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Revealed: Why (Some) Women Hate Football

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Record numbers of women are attending games every year. Photo by Jerry Driendl/Getty Images.
Record numbers of women are attending games every year. Photo by Jerry Driendl/Getty Images.

I typed “why do women hate” into the Google search engine just to see what the suggestions would be. I was not surprised to find that “why do women hate football” was one of the most frequently suggested searches. I am not surprised to see this because there is a very clear stereotype out there of the football widow. The woman who feels as if her husband is entirely dead to the world for almost half the year during football season. She is forced to say goodbye to her partner until after the Super Bowl and as a result she becomes full of resentment while she watches his ghost glued to the TV.

I don’t doubt for a single second that these women do not have a valid reason to feel a certain way when football season rolls around, however I have yet to meet a woman who so vehemently hates the sport with every fiber of her being. This leads me to hypothesize that the football widow is becoming an outdated stereotype.

I personally was not much of a sports fan growing up. I was born in Baltimore and was just a baby when the Colts left for Indianapolis. By the time I moved to Los Angeles the Ravens were not yet a franchise. I moved to LA as a kid, just as the Rams had uprooted for St. Louis. My dad wasn’t much of a sports guy, besides being a fair-weather Orioles fan and my mother and sister couldn’t have cared less. I was the family athlete, but I chose to pursue figure skating and synchronized swimming. Thus, I grew up with no real feelings towards professional sports. I was an NFL orphan.

Growing up in a suburb of LA there isn’t a huge sense of importance placed on high school football like there is in other parts of the country. From what I remember, our team was perpetually on a losing streak. I went to a large university in Southern California that cut the funding for their football team just before I started. Henceforth solidifying even more a lack of football in my life. Then along came my Green Bay Packers-loving husband and it all changed when I was thrust into a relationship with someone who cared about professional football.

I learned to love the sport through my relationship, and this is why; I was never ignored, neglected or shamed for not understanding what was going on during a game. I was never expected to prepare elaborate meals for anybody on Sunday afternoon and then clean up the aftermath. I was invited to watch games at sports bars and friends' houses and I took those opportunities as a chance to bond with my husband, my in-laws and his friends. I also approached the sport with an entirely open mind. I left all of my preconceived notions of what football and the culture surrounding it was at the door.

So why do women hate football?

When I started thinking about why some women seem to have no patience for the sport, I did a little research and poking around online looking for opinions from women who hate football (not from the men who complain that the women in their lives hate it). Essentially, what it all boils down to is that they feel ignored and neglected for half of the year. A certain group of women, the haters, so to speak, feel as if their significant others have taken it beyond a little vacation from daily life and have sloughed off all other responsibilities in order to better focus on the NFL. I’ll be the first to say that I would be completely irritated and fed up if my husband all of a sudden decided all things Packers took precedent over family, friends, work and basically all things related to “real life." I'm all for a little escape from life, but you cannot allow yourself to be completely checked out for five months.

If we are honest with ourselves, we all love to have a good break from the monotony of daily life, and for a lot of sports fans, kicking back and watching a game for a few hours is that escape. You get to live in an alternate universe where the only thing that matters for three hours is winning the game, and it feels good to leave all of our other earthly cares on the sidelines. There is nothing wrong with this. It’s great to have hobbies and interests and rooting for your team is also a way to feel more connected to a global community of fans, friends, co-workers and such.

My husband and I both like to catch all of the Packers games, or as many as we can. Sometimes events in life come up and we end up missing a game due to travel plans, social obligations, driving little old ladies to church, etc. This isn’t ideal, but it happens and that’s probably a good thing. Sure, there have been times that weekend plans get arranged around when and where the football watching is going to take place but for some reason, should the house of cards fall, nobody is going to cry about it. If Green Bay should suffer an exceptionally painful loss like when they were having their perfect season and lost to the Kansas City Chiefs, no tears will be shed. Nobody’s Sunday will be ruined. We may lament about it for years to come, but it won’t spoil an entire day and he won’t turn into raving lunatic over it (neither will I).

Some women probably grew up feeling annoyed with football season because it meant sitting around bored all day on Sunday. These feelings are certainly validated. Even my little jock nephews who love playing football have a hard time sitting through an entire game. Some women have had a boyfriend who let a bad loss turn them into an insufferable baby. Some women probably are ignored and have a very real reason to be upset that the NFL seems to get more attention than they do. They don't hate football though, they hate the fact that they feel less important than football. We hear about these women all the time, but statistically they’re becoming the minority. Football is turning into a bonding activity rather than a time to take a break from each other.

American culture has shifted from the days when football fandom was a male dominated territory. This gender-based stereotype isn’t actually as prominent as it used to be. The women who enjoy the game aren’t just here to watch Tom Brady any more (although I do know a few of those type of female fans and if that’s their agenda, then so be it). As of 2011, 64 percent of all adults say they watch football. Seventy-five percent of men say they watch and 55 percent of women watch. That’s a lot of women who don’t hate football; in fact most people would say 55 percent means that the majority of women actually do like it!

Gentlemen, if your significant other happens to be in the 45 percent, here are a few very easy tips for coaxing the woman in your life into being OK with football, even if she really doesn’t like it. Try your best not to force her into it. Think back to one of the first things you learned in preschool — compromise. Do you want to have all of your friends over to watch the game on Sunday? That’s fine, but you need to allow her to make the plans for Saturday then. Also offer to help prepare for anything leading up to, during and after the game.  Perhaps you should offer to order in, instead of having her cook, unless she wants to do the cooking. How many commercial breaks are there during an NFL game? LOTS. There is no excuse to expect the ladies to do everything just because the game is on. That’s when resentment starts to rear its ugly head.

Is game day designated just for you to have a brodeo? That’s okay too, as long as she understand that and you find a way to make time for her. Your penance may be paid in an unpleasant way, but then it’s up to you to weigh the options of whether it’s worth it. Personally, I feel it is best to always try and include your significant other in your plans and let them decide whether or not they want to attend.

Is your lady feeling frustrated and bored because she doesn’t understand the game? Here’s a great way to help her without making it feel like you are being condescending. If a big play is about to happen, say it out loud. “Hey you should watch this, it’s a big play!” How hard is that? Giving your own commentary on plays can help her understand what is going on and can make the game that much better for you both! She will feel more invested in the game and you will look like an all-knowing stud. I have heard so many women say "I would watch it a lot more if someone would just explain it to me".

If your team loses and you turn into the Hulk, that is nobody’s problem but your own. After years of watching and playing sports, if you haven’t yet found a constructive way to deal with a tough loss and move on it’s about time you do, before you blow a gasket. I know it hurts and sometimes those losses will sting for years to come when you think about them, but just remember, there is always another game and another chance for a win.

Women, hear me out. You have to just give it a chance.

Forget everything you know that bothers you about the sport. Try it out in small doses; bring along a book or a tablet if you know you’re going to get bored. If there is something that will make the experience more pleasant for you, let your guy know. Communicate. Sunday isn't just a day for the guys to get together anymore. We are finally to a point in the history of the sport where the female fan is both prominent and important. After all, look at all of the marketing done by the NFL toward their female consumers!  

Times are changing; we are no longer in the dark ages. Women are working outside of the home while men raise the kids, the football widow is dead and the new enlightened generations are embracing the fact and ladies are just as into the game as gentlemen are.