On being a female football fan.
Cut the Pink Crap
I Want the Authentic: On Being a Female Football Fan
Packers Party/Super Bowl Party
2011. The Packers made the Super Bowl granted they were playing against my third team—the Steelers. My #1 team playing my #3 team, lots of fun there. Naturally, I cheered for my Packers. What was the best way to show my Packers love and pride? Throw a Packers Party! And I went all out and thank goodness for Wegmans; they had Packers cupcakes and plenty for my four guests to have three cupcakes each! And the cupcakes had keepsake Packers helmet toppers, perfect for scrapbooking! As well as the balloon that I bought from Acme!
Yes, sounding like a typical female, I’m getting ready for a Super Bowl party. However, unlike the typical female, I will watch the game and enjoy it. That’s how my Packers party went—Christa, her fiancé, Joe, nan and I sat and watched the Packers beat the Steelers. Joe routed for the Steelers, Christa was indifferent, nan and I were for the Packers. Mimi, my gray ragdoll cat, was even watching the game, which led me to the conclusion she also loves football. It was a nice party with Packers trivia before the game and during commercials, which Christa stated that when she and Joe went to see a Jets game, they still played commercials and had war heroes, soldiers and other remarkable fans come out on the field. I found that to be really cool (I wouldn’t see for myself until six months later). Then during halftime, Christa brought Apples to Apples and we played that as well as eat the Packers cupcakes, my green and yellow lemon cake, the chili and other yummy foods that were cooked. Great food, great friends and my favorite team playing, it was one of my favorite moments in 2011 (besides going to Green Bay, which will that tale will be next).
Beginnings of a Football Fanatic
Like the beginning of Holly Robinson Peete’s book Get Your Own Damn Beer, I’m Watching the Game! A Woman’s Guide to Loving Pro Football, everyone usually learns and experience football from his or her father. For me, that stereotype is correct. Every Sunday my dad would watch game after game, regardless of where they were from. In my early years (five until ten) I would sit and watch them with him, though I would deny I liked it and this denial lasted until 2006 when my crush on Ben Roethlisberger reintroduces my denial for a game I liked and embracing watching the Steelers and the other teams I explored at this time (Chargers, Ravens, Packers, although Packers would become my #1 team in mid-2010, but more on that later).
Although, according to the I could relate. I remember hating gym because of my teachers in elementary and middle schools. Yet, I did like baseball, hockey and football. But, there was no way in hell I would let anyone know since those are “boy” sports and girls shouldn’t play “boy” sports. I was already an outcast and I didn’t want something else to further that. What a sad mistake that was. This data makes sense to me though, as well as this stereotype of girls’ mothers “considered appropriate and safe for their daughters” which a few mothers wouldn’t consider contact sports appropriate and that “influences [a girls] decision about what sport to participate in” (Manson 92-93). One girl believed her mother and father that she was too “delicate” to participate in contact sports like football because they could get hurt.
As soon as I found football again, I started to excel at contact sports in gym. I remember one time we were playing tag football and I was offensive. The other team was too busy watching the boys to make sure they wouldn’t pass them and this one time the stereotype of football being a “boy” sport and people taking to the preconception of the girls’ mother, I stormed to the other side without anyone noticing me and making the touchdown (I’d like to compare it to the Quarterback Sneak1). My male gym teacher was impressed and said “Great job, Cavaliere! You had some great planning and your small stature also helped too.” I felt proud because for the past few weeks I had been watching football with my dad, although it would take a few years for me to get comfortable to admit I love football not only because of Ben Roethlisberger and other football players, but also for the pure adrenaline and excitement of the game itself. It was around 2008 that I started branching out to the Chargers and Ravens (#2 and #4 teams) and then in late 2009 the Packers and 2010 for me to fall in love with the Packers (team #1).
I remember for the first couple of years that my dad had to inform me what the field positions are and the terminology for plays. For those of you unfamiliar, I’m going to cite the most important facet of Get Your Own Damn Beer, I Am Watching the Game with brief descriptions of the different plays you will see throughout a game.
