Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Male Fans

Despite the title of this entry I am not going to make sweeping generalizations about male fans. because sweeping generalizations are bad--very bad. Instead I am going to relate an incident I observed this past weekend and offer a brief analysis.
I went to a women's Big Ten volleyball match. Not a big crowd but very enthusiastic. Arriving shortly after the first serve (is there a volleyball equivalent to tip-off or faceoff?) were two men I had seen at women's softball games the previous spring. Both were wearing rather offensive (sexist/homophobic t-shirts) which initially made me wonder why they support women's sports at all--an incongruity to analyze another time. Both cheered but one was cheering in a different sort of way. He was, essentially, coaching. He would tell players, by calling out their numbers, what they needed to do: "Number 5 you need to set up the pass." Most obnoxious was that whenever a home team player went to the line to serve he yelled where she should serve: "Go short left" and "Hit deep middle."
Umm...they have a coach, dude. Do you really think they are going to listen to you yelling from the crowd in such a manner that everyone--including the receiving team--can hear? No--they are going to follow the covert, behind-the-clipboard signals made by their coach. I should note here that it is a female head c0ach. Perhaps the fan thought he could do a much better job.
Why couldn't he have just cheered when things went well or groaned when points were lost like the rest of us? Why the need to dictate (but not really) play? Is this a way for men to exert control (whether real or illusional) over women's sports since it is pretty clear they can't get rid of them? I don't want to be a separatist but if this is the way some men (yes only some--not all) are going to support women's athletics then maybe they shouldn't be there at all.


Amateur said...

The "incongruity" is kind of interesting. I guess there are other parallels -- racists who are fans of the NBA, for example.

As far as I know, this "fan/coach" type is an exclusively male thing. I would bet that this is unrelated to the gender of the participants, though; it's just the way he watches sports. My dad is kind of like that at hockey games, actually, although so quietly that there is no chance that anybody on the ice could hear him.

ken said...

OK--small confession. Like amateur's father, I also yell at hockey games; but I am equal opportunity doing so at both men's and women's. I don't think of myself as a coach though and I know they can't hear me on the ice so it's not like I am expecting them to do what I say. (Of course I am not as specific as the male volleyball fan I observed--my "advice" usually consists of "front, front!" and "shoot!") I wonder if perhaps I do so because as a woman, I want to prove to those around me that I know what hockey is all about.

Anonymous said...

Having witnessed both your style of yelling/cheering at hockey games and the volleyball fan in question, I can attest that you are not even in the same league as that guy. He was genuinely trying to micromanage the play by telling the server precisely where to place the ball. Plus, he was trying to make his advice heard above the noise of the fans, which is a completely different context than when your team has the puck in the zone and everyone is yelling for a shot!
(For fun, try to imagine this guy at a pro tennis match, yelling at someone like Roddick or Federer about where they should place their serve.)