Where’s the Crowd?

One of my favorite things about going to a professional sports game is the first moment you see the field. There is no better feeling than walking into your section and taking a look at the thousands of people cheering for the same team as you; this is what I felt when I went to a Giants vs. Eagles game during fall break. I cannot confidently say that this was the same feeling I had when I entered the Chrysler Center to watch a woman’s volleyball game earlier this year. According to Mika LaVaque-Manty in the chapter Being a Woman and Other Disabilities, women’s sports lack spectators for a reason. Throughout history, small crowds for women’s sporting events have been the norm.

Comparing the differences between sporting events is a simple task. The spirit of the fans at a volleyball game comes no where close to the spirit I witness at football games. A football fan would do anything for their respective team to win the game. The fans expect their team to complete every pass, stop the opponents’ offense every down, and ultimately, win the game.  This is a daunting (and almost impossible) task for a team to do. During the volleyball game, I did not sense a “crowd” around me. Instead, I sensed individuals. Many people were reluctant to even stand up and cheer for their team. Like a majority of the spectators, the women whom I observed playing volleyball are a part of the University of Michigan. They wear the colors worshiped by their so-called fans: Maize and Blue. If these girls represent women’s volleyball for the University, why was the crowd not invested in the game?

The normal attendance at a woman's sporting event
The normal attendance at a woman’s sporting event
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The normal attendance at a men’s sporting event

Throughout the novel, LaVaque-Manty compares being a woman to having a disability, in the context of sports. In his piece, “disability” implies the opposite of excellence–mediocrity. Women’s sports are not recognized for their competitiveness. Unlike men’s sports, they do not lure thousands of spectators who want to cheer their team to to victory. He also points out that it is not the idea of women participating in sports that does not draw a crowd; it is the question of weakness and physical vulnerability.

Overall, women’s sports do not attain the attendance or fan base of men, which leads to low funding. LaVaque-Manty describes this instance by saying, “no women’s sport is what universities call a ‘revenue’ sport.” A women’s sport team has never been so popular that its spectators raise enough revenue to make the team a major–or minor–business. This lack of attendance brings about many concerns for young girls who want to continue playing their respective sports past the academic level. No matter the talent a woman may possess, her chances of financially supporting herself (and possibly her family) through professional sports are slim to none. On a side note, male sports are created into numerous video games by EA Sports, including football, baseball, soccer, basketball, hockey, etc. If you go into a video game store, have fun searching for a sporting game including women: the only game featuring a women on the front cover is called “Active,” which is a centered on fitness. Even so, the option to play as a man is still present.

All five major EA sports games. All of them feature men on the title.
All five major EA sports games. All of them feature men on the title.

Though the road to a worldwide attitude of enthusiasm towards women’s sports appears bumpy, it is not impossible to travel. With combined efforts from coaches, athletes, spectators, and even video game designers, we can get there. But until then, “Go blue” will continue to be associated with the men suiting up to sack the quarterback, not the women tying their hair back to spike the volleyball.

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