Saturday, October 14, 2006

Now is the time for all good women to walk softly and carry a big stick — and maybe a bowl of onion dip — as they enter the daunting land of men and football. Why, a girl must prepare herself for the spectacle: There will be yelling, gnashing of teeth, shaking of fists and possibly throwing of coasters as men bear witness to the battle of the gridiron on TV screens across the land.

Stand fast now, ladies. There will be the wearing of ceremonial garments and the emergence of a strange language that combines guttural noises and stray bits of intelligent speech:

“Oh, come on. Punt. Yeah. You. No. Oh no. Whah. Whah? Oh you stupid. Hand it off. Geez. Oh, Geez. Whah. Yeah. Yes. Yes.”

Cultural anthropologists nationwide agree that this ritualistic communication, largely incomprehensible to the untrained listener, is part of normal, seasonal behavior, though it may be accompanied by alarming involuntary movements and potential barking or howling at peak moments.

Females, experts advise, should be prepared to counter or neutralize strong or destructive demonstrations with food offerings of high caloric content. They may be thrown if necessary.

But of course, no one has told the males what to do if the females start doing some yelling, gnashing and barking of their own.

Ladies — millions of them — have wandered into the daunting land of TV football. Yes, they continue to proffer the recommended countermeasures of guacamole, cheese balls, mixed nuts, chili, fried chicken and Toll House cookies. Yes, they will remind the gnashing and/or barking male to use rather than launch those coasters and to pick up the chair should it be knocked over shortly before half time.

But girly-girls are poised for the kickoff, too.

According to the National Football League, 45 million of its fans are women. They also make up 40 percent of the weekly NFL television audience, and more than 20 million describe themselves as “avid.” Nielsen reports that 30 million women typically watch assorted big-league football games every weekend and up to 40 million take in the Super Bowl each year.

Football is the favorite TV sport among women, according to ESPN, which also reveals that 58 percent of American women follow football rivalries in one capacity or another.

What? What? A chorus of baffled cultural anthropologists wonder if a feminine invasion of such he-man territory will yield social chaos. The answer? Probably not.

A new nationwide survey of 4,646 adults found that 57 percent “claimed they would prefer their mate share a similar passion in sports,” this according to True, an online dating service. Another 25 percent said they actually would prefer to be with their spouse or sweetheart while watching their favorite sports team.


“While the survey findings may shock some people, they were not surprising to us because football and sports have always been important to men,” says Ruben Buell, president of True.”Common interests represent an important element in long-term compatibility. People want their significant others involved in the activities they’re interested in.”

There are rules, however.

The survey also stated that during the big game, this is a major tenet: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” More than three-quarters of the respondents said they would rather their companion just admit to not wanting to watch the game and find something else to do, though 21 percent still said they would rather “their mate fake interest.”

Another 54 percent said it’s acceptable for women to fib about being sports fans to impress their menfolk. Only 2 percent of the men said they watched TV sports to get away from their spouse or partner, though 39 percent of all respondents admitted that sporting events had caused discord in their relationships.

“It’s important to remember to respect each other’s passions,” Mr. Buell added, “but that doesn’t automatically mean they have to become your interests as well.”

He recommends that the spouse or partner of a sports fanatic learn game basics, pick a team and cheer for it win or lose, be a good sport and just get into the game — don’t worry about looking silly.

All of us here on The Washington Times Pep Squad & Synchronized Drill Team concur.

But one more thing. Do female sports fans threaten their male counterparts?, a Web site for lady sports fans, polled more than 700 of its visitors to plumb the possibility. They found that 31 percent said men actually like female sports fans, while 34 percent felt men liked them as long as the female sports fans didn’t know more about the game than the men did. Just 2 percent said men were “too insecure” to handle the whole idea.

So ladies, break out the onion dip and fire up the slow cooker. Have a seat, wear a dumb hat, bring along that defunct craft project, just in case. If all else fails, just holler when he does, but no throwing of coasters. That’s what separates men from women.

Jennifer Harper covers media, politics and gnashing of teeth for The Washington Times’ national desk. Reach her at jharper@ or 202/636-3085.

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