Imagine if your disinterested loved one enjoyed the game as you do: the pride, the passion, the surge of excitement or despair when your team moves you.The conversations you could have… the shared moments you could enjoy… the pure fun and love of the game…!
It’s a common dilemma between husbands and wives, sisters and brothers, mothers and sons. The guys are into it; the girls are not. It’s conflict point for some, a disappointment for others.
A stereotypical gender scenario to be sure, and maybe I shouldn’t be using it on a forum in which ‘we eat stereotypes for lunch’ but… I’m betting divisions of interest also apply to same sex couples and same sex friends, but I’m choosing the male/female example because:
- a) it’s my experience of it, and
- b) apparently it’s true, if we are to believe “…the hard hand of evolution plays at least as much of a role in sports interest and participation as policy does…” (Time.com The Scientific Reason Men Like Sports More Than Women May 9, 2016)
How do we change the ratio?
If you’re frustrated or saddened that your loved one shows disinterest or derision for your beloved game, there is hope, even if according to the 2013 findings of Robert Deaner (Grand Valley State University, Michigan) and colleagues, “males were twice as likely as females to be involved or interested in sports across 50 different countries or cultures.”
How can we bring the ratio closer to 1:1?
First, understand what you might be up against.
What’s the point of all these men running around and crashing into each other?
Until I wiped the hard drive, I previously viewed all macho team sports with derision and incredulity. To me they comprised teams of dumbass, refrigerators-with-heads running around crashing into each other for no particular purpose but to get seriously injured. Inviting serious injury seemed to be a ludicrous badge of honour. For the life of me, I couldn’t understand rugby, in particular. And rugby, I believe, is very similar to gridiron—apart from the padding perhaps. No doubt experts among the readership will correct me if I’m wrong.
Soccer held brief appeal due to the ball skills, but seriously, a slight bump or knock and most of the underwear models are writhing in mock-agony…? The opposite of the big dumbass ones who, even when seriously injured, put on an heroic face. I could be forgiven for being confused.
I’d also noticed women rugby fans screaming foul-mouthed abuse at rival teams, or throwing expletives to encourage their own. I didn’t identify with them at all. Is that what you have to do to be a fan? Um. No, thanks.
I grew up with AFL (Australian Football League, aka Aussie Rules), a completely different game from rugby and gridiron. It had its fair share of foul-mouthed fans—both genders—but was less bone-crunchingly painful to watch than rugby.
Australian Rugby League was a rival code that other states embraced. My opinion of it was set early in life and I carried my derision for decades, even when I lived in regions where rugby was hugely popular. I can’t put my finger on when or why that opinion was set.
I do know any interest in AFL was abandoned when I left my childhood home.
Footy and me were not to be.
What the hell did anyone see in this game?
It took one of my sons to make sense of it.
But first, I had to go beyond my Sports Appreciation Comfort Zone and be willing to learn from him. Little did I know, this lesson changed more than my attitude to the game.
Over the years, he showed interest in the dreaded rugby—now the National Rugby League or NRL—which I considered the most senseless of all games. I imagined his interest was a teenage peer group thing: go along with your mates, have some fun, grow out of it, and finally see some sense.
I was wrong.
While visiting his dad’s house he politely asked if he might watch the Friday night game on TV. His dad wasn’t interested, but said ok. At this point I realized my son, now twenty-five, no mates around, was genuinely keen to watch it. This intrigued me; he still loved this game! His dad and I were never team sport followers; this was new to me.
I was moved to confess I’d never thought highly of rugby, and would he mind explaining it to me?
What happened next turned everything around.
With the utmost care and clarity, he outlined the scene. Who the teams were, what were their strengths, which players to watch and why, what he thought might happen, what had to be achieved to win…and so on.
His knowledge astounded me. As he lead me through the introductory steps, and into the game I found myself totally engrossed. My mind was in overdrive: Now it made sense! It was clever! They were clever! They were amazing! Ah, I see how they work together! Ahhhhh, that’s why they do THAT, and THAT and THAT, and why they need to be built like refrigerators; and why that little guy is so good at running rings around the refrigerators and and, and…
By the end of the game, I was awash with excitement and astonishment at the power of the game to engage me. It made sense. He made sense of it. He had an answer to every sporadic, “But what…?” “Why is he doing…?” “What just happened then…?”
With the utmost care and respect, he turned around a lifetime of ignorance and prejudice.
After that game I realised these guys would have been the heroes of old—the warriors, the strong, the fearless, the protectors of the tribe, the providers who caught the beast and dragged it home to the cave. What we watched was simply one forum through which 21st century men proved their prowess and yes, made a few million bucks along the way if they were good at it—more than enough to provide for the kin back in the cave.
It occurred to me those primitive male archetypes had to be just as clever and skilled as—if not more than—these sports champions. Their lives and the lives of their kin depended on it. Survival was their paycheck. The big guys and the little guys; working as a team. No wonder my son saw them as inspiring. It’s programmed into his XX chromosomes, and into those of the men who get high on team sports.
Why are we so surprised? Why do we deride or diminish this connection between such men and ‘their’ teams? It’s in their genes to love this. It builds them up, strengthens them to be proud of their team. It fuels them to be stronger, more courageous men for those they care about, even if they’re not built like refrigerators. For the team back home. For us.
I was surprised at my realization.
What did it take for my son to change my perspective?
Most women like to know why. If she knows why you love it, how you benefit, and how she benefits, you are on your way.
It wasn’t only my son who changed my perspective. To understand the why demanded I wipe my beliefs, drop my programming and invite new knowledge; allow myself to see the game through the eyes of someone very special to me. It took for me to respect him and trust his judgment; his choices. Then it took him show me how important it was to understand the game in order to feel passion for it.
He knows this is his domain, and he loves sharing it with me. Through this, I see his strength, his intelligence, his maturity, his respect and encouragement for those on both teams. I see an extraordinary young man who will take these qualities into his world.
One simple question turned into a new aspect of relating to my special young man, and the benefits of this have exceeded expectations.
This season we watch games together. We share meals with his housemates, quality time on his turf, enriching our mother-son relationship in a willing and joyful manner. We look forward to these times together.
And yes, we swear and scream and love every heart-stopping minute of it.
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