Why We Love (Men’s) Sports

A few days ago, I was one of the thousands of fans present at the Chrisler Arena to cheer on our basketball team versus the Syracuse Orange. In dramatic fashion, including a late three-pointer by Spike Albrecht, the Wolverines pulled off a thrilling victory. The fan base erupted; in fact it was energetic all night. For example, a friend of mine got to the game around 3 o’clock to be admitted into the “Maize Rage,” a die-hard student fan base solely for the basketball team. Each fan comes decked out in maize, and is prepared to jump and cheer throughout the entire game in support of the team. I can contest to this energy being contagious, as the Maize Rage starts cheers that spread throughout the arena.

The Maize Rage, Michigan's basketball team's die hard student section, supports the team with constant energy.

The Maize Rage, Michigan’s basketball team’s die hard student section, supports the team with constant energy.

This same energy, unfortunately, was not nearly as present during a Michigan girl’s gymnastics meet later in the week. The talent between the basketball players and gymnasts is equally as impressive, but the Chrysler Arena was not comparably as excited or crowded. These unfortunate gender differences in sports are discussed in detail in Mika Lavaque-Manty’s “The Playing Fields of Eton.” Lavaque-Manty believes that “no women’s sport is what universities call a “revenue” sport—that is, a sport so popular that its paying spectators make it a major business” (132). Basketball season tickets are competitive and expensive, whereas the gymnastics admission was free. While these differences in the sporting atmosphere are unfortunate, they are existent and frankly understandable. I’m the first to admit that I would rather attend a competitive basketball game rather than a gymnastics meet, and I think that is for several reasons that have been engrained in our society.

First off, the entertainment factor plays a significant role in the differences between male and female sports. The fans thrive off of excitement, and therefore crave tight competition and exciting feats. Team sports like basketball and football provide this competition. Each game is completely different from the prior one. Gymnastics matches and other individualized sports don’t provide this same pleasure for eager fans. This is probably because the events and routines are more predictable and lack the “close game” feeling that grabs fans’ attention. I do admit, however, that this is completely opinion based. In terms of genders, men are typically stronger and faster than women, allowing them to perform more astonishing tricks.

Nate Robinson performs an incredible dunk during a New York Knicks game.

Nate Robinson performs an incredible dunk during a New York Knicks game.

While this is most definitely not always the case, this may be the reason that men’s sports have gained more attention from the spectators.

This unfortunate separation between male and female sports has existed for many years. Originally, only men were permitted to participate in sports. Therefore, tradition has contributed to the favoring of men in athletics over women. Because this has been the case for so long, people assume that this is the standard. Due to the fact that male athletics have existed for so long, many teams have a long-standing history as a program and with their fans. Even when teams are in slumps, their fans stay with them and are devoted. Individualized activities and many female teams don’t always have this same critical bond with their fans.

It’s important that the fans understand their role in sports. While sports are for the pleasure of the fans, it is also the athletes’ jobs in many cases, and they need the help of the spectators to perform their best. The athletes can only perform for themselves until a certain point. A. Bartlett Giamatti explains the importance of the fans within sports. He states that ”‘winning’ for player or spectator is not simply outscoring; it is a way of talking about betterment, about making oneself, one’s fellows, one’s city’s, one’s adherents, more noble because of a temporary engagement of a higher human place of existence” (Giamatti 27). The athletes need the encouragement and energy from the fans to push them to new goals. High-energy atmospheres motivate and excite the players. At the recent basketball game, the Maize Rage and rest of the fan base was constantly cheering regardless of missed baskets and turnovers. At the gymnastics meet however, the fellow teammates were the loudest fans by far. I can only imagine the work that goes into being a high-level athlete, and the athletes need to the help of the fans to perform their best.

The majority of seats are empty during a qualifying heat of a gymnastics match.

The majority of seats are empty during a qualifying heat of a gymnastics match.

If people would give other sports, female ones in particular, a chance, they might find out they really enjoy it. However, for so long now male sporting events have been more popular than female ones, and nobody seems to be changing this. Edmund Burke emphasizes following traditions and advocates that people stay in the situations that they are in. I would suggest, however, that people take a chance and try something new. Go to a women’s sporting event. Show your support. I guarantee the athletes will appreciate it, and you will realize how exciting different games can be.

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4 thoughts on “Why We Love (Men’s) Sports

  1. I really enjoyed reading this because I completely agree with it. After reading Mika’s article about women and disabilities, I could not help but to think about women sports not being considered to be “revenue sports”. But, I do not know if this is because people think men are strong and faster or because people enjoy the intensity and competitive aspect that men offer.
    I can not help to think about the fact that women games are not as intense as mens, but does that come from the athletes or the spectators?
    I think it comes from the spectators as they are the ones who bring the extra energy to any arena..

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  2. Very interesting post! I really liked how you used Mika’s essay, Burke, and Giammati to price your point. I also could not agree more with the fact that I would rather go to a men’s basketball game then a women’s gymnastics meet. I do have a lot of respect for both but you are right, fans are looking for amazing talent and close games. Maybe the “Maize Rage” could go to a gymnastics meet just once and show support.

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  3. i like this post because it analyzes the gender roles in sports in a slightly different light than we’ve been discussing so much in class. I like how you called us into action at the end by telling us to go to a women’s event. from that, it is easy to believe that you truly believe what you are telling us: that women’s sports are much more enjoyable than what they are given credit for. Great post!

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  4. I think this is an interesting post and I agree that much of the discrepancy between men’s and women’s sports is due to the unfortunate mindset that men are stronger and faster how you said in your post. However, i also think that much of this is because men generally pioneered the sports back in the days where men were actually considered superior in society as opposed to America today. Hopefully someday these things can be made equal, but as your post points out it will take work to make it that way. The Burke reference is interesting and the course connection to the dangers of traditions fits perfectly with what you are expressing in your post.

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