For the consumer, combining sports and sex is normal, Aaron Gordon writes, but for athletes and coaches, it skews gender conceptions.
In the male sports fan’s brain, he finds a fantastic tale of brilliance and cunning, in which he manages to woo a professional cheerleader with his perfect balance of wit and biceps. The two engage in a long, physical courtship that makes all of his friends jealous and results in their disdain towards him (but also their everlasting respect). The male sports fan keeps the cheerleader interested in him by being smarter, funnier, and more intellectually engaging than the athletes she interacts with on a daily basis. She craves normalcy (except in bed, of course), and he can provide it. This fantasy lasts for the 10 seconds the TV network shows the cheerleaders after a commercial break. Then it’s back to football.
Sports are not sexy. (Except for soccer. Soccer is a very sexy sport. Ask females.) Football is played by men whose muscles could easily be confused for cancerous tumors. Basketball is played by lanky, gangly freaks. Baseball has a pretty high percentage of diagnosably fat players, plus the proclivity of tobacco, sesame seeds, spitting, and odd facial hair makes the culture closer to repulsive than sexy. As for hockey, Canadians find it sexy, so by definition, Americans do not. (But seriously, hockey players wear too many pads and have too few teeth for the game to be “sexy”.)
Naturally, men have decided to make our sports sexy by adding scantily-clad women. Cheerleaders exemplify the male desire to be near attractive women for no apparent purpose. Having criminally underdressed women dance for your amusement—without cramming singles in their undergarments, mind you—is the closest the contemporary male will approach royalty.
Combining the male lusts for competition and women is a natural, healthy thing. Teams and leagues do it. Beer companies do it. Across the pond, the goings-on of soccer players’ wives and girlfriends (WAGs for short; they’re covered so much newspapers made an acronym to save copy space) are arguably just as popular as the games themselves. Hell, there’s even a league that decided to have women run around in lingerie under some vague premise of competition.
There’s nothing wrong with combining sex and sports. It’s important to remember that when you read about coaches raping boys. Or other coaches raping boys. Or one of the most prolific athletes in the world notoriously admitting to an unhealthy sex addiction that destroyed his marriage. Or a famous quarterback accused of raping a college girl. Or a sideline reporter being sexually harassed by professional athletes. Or athletes sending pictures of their penises to women. These are just anomalies. Normally, sex and sports are combined in a healthy, complimentary way, right?
There’s nothing inherently wrong with combining sex and sports. As I said before, we do it every day without notice. But, it does seem like there are an awful lot of scandals lately involving sports figures and inappropriate sexual behavior. Are we fueling it?
When we culturally combine sex appeal with our sports, we’re implying the two belong together. But it’s not equal opportunity sex appeal; the media generally sends attractive women and old, fat-or-balding men to cover sports. When Erin Andrews is conducting pre-game reports and kicks it back to Chris Berman in the studio, it’s pretty obvious to which gender sex appeal in sports tilts. Not only do we implicitly recognize sex appeal belongs in sports, but we implicitly acknowledge sports should be paired with sexy women.
Ultimately, sports are about the athletes, so we put the sexy women in proximity to the athletes. When NFL and NBA players come running out of the tunnel, they run down a dark, cement hall and into the bright stadium lights, through a line of stunningly beautiful women waiting for them to arrive, wearing bras and tiny skirts, doing leg-kicks. (Coaches often run with the players.) This is the male fantasy in a nutshell: entering a room with a gorgeous woman waiting for you, half naked. When the athletes stop playing, the women run onto the playing area to do more leg-kicks. Sports are structured around the athletes, which means all the attention is given to them. That includes the attention from sexy women.
When we, the consumers of sports, sit at home and watch cheerleaders dance, or Erin Andrews fling her hair behind her shoulders so the camera can see her face, we are combining sex and sports in a healthy, natural way. Athletes and coaches don’t have this perspective. To them, cheerleaders, sideline reporters, and almost any other woman they encounter in the game is there to see them, to talk to them, to simply be near them, and to ultimately make a living off their presence.
The amount of mental energy and physical effort I exert to attract women is depressing. Athletes and coaches (many of whom are former athletes) do none of this. The women are instructed to be near them, paid to talk to them and pretend to be interested in everything they say. I can’t be certain, but this dynamic would probably distort my conception of gender roles as well. Who knows, I might even take a dongshot or two.