men and women get fairly similar coverage.

    • comingeast says:

      We do get women’s college basketball all season here, and the WNBA sports are televised, but there just isn’t much of an audience for them. These women work so hard and want to play as much as the men do, but if no one is watching, they won’t get the sponsors, etc. The people who love sports, like me, should be watching the women, too. Thanks, Margie.

  4. I totally agree with you! We ( the general public) have an incredible amount of power we don’t always exercise. I have a friend who coached water polo for women, at the college level, and was consistently frustrated by the obvious preferential treatment given to the men’s team. It was all about revenue. So, I’m going to take your challenge (yeah, I know it wasn’t really a challenge) and try to match a watched men’s sport with a women’s. Who knows – you might be starting a trend that will make a real difference. If not, at least you’ll have something new to write about.

    • comingeast says:

      Actually, it was a veiled comment, so thank you! Maybe we can influence others to do the same. Could you believe the disparity in salaries in the WNBA and the NBA? Outrageous! I wouldn’t expect the women to be making anywhere near what the men are making at this stage, but at least they should get a wage that allows them to survive on their salary alone.

  5. mairedubhtx says:

    At least the women’s soccer games have been getting air time and reporting time, at least here in south Texas where soccer is a big thing. We have a WBNA team and it’s well-supported and reported on here. But in general you’re absolutely correct. Women’s sports are quite neglected in general.

    • comingeast says:

      We moved from south Texas less than three years ago and used to go see the Spurs but never our WNBA team. Shame on us! I do remember, though, after the NCAA tournament was over, we watched the news to hear them announce our UConn women winners in another undefeated season, and they never even mentioned it, though they had reported on the men’s winner a few days before. When I sent the news station’s sports anchor an e-mail about how disappointed I was, he sent me a very rude e-mail back and basically said, “Get a life. No one cares about women’s sports and we can only report on a limited number of stories so we pick the most interesting ones.” The sportscaster’s name was Randy, I believe, if you watched any of the San Antonio stations.

  6. Julia says:

    I’m not a sports fan — so I won’t be watching men’s or women’s sports on TV — but I’m with you in spirit! I agree that we women need to take some of the responsibility but it’s also partly in the hands of the businesses that control sports: owners, sponsors, cable stations. Often viewers follow money, and I strongly doubt (as evidenced by salaries) that much money is invested in women’s professional sports. Also, we are only one generation into Title IX, and I think things are beginning to slowly change. I was so encouraged when I was talking to some of my kids’ friends last year (high school students) and none of them had even heard of Title IX but all (girls) played sports every season of the school year! They couldn’t believe that there were virtually no sports available to me in high school!

    • comingeast says:

      Actually, we girls had field hockey when I was growing up and I loved it! People who don’t watch sports aren’t the problem; it’s people who only watch men’s sports. If the fan base grew in women’s sports, you can bet the money would follow! Thanks for your comment, Julia.

  7. gaycarboys says:

    Sport? I want to like sport but I just can’t get interested! Locved the post though:)

    • comingeast says:

      I have no problem with people not being interested in sports. What bothers me is people like me who enjoy watching sports but don’t give equal attention to women. I want young women to have the fan support men do so they can participate in something they love. It’s people like me who can make that possible. Thanks for stopping by, G.C.B.

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