DESHPANDE: Dear NFL, women don’t need sports explained to them

Photo by Sam Deeb

It’s a scenario all too familiar to countless women: You walk into a sports bar to watch a game with a nice drink for yourself, and then suddenly you’re being quizzed by men about how many career touchdown passes Tom Brady has thrown (649, I know). 

It’s just worsened since Taylor Swift started attending rumored boyfriend and Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce’s football games. The NFL and its broadcasters have made it their mission to teach women the workings of football across the last couple of weeks.

Right before the Chiefs took on the New York Jets last Sunday, NBC’s Carson Daly took it upon himself to mansplain to all the “Swifties” everything about the matchup, tied in with references to Swift’s popular songs. “We got a call from NBC Sports asking us to put tonight’s story in language that the legions of Swifties would understand,” Daly said on Sunday.

It seems like, according to the NFL, football was introduced to female fans only after Swift made her debut at the Chiefs’ game. 

While it is definitely insulting to women, it is not surprising. The NFL’s history of addressing concerns like domestic violence and fostering sexist work environments has been far from exemplary. Ray Rice’s two-game suspension for beating his wife in 2014 ignited an uproar among female football fans about the NFL’s handling of such cases. 

NFL teams have been involved in multiple cases regarding mistreatment of their cheerleaders. They’re underpaid and overworked, only to be used as eye candy. It can be traced back to the little to no punishment given to Brett Favre after he was caught sexting a female member of the New York Jets organization. 

So, to watch every brand cashing in on Swift’s appearance wasn’t that big of a deal, but the step-by-step explanation of football was a reminder that as a female sports fan, you will always be met with skepticism and disbelief. It’s as if your passion for sports is met with unwarranted scrutiny that your male counterparts rarely experience.

Women who love sports have often had to endure a series of unwarranted challenges. We’ve been put to the test, quizzed on obscure statistics, and asked to prove our knowledge repeatedly. The underlying assumption is that women are less knowledgeable about sports or, even worse, that we don’t belong in the world of sports at all.

Swift, who has been a self-proclaimed Philadelphia Eagles fan her entire life, has borne the brunt of men trying to undermine her achievements all throughout her career: Her infamous feud with Kanye West after he interrupted her during the VMAs, the constant ridicule and judgment about her dating life, and now the sexist conversations about her just attending a football game. 

Similarly, male football fans have been angered by the presence Swift brings with her unimaginable attention and army of female fans — something that seemingly “pollutes” a game that men thought they had a monopoly over. However, a large percentage of Swifties have always been football fans, way before their idol decided to date an NFL player. 

As someone who has spent her entire life playing basketball and subsequently covering different sports for a career, this is a normal phenomenon. I’ve had countless encounters with surprised men unable to fathom my interest in sports or not like the fact that I knew more than them. Because how can a woman possibly be interested in any sport?

In times like these, Swift’s lyrics from her song ‘The Man” make sense more than ever: “If I was a man, every conquest I had made would make me more of a boss to you.” And if I was a man, maybe I wouldn’t have to provide a certificate of knowledge every time I entered a bar to watch a sport. 

 

Vishakha Deshpande is a staff writer for The Marblehead Weekly News.