I wish I were one of those women who played college sports, high school sports—any sports at all, ever—for that matter. But alas, I am not. I love the Olympics only for the figure skating; I read a book until the half time show starts during the Super Bowl; I've never filled out a bracket for March Madness. I have never played on a sports team in my life, and I don't think I have ever watched a full game of anything on TV. As a result of all this, I have a very hard time understanding men who are super into sports. (And we all know there are plenty of them out there.)
As yet another football season is drawing to close with Sunday's Super Bowl 50 festivities, this admittedly stereotypical male-female distinction has come up a few times in conversation. True, many women don't like to miss a game, and my absolute disinterest in sports is not characteristic of all women. But I do know many women—most of whom have some experience and/or interest in a particular sport—still have some difficulty wrapping our minds around the male sports-watching ritual.
So for all those women out there, who just don't get what all the fuss is about, and for the sake of understanding a little more about the opposite sex, I asked Isaac Huss, regular Verily Gentleman Speak contributor and self-proclaimed sports fanatic, to offer some insight into what watching the game really means to your man.
I'll let Isaac take it from here.
I love sports; I go to a lot of games. Sometimes I even travel to watch my favorite teams, even though I don’t have to because they play in my city (and also on my TV). Sometimes I’ll go to games by myself. Sometimes I’ll sleep in my favorite player’s jersey (Juuuust kidding. Or am I?). That being said, while I'm a bit of a sports junky, I also don’t want it to get in the way of the weightier things in life, like having a real live girlfriend. It’s taken some work, but I like to think I’ve found a healthy balance between my love of sports and the more important things in life.
Why am I telling you all this? As Monica mentioned, while there are plenty of die-hard female fans out there who can talk sports with the best of ‘em, there are some who just don’t get the whole sports thing. And given the popularity of professional and college sports nowadays, chances are these women are going to find themselves dating a man who places his sports teams higher on his priority list than she would prefer. Does that mean her guy is some sort of man-child who just needs to grow up? Not necessarily. The truth is, while sports fandom might not make much sense to you, there are reasons why following sports is important to and even good for men.
Here are a few thoughts on what to make of a man’s sports obsession—straight from the mouth of an obsessive sports fan.
Watching a Game Helps Us Bond
Sports is essentially a communal thing. You watch games on TV together, you go to games together, you play pick-up games together, you do fantasy leagues together. People who normally wouldn’t have anything else in common can often bond over sports. And, believe it or not, having a game to watch can actually help dudes converse, rather than get in the way of it.
Some friends and I recently had a get-together and, as it happened, the womenfolk sat down around the kitchen table while the men sat on the couches. I turned the TV to the Timberwolves game. Sure, I wanted to watch the game, but I also had conversation in mind. If you watch a TV show, you have to pay attention to it if you want to know what’s going on. A game, however, is a kind of entertainment that can be either meticulously attended to or only requires a glance here and there. The latter leaving plenty of room for talking.
When the women joined us, my sister immediately took the remote and turned off the TV. She considered the basketball game to be a distraction to good conversation. She also has some sort of vendetta against me and my sports watching as only a little sister could. After all, she has had to cede the family TV to me for over two decades. But I digress.
The point here, is that many women are perfectly happy to sit around a table and talk. Dudes…not so much. Sure, we can do it, but it gets awkward. Psychologist point out that conversation is easier for men when we don’t have to look at each other. Having the white noise of a ball game on in the background, even if nobody’s paying much attention to it, really can make guys feel more comfortable in conversation. Not to mention that games usually provide conversations starters for just about anyone.
Watching a Game Helps Me Unwind
I had a long day at work. My girlfriend had a long day at work. I came over to her place like I usually did and turned on the TV to the Twins game and all was right with the world. Until, that is, she turns and says to me, “Are we going to watch the Twins again tonight?”
I’m thinking to myself, “Yeah, if all goes well.” But it was obvious that she had other plans for us.
Now it’s important to mention here that this woman was no stranger to baseball. Earlier in our relationship she had explained to me with warm nostalgia how her dad would watch the same Twins broadcasts that I had growing up. She even said she enjoyed just hearing the voices of the announcers Dick Bremer and Bert Blyleven because they had grown so familiar to her. That’s when I thought it was true love. But said nostalgia notwithstanding, she had reached her limit of nightly Twins baseball.
I clearly had not. Watching a game gives me a chance to take my mind off things; it gives me mental space which men tend to need in order to process things.
On this particular night, we turned off the TV. I wasn’t happy about it at the time, but I got over it. And you know what? It was an opportunity for us to think and talk about what we wanted our downtime to look like, and also to verbalize our expectations. Like I said, she liked baseball, but saw too much baseball as an issue. And I was willing to tone it down to make her happy.
It Really Does Add Value To My Life
There was a time in my life when I thought I needed to give up sports for good—athletics was a thing of my youth. There were more important things to do with my time now that I was an adult.
Ten minutes later I came to my senses, and here’s why: playing sports has been a hugely positive influence in my life, and watching sports is in many ways simply an extension of that. It’s a way for me to bond with others, whether it’s people I know and love or people I wouldn’t have any other reason to talk to.
And I can use it to help others, too, whether it be in coaching or simply as a way to engage young people in the hopes of being a mentor, role model, or otherwise positive influence in their lives. And, finally, I find sports to be a great metaphor for life, and I’ve had very meaningful conversations and even some personal epiphanies that have come out of my love of sports. And I know a lot of other men who feel the same way.
It's Not The Most Important Thing
Most sports fans that I know, even the most die-hard ones, have a very healthy sense that there are plenty of more important things out there—even if it might seem like they care “too much” or spend “too much time” watching sports, which (by the way) can be hard to quantify.
I know for a fact that I likely won’t be able to watch as much sports in a relationship as I do as a bachelor, and I’m okay with that. It's a sacrifice I’m willing to make.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but it’s important to communicate and come to a shared understanding of expectations. If a woman I date has a particular diet, workout routine, belief system, or hobbies that I’m not used to, I’ll ask her about it. I want to get a sense for how it would affect my life and our relationship down the road. When it comes to sports, I think it’s perfectly legitimate to ask your guy where games stand on his priority list, and then you can start thinking about how it would affect your priorities.
While I have my eye out for a woman who is a bit of a sports nut herself, it’s very likely that the woman I marry is not going to be as big a fanatic as me, and that’s okay. Like anything in life, I’ll be willing to compromise in this regard in order to blend our lives into one. But sports are going to be a part of my life, and I don’t think that is a bad thing. I hope the woman I end up with appreciates what it means to me—and hopefully will join in the fun.
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