A Spectator’s Take

Texas v Michigan

2014 Men’s Basketball Team

Since getting to school, I have attended numerous Michigan football games, a few men’s basketball games, and a women’s basketball game.

I really wanted to see how different the same arena would look when occupied by a women’s versus a men’s team, especially because I wrote my recent essay on the gender discrimination that we see in the sports world. Women athletes have faced discrimination all throughout the past and we definitely see the impacts of that today. The difference between the two basketball teams is a perfect example of the discussions we’ve had in class about the influence of gender roles on sports.

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Forward Cyesha Goree, 2014

I have yet to see the stadium completely packed for a men’s basketball game, but it was extremely empty for the women’s game. The entire crowd was about the same size as the smallest men’s student section I have seen.

I have heard people say that women’s sports just “aren’t fun to watch”. I was half expecting this to be the case for the women’s basketball game. However, I was wrong. The women’s game was just as athletic and exciting as the men’s. They do just as much work. In the first five minutes of the game, a woman wearing a knee brace jumped and landed oddly on her bad leg and still managed to limp off the court though she was clearly in a lot of pain. Sometimes it seems that sports are seen as more competitive because there is a higher risk for injury to players. If this is the case, the men’s team was not any more athletic than the women’s. People were getting pushed and knocked around equally as much in both games.

The difference between the two comes down to a theme we’ve discussed in class: expectations. Men’s games are expected to be more exciting and they have the audience to generate the atmosphere. While I do have more fun at the men’s games than I did at the women’s game, that is really due to the mood generated by spectators. I love the cheering and chanting and shouting that accompanies men’s games.

Something that was interesting to me was how much more vocal the women’s team was than the men’s team. The opposing team, especially, did a lot of chanting and cheering, much like the student section does for men’s sports. If they hadn’t, though, there would have been very little noise in the arena besides that of the game going on. There was cheering from the pep band and the audience, but there weren’t enough spectators to make very much noise. In men’s games, especially exciting ones, the student section is sometimes almost deafening when the opponent has the ball.

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Student section at a men’s basketball game, 2014

In his book The Playing Fields of Eton, Professor Mika points out that there are no women’s sports that are considered ‘revenue sports’ for universities- that is, there are no women’s sports that make enough money for the school to profit from them.

In class, we’ve talked about the barriers that prevent women from being involved in competitive sport. One of the biggest influences that has been prevalent in the past (and even present day)  is the roles in society. People don’t expect women to be able to achieve excellence in athletics. They assume that female athletes are simply inferior to male athletes.  The following video briefly shows an interesting perspective on this.

Notice how one of the women acknowledges that some of the men on the practice squad instantly think they’re better players because they are guys. One of the guys, along the same vein, states that expecting to go easy on the women players will only lead to embarrassment.

Professor Mika, in his book, acknowledges that a component of meaningful competition is whether people show up to watch. It’s sort of sad to think about the women players working just as hard as the men and having so much less support. They are representing our school and student body just as much. No one is against supporting the women’s team, but there is the expectation of women’s sports being inferior to men’s. This class really opened my eyes to this and encouraged me to check out the women’s basketball game. Now that I see that it was silly to think that women’s games were any less exciting, I will definitely be checking out more of the women’s sporting events on campus.

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2 thoughts on “A Spectator’s Take

  1. This lack of interest in women’s sports is just the norm of society. No matter how much one may protest and argue against it, the result in popularity will ultimately remain the same towards women and sports. I do not necessarily agree with how society views women’s sport. Your point in which both genders put in the equal amount of time and dedication is correct, the same dividends aren’t rewarded equally to both sides. Society is attracted to excitement and normally men’s sports are associated with this feeling. Due to what society was built on back in history, with women being much weaker and not as athletically gifted as men, society views their attempts at competition as unimportant. In the eyes of women, this is a form of stereotypes that, hopefully, will be broken eventually. It is not a matter of “if” they will be broken, but more so of “when” these barriers of the common view of women’s sports will be broken.

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  2. As I was reading this article, I could tell it was written by a girl (not a bad thing!). I agree that women’s basketball players are great athletes, and that the game can get very physical. It really comes down to the fact that women’s basketball in society doesn’t really matter. No one is impressed if you tell them your school’s women’s basketball team is ranked. However, when your men’s team is, it is a pretty big deal. The high stakes and visibility of men’s basketball just make it more fun to watch, and more fun to attend as you said. Not that the women are less athletic as women, just that the men are considered the top of the crop when it comes to basketball.

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