Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Why do we like sports?

Although I've recently resigned from the JSM board, I plan to continue posting. And, in fact, I plan to do more of that now that I feel freer of my own reservations about having to uphold a high academic standard of research. I am much more an observational kind of sports fan and sports media fan as opposed to someone who likes to do research. With that said, I'll be offering up more of my observations. If any ideas strike you as possible research topics, feel free to take them up, and I'm open to some kind of collaboration if that seems fitting so don't hesitate to contact me.

This information is taken from "For women, sports is a field of dreams, by Heidi Dawley, Jan. 18, 2007, medialifemagazine.com.

A study recently from Initiative Sports Futures, the company's global sports consultancy division (whatever that is!), found that more and more women are watching the world's top sporting events. In fact, they found, "In some countries women can account for more than half the viewing for some major events." This study focused on the FIFA World Cup Final, the UEFA European Football Championship, and the Summer Olympics.

More on more American female sportsfanship comes from a study quoted by Sheila Gibbons in 2003 in "Sports News Shortchanges Female Players, Fans" on the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education website (www.maynardije.org) says:

"According to a recent national study from Scarborough Sports Marketing, 50 million women follow sports sponsored by the National Hockey League, National Football League, National Basketball Association, Women's National Basketball Association, Professional Golfers Association, NASCAR, Professional Soccer or Major League Baseball. The percentage of women 18 and older who are loyal (very or somewhat avid) sports fans has doubled in four years from 28 percent in 1998 to 58 percent in November 2002, according to Scarborough, which says they remain a huge untapped market for sports marketers."

What caught my attention was the first study prompted the writer to ruminate on what might cause women to be paying more attention to the sporting events these days. (Her main theory was that for women it had more to do with celebrity than sports, i.e. the David Beckham phenomenonl).

That got me to thinking about why I watch sports, because it's certainly not for the celebrity. But THAT got me to wondering why no one ever questions why men watch sports. I don't believe the desire to watch sports is encoded in a man's DNA, so there might be just as many different reasons for them as for women, and some of those reasons might be the same for both genders. And, the trend for ESPN and SI to focus more in recent years with stars, legends, and the next big thing--even to trying to find them in high school now--points to men sliding over into making celebrities a focus of watching sports. I can see it too in the sports anchors' and other athletes' hero worship of athletes, the off-the-field emphasis of athletes promoted by sports media (i.e. Barry Bonds getting his own reality show for a while and SI's new, ever-expanding department on Players and their "real" lives), and other sports entertainment developments (the ESPYS--athletes get their own Oscars!, the Pop Culture Grid in SI, the "For Love or the Game" department in ESPN: The Magazine. All of this has more to do with athletes as celebrities than the game/sports themselves. So, to paraphrase Daniel Boorstin, athletes make a name for themselves in sports but then they're nearly as famous just for being famous and their performance diminishes in importance.

I know I miss the emphasis and description from TV and print on the sporting events themselves. I do have to confess when I watched football in high school, I did pick who I was going to root for based on how many cute guys were on a team (Tinker Owens clinched it for the Sooners against Nebraska; Nolan Cromwell did the same for KU then the Rams). But I also had started watching football after reading Jerry Kramer's classic, "Instant Replay" when I was 12 because of how he wrote about the game and the strategy, and I was already listening faithfully to baseball games on the radio (not caring what they looked like, because it was always going to be the Cardinals).

I do always have to explain why I'm an avid sports fans, but everyone takes for granted men are. I find that interesting. I'm going to have to ask my male sports fan friends why and see what I come up with.


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