From one of our readers, Amanda, we at Bloomer Girls learned about a new series of posts Jezebel is running called “I Love Balls.” The recurring post is described by the author, Lindy West, in the following way:
Lindy West hates baseball. But she’s going to try to and become a fan, and she’ll be documenting that process here in a semi-regular column called “I Love Balls.” Hopefully she’ll learn to love America’s pastime like a best-case-scenario arranged marriage.
So far, there are three posts. I just read them all, as well as most of the comments. Phew! I have so much to say that I was literally taking notes.
One theme in the comments is best represented by commenter “Offbalance,” who wrote:
Here’s an idea, and I know it’s a crazy one – rather than have another stupid column about how this girl like TOTALLY hates sports you guys, but like, will make herself like them for lulz, have someone write a column that actually likes and follows sports voluntarily?? I promise you – there are tons of us women out there that actually REMEMBER to go to the games they have tickets for and even (gasp!!) watch the games on tv voluntarily. That would be much more interesting than this drivel for the 8939439th time about how girls just DON’T get sports, tee-hee!
Yup, I totally see it. I do. I especially rolled my eyes at the part where West says she doesn’t think she’d like baseball because it has to do with math. Two stereotypes in one! Personally, I love baseball and I love math. That said, I’m not a huge statistics or sabermetrics geek when it comes to baseball; I much prefer to find value in player based on my gut and the situation. (Example: my New York Mets are over-achieving right now. Besides Ike Davis and Andres Torres, who was on the disabled list until yesterday, every starting player is batting over .300. Amazeballs! But that’s the extent of my interest in statistics. Someone else might talk about Kirk Nieuwenhuis’s VORP or his OPS, but I think he’s performing the way he is because this is first taste of the majors and damned if he’s ever going back to the Mets’ AAA [highest level in the minor leagues] affiliate in Buffalo.) Bad stereotypes aside, math is not necessary to baseball fandom.
Full disclosure: I don’t really read Jezebel. I think the site has smart analysis on many issues (e.g. West’s post on hipster racism - she totally nailed it. I’ve been complaining about this phenomenon for years, although I always called it Ivy League Sexism). But I have no interest in celebrity gossip or fashion, both of which are written about extensively on the site. I tried to be a frequent Jezebel reader but ultimately decided it was better to wait for articles in which I’d be interested to come to my attention via Facebook or Twitter sharing rather than sift through the stuff I find vapid and boring.
Like “Offbalance,” I also think Jezebel’s sports niche would be better served by a writer who actually likes baseball. With this series, Jezebel is saying that sports isn’t one of the normal topics that women want to read about. No, sports should only be discussed in the context of a woman trying to get into baseball, because sports is a man’s subject. Fashion and celebrity gossip on the other hand, are mainstays of the female personality. You don’t see a series of posts written by someone who hates celebrity gossip but is trying to get into it. That’s just for sports. Other commenters responded to this critique by saying “go read a sports blog,” because ya know, that’s different from a women’s blog and never the two shall mix (except here! huzzah! shoutout to the commenter who recommended our blog!).
So yeah, there are some problems here, and they seem to me, in my limited experience reading Jezebel, to be quite uncharacteristic of the site, which regardless of its substance is decidedly feminist.
Despite these criticisms, as a female sports fan, I can’t help but find myself interested in following West’s process and whether she will actually start genuinely liking baseball. Becoming a sports fan I think can be both a nature and nurture process. Okay, that’s not really the right way to put it, because it’s all nurture. Maybe I mean passive and active. I know this because I’ve experienced both.
For me, I started liking baseball at a young age, but I don’t exactly know when. Maybe it was when Kellogg’s included baseball helmets as prizes in their cereal boxes, and my step-dad and I collected the whole set. In high school, one of my best friends had season tickets to the Mets, and so I went to a ton of games. We were there for Braves closer John Rocker’s first appearance at Shea after he said publicly that everyone who rode the 7 train had AIDS and/or didn’t speak English. That was wild. So was the 2000 Subway Series. Even though at the time I didn’t care about memorizing the 40-man roster, my heart swelled for my Mets. In 2006, when I returned home from college, the Mets were awesome, and that’s when I started paying more attention to roster moves, trade deadlines and individual performances. The whole thing was a long crescendo, and a passive one, in that I was just doing whatever sounded fun without really thinking about what I was doing until before I knew it I really liked baseball.