Pass Pattern: Refers to the route the receive takes across the field on a pass play.
Play Action: Refers to one of the most common sleights of hand in a
Quarterbacks arsenal. Typically, the offensive linemen push forward,
while the quarterback pretends to hand off the ball to one of the running
backs. The running back then acts like he has the ball.
Scramble: A passing play that turns into a running play.
Interception: Refers to the ball caught by a defender, intended for a
receiver on the offensive team. This is the quarterback’s worst nightmare.
Man-To-Man Coverage: Any pass defense that assigns a specific receiver to be covered by a specific defender.
Of course, that’s not the whole list because there are several different plays. For the field position of what the players are (Quarterback, Linebacker, Tightend, etc, etc), it’s not hard to remember once you watch the game enough. As my dad pointed out and as obvious it was, quarterbacks have the lowest number on their jerseys. For example, Packers Quarterback Aaron Rodgers is #12; Steelers Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is #7; Baltimore Ravens Quarterback Joe Flacco is #5 and Chargers Quarterback Philip Rivers is #17. The linebackers are easy to remember to, they have middle of the line numbers, like Clay Matthews is #52 and AJ Hawk is #50 (both play for the Packers). It’s little tricks like these that also help me remember.
I’d like to thank my dad’s patience on explaining things to me at first. Knowing the plays is how you have fun—a huge cheer and a dance move when your team gets touchdown and intercepts the opponent’s ball; “Crap! You stupid jackass” and other obscenities thrown at the TV when the other team makes the touchdown or intercepts your team’s ball, I find that all entertaining. I like to wear my Cheesehead on game day, chant and cheer GO PACK GO! When interceptions, touchdowns (other play) and other plays are made. Yes, game days are fun for me and I look forward to them each week. I love devoting six hours of my life to games—people know not to disturb me during that time frame (I have some of my male friends laugh at me and say, “we’re supposed to be the ones telling you that since you’re a female”). Talking smack with your girlfriends and guy friends are always a blast too. I remember talking smack with my one friend who is a huge Bears fan about the Bears since I am a huge Packers fan (they’re rivals) and the dialog back and forth. It was all in good fun and something that shouldn’t be taken too seriously—after all, that is the point of doing that, to have fun!
On Being a Female Football Fan
An esteemed professor of mine one day mentioned while we were talking about this subject on the bus, that when she was growing up, it was unheard of women being football fans—it just didn’t exist. She was (and still is) a huge football fan from that time period and although it wasn’t elaborated on, she said she just learned not to care what others thought and had to say. I am with her on that one, although we live in 2011, there are still stereotypes. For example, traveling to Green Bay alone brought me protests from loved ones that “22 year olds shouldn’t travel alone!” to “wow, a female football fan traveling alone. I never met a girl who had the balls to do that.” The latter comment made me smile, but I learn to ignore negative comments like the professor. In Eau Claire, WI, the spirit of incorporating girls into a sport is growing (no surprise there, Wisconsin is a HUGE football state, that was made clear to me when I was there). Although this article is about hockey, it is still an aggressive sport. Coach Carrie Gee tells her girls and tells the Eau Claire newspaper that “(we teach girls that) there aren’t any limits, you can make your own goals, there aren’t just activities that are for one gender” (Taylor 1). That is different from the piece I cited above, some middle school girls stated that “well some of them [the boys in the class] don’t really cooperate very well and like…you get upset with them. Like they are not playing as well as you want them” and vice versa (Manson 93). Although quite a few did have positive things to say.
Yet, we still see this discrimination today in some instances. For example, in Buffalo, New York, a nine-year-old girl was barred from the football field because she wanted to play football. Kayli Tyro sat on the sidelines to watch the team, the KAT Raiders, she wanted to join. I am sure it broke her heart to watch something she loved so dearly and couldn’t play. Fortunately, it was taken to a judge and the judge ruled “discrimination based on gender was unacceptable.” That following Sunday, Tyro was allowed to play and her father stated, “she got like a giddy schoolgirl. She’s excited about her first game” (Graham 1). There is another example from a study that is cited in Manson & et al article that girls still feel discriminated against so much so that they felt “bombarded with stereotypic expectations, girls became marginalized and alienated” (86).
