Sports are becoming more and more important to American society. And, with this growing popularity, it is essential to recognize that not all sports are being considered “popular”. The common theme between most of the sports that haven’t quite seen the limelight yet is gender. Why is there such a difference between men’s and women’s sports even though we live in a society that is more or less considered to be equal? And, is it solely the gender of the athlete, or is it more of a combination between the gender and the respected sport of the given athlete that leads to it’s popularity, or lack there of?
In Lavaque-Manty’s chapter “Being a Woman and Other Disabilities” from the book The Playing Fields of Eton, he talks about what it means to be a women chasing the idea of excellence through sports. Just the title itself, pairing the idea of being a woman with that of someone that is physically or mentally disable, shows how society views women in sports. A difference that is so small and so out of someone’s control, is still used to characterize and demean the individual’s worth.
Throughout high school, I was an active and committed member of my school’s student section for various sporting events. However, looking back, I realize that my attendance was much higher for men’s events than women’s. During my senior year the boy’s soccer program won the State title and the boy’s basketball team made a long run in the state basketball tournament. Because of the success of these teams, the size and commitment of their student sections are pretty understandable. Our football program, on the other hand, was a very different story. Winning football games were rare, and winning the important games against our cross town rivals were even rarer. Despite this, hundreds of students still attended their games dressed in whatever theme we decided on, and cheering on a losing team. I still haven’t come to a decision to justify why we all continued showing up to these miserable games. Maybe because it’s football and win or lose, what better thing do you have to do on a Friday night in high school? Or maybe, because the idea and significance of men’s sports are so ingrained in our society that, regardless of the talent, we still attend.
In contrast, many people will agree with the statement that women’s sports are far less popular than men’s. And I believe that as a general statement, that idea is definitely true. However, some women’s sports are far more watched than others. Take women’s soccer compared to women’s basketball for an example. My whole life I have played soccer, and I was fortunate enough to experience four years on my high school’s varsity team. Throughout all of our seasons, we always had some form of a student section. Obviously, we had a bigger student section for games against rivals and district championships. But, none the less, we always had fans. This, however, was not the case for our school’s basketball team. On the few occasions that I went to support my friends on the team, there was never any form of a student section. No big crowd, no chanting, nothing. I actually remember teachers offering their students extra credit if they went to a girl’s basketball game. And even that didn’t get students to show up. This same idea is replicated in women’s professional sports. The US Women’s National Soccer team also has a much larger fan base than any other form of professional women’s basketball team.
Therefore, I think the popularity of a sport not only has to do with who is playing it, but also what sport is being played. Maybe as time continue to progress, women’s sports will gain popularity as a whole. However, due to society and its norms, I doubt women’s sports will ever become as popular as men’s.