Spectator sports

Title IX turned the big 4-0 this past Saturday, and last week, one of my favorite NPR commentators Frank Deford reflected on what Title IX has done for women in sports but also on what it has yet to accomplish: turning women into fans of women’s sports. His commentary is well-worth a listen.

I wanted to get in a huff and tell him he was wrong about women not watching women’s sports (confession time: I talk back to the radio … a lot). But then I thought about the sports I grew up loving: men’s college basketball and college football. Oh, and this thing that happens every four years called the Olympic Games.

Women’s Steeplechase at the 2008 US Olympic Track & Field Trials

Growing up, I loved the Olympics more than any other competition, and listening to Deford, it occurred to me that the Olympic Games were the one and only venue where I watched women athletes compete. Track and field, diving, gymnastics, swimming, figure skating – these were the women athletes I admired, the ones who inspired me and made me dream of trying to accomplish something beyond couch-potato-ness. I loved track the most, probably because it seemed to me the sort of thing I could actually become good at, not good enough for the Olympics, but still, something I could emulate in some small way.

And then I got to college and had to run three miles for one of my PE classes, which temporarily killed my love of all things running, except for watching the Olympics.

I’m older now, and I’m a runner who has overcome the trauma of that college PE class. And I’m married to one of the most die-hard track and field fans you’ll ever meet. He can quote track stats the way other men can quote baseball or football stats.

So how did we celebrate Title IX’s birthday this past Saturday? By getting up early to run in an area race and then sitting in the stands at Hayward Field, cheering the men and women who will comprise our Olympic team for track and field in London. I can assure you that I wasn’t the only woman in the rain-soaked stadium.

The US Olympic Trials will continue through Sunday, and then our team will be set. Our team of some of the best athletic role models you’ll find: men and women alike.

There’s still time to catch some of the coverage on TV (look at NBC for coverage on any number of their stations, including their main NBC station and Universal Sports). Or check out one of my favorite running sites Flotrack for videos of individual races, interviews and other cool information about these athletes.

If you have daughters/nieces/sisters/aunts, encourage them to watch with you. Get them excited about watching women compete for the right to represent the US in London in just a few weeks. For Frank Deford’s sake and for the sake of every woman of the coming generation, let’s show that there are die-hard women sports fans out there cheering for women athletes.

Do you know what the bonus is about becoming a racing fan? It’s not just a seasonal sport like football or basketball. There’s cross country in the fall, indoor track in the winter, and then outdoor track in the spring and summer. Let’s get out and cheer for those strong women (and men, too)!

Do you have a favorite women’s sport or Olympic event? I’d love to hear about it.

2 thoughts on “Spectator sports

  1. My very favorite is women’s gymnastics. Love watching it – never did it, but love to watch. Interesting to read this right on the heels of seeing a neighborhood boy, ok I guess he is a man now at almost age 25, make it onto the Olympic men’s swim team. He grew up in our neighborhood and he was wicked fast at our little well worn and well loved little pool. So happy to know someone who has devoted so much to this dream and make it – he was the last spot on the relay team. Title IX rocks – gonna teach my girls all about it.

    • Tricia — I loved gymnastics, too, but I knew it would never be the sport for me. How wonderful to know someone from your neighborhood who will be on the swim team! Knowing a team member (and having watched him grow up) must make it all seem even more special this year.

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