Football has been a whole other matter. Even though I’ve always considered myself a New York Giants fan, I’ve never really gotten into football. It’s actually more the culture than the sport itself that is a turn-off. I’ve just never wanted to subject myself to guys with multiple head injuries shouting commentary at me and the inevitable barrage of commercials portraying men as neanderthals and women as naggy party-poopers. Nevertheless, last year I promised my boyfriend I would try to get into football. Enough already, I conceded, people LOVE football, and I am sports-oriented and have always loved the Superbowl, so why shouldn’t I be able to love the entire season? With the lock-out looming, I thought I might have gotten off the hook, but sure enough, football happened and I started watching. In the beginning I was bored, but after forcing it down, I found that I actually liked it! Kind of like when you first start drinking coffee or beer. Of course, the Giants winning the Superbowl didn’t hurt in achieving my actively-pursued goal.
All of that is to say that we arrive at sports fandom in different ways, and there is so much to love about baseball, so I’m pulling for West to sincerely come around, and I think it will be cool to see the process, especially as told by a talented writer.
Another positive is that the comments are FULL of sports fans that are female. In the comments of each of the three posts women are sharing stories about how they came to love baseball, explaining to West why the sport is great, and engaging in the usual trash talk that is regularly found on “sports” blogs. Presumably these women read Jezebel somewhat regularly, but rarely have the opportunity to discuss baseball. If this isn’t an indication that “women’s” blogs and “sports” blogs should not be two separate things then I don’t know what is. I love any opportunity to get females who love baseball talking about baseball, because we are so often ignored. (Example: Friday when said boyfriend and I were getting dinner and watching baseball at our neighborhood bar and grill, a couple sits at the table in front of us, blocking my view of the TV. The guy turns around, sees me craning my neck to watch around him, then looks at my boyfriend and says “Sorry, I’m blocking your view” and moves. The guy subsequently directs baseball-related questions to my boyfriend. Implicit in his actions is the presumption that at best I’m merely along for the ride and at worst I’m miserable.)
If West’s journey to baseball fandom provides a platform for women to mouth off about baseball, I’d say that’s a good thing.
Advice for West
Lindy West, if you read this, I have so many suggestions!:
- Watch baseball on TV. You’ll get a much better sense of what a fastball looks like compared to a change-up compared to a slider. You’ll understand the strike zone. You’ll have a better view of exciting plays at the plate. Plus, the announcers (if they’re good) will teach you the rules of the sport, baseball history, and tricks of the trade.
- Find a good Dodgers blog. In 2006 when I went from being a casual fan to a follow-every-game fan, reading a Mets blog went a long way to keeping me informed, engaged and knowledgable.
- Go to other stadiums. There’s almost nothing better than a day at the ballpark, and as you’ll learn, all stadiums are different, from the dimensions to the in-game entertainment. Go to an Angels game! Better yet, go to a minor league game! They have awesome deals like 2-for-1 hotdog night (maybe not a selling point for you), and fireworks after the game. The Las Vegas 51s are a Blue Jays affiliate, but their stadium is fun and one of their logos is an alien with baseball seams on its head! ALIENS ARE AWESOME! SO IS BASEBALL! Or if you want to see a Dodgers affiliate, go see the Albuquerque Isotopes. The Isotopes are named after the team from that Simpsons episode after the team did a city-wide vote. Hilarious!
- If you like that baseball players can be old, you may like Rockies pitcher Jamie Moyer, who is 49. Just google “Jamie Moyer old jokes.”
- Read Doris Kearns Goodwin’s memoir “Wait Til Next Year” about growing up a Brooklyn Dodgers fan.
- The land disputes that led to the Dodgers moving to LA are SO not boring. Robert Moses was this total evil genius who basically controlled New York City. He hated people and destroyed neighborhoods while getting his public works projects built, but without him we wouldn’t have the Verrazano Bridge, the Triborough Bridge, and a ton of really useful roadways. The owners of the Dodgers wanted to build a new stadium (in the spot where the Brooklyn Nets stadium is being built, interestingly enough), but Robert Moses was intent on building a stadium in Flushing, Queens. He was such a Goliath that finally Dodgers ownership gave up. LA enticed him with space in the mountains (I was under the impression that the space was unoccupied, so you taught me something). The Dodgers were worried about having to travel a ridiculous amount to play other teams so they got the Giants to move to San Francisco and BAM! just like that, New York lost two of its three teams, devastating millions. A few years later, Robert Moses got his way. A stadium was built in Flushing, which now houses the Mets.
Sara and I started Bloomer Girls because we didn’t think there was enough on the internet about the intersection of gender and sports. With West’s “I Love Balls” series, Jezebel is adding something to this subject. Is their addition totally awesome and completely feminist? No, I don’t think so. I think the criticism given by commenters and discussed in this post is really significant. I think that if they’re going to do this, they should consider adding a female sportswriter to their staff. But I also think a lot of good can come from this series. Give sports fans a generally feminist and pro-woman forum for talking about sports. Let’s encourage people, male or female, to start following baseball, because it’s really effing awesome.
What do our readers think?