This article was written in 2009 and honestly, it doesn’t speak for me. I don’t feel marginalized as a football fan and lover. In fact, I feel the opposite; I feel included and have met many wonderful people through football and as you will see in my upcoming travelogue “Adventures Through Titletown, USA,” that I saw this first hand in Green Bay, WI. It was a chilly night in Lambeau Field, the Packers were playing the Cardinals. At each touch down, the women sitting in front of me and in back of me all gave me hugs, we all danced and chanted “GO PACK GO” to the music specifically designed for that chant in the background. We could feel the guys’ eyes on us wondering about what we were doing—in awe mostly, but I am sure some of them were disgusted or put off by it since it could encroach on their masculinity. Yet, we could care less. We were having a great time and I loved the atmosphere of welcoming and fandom in Lambeau Stadium. It was the best time I ever had and it showed me an important lesson: many women love football and we stick together in our “wolf pack,” yet it is not one (wo)man (this is a reference to Clay Matthews’s slogan on a shirt that reads “One Man Wolf Pack”) and it is so awesome to feel the energy and intensity of being female fan congregated to seeing our favorite team: The Green Bay Packers.
I asked Liz if she ever had that experience and she didn’t, but she believes my story shows “All it does is get people talking” but she has “never experienced bondig over it, especially with women.” It might be because my experience was regional, which my esteemed professor stated it varies from locale to locale. She is from Pittsburgh and that is common place and another friend of mine who lives in Texas, that’s huge too because Texas tends to obsess over high school football.
However, I never did ask that if them being a football fan impacted them in a negative light. I remember a few times I was called a “lesbian” or “butch” and should “come out” because I love a “boy’s” game. I don’t know how I handled it, I think I just ignored them, but I think those people were just mean spirited and most people have positive or indifferent thoughts about football fans regardless of gender. I also don’t think being a female fan of football is any different than a male fan—we both get into the game and the female fan wouldn’t bother her boyfriend (the said male fan) because they’d both bond during the game. When I was in Green Bay, the trucker from Minnesota made it clear; “Whomever dates you will be lucky because your love of football would be a triple plus in his book.” Liz made that clear as well.
Yet, it still leaves me ambivalent about the dating issue. I can’t place my finger on it, but regardless if I am attached or unattached from someone, it’s not going to change my viewing habits and me being the football fanatic and dork. This is something I cannot and will not change. I have to say, I agree with Hannah’s statement of “It just gets extremely annoying to go out to a bar for the game wearing my Jay Cutler jersey, or even my old school Donnell Woolford jersey, because men constantly get on my case and ask me questions with the intentions of tripping me up. Its like they think that since I'm a girl, I "obviously" couldn't know a thing about sports” because I get that all the time when I wear my Packers jersey and the fact that people probably think it’s a phase because girls don’t seem to keep interest long they assume. I have a motto, “Win, lose or tie; Cheesehead until I die.” (I have to finish that shirt.)
As you will see in “My Trip Through Titletown, USA” I spent a great deal at Big D’s in my Packers gear and socializing with other Packers fans. They were not inquisitive like I get back home, they were really amazed that a Packers fan from Pennsylvania traveled six hundred miles to see the team, yeah, they were sold and thought it was so cool. It was a lot of fun to talk about a team we all love (don’t get that at home since I’m not living in Green Bay) and to talk about how I became a fan (more of that later). I just loved the connectedness of the people that fellow fans (regardless of gender) have with other fans—it’s like a family.
Cut the Pink Crap (I Want the Authentic)
The following are pictures of authentic jerseys:
Take note, this is NOT what a player would wear (yes, it’s “authentic,” but not really)2:
I really like what Hannah had to say about the pink jerseys: “I think the pink jerseys are absolutely about making a fashion statement. I, for one, would never wear one. If I'm going to be sporting a jersey, I'll be wearing it in my teams actual colors - gotta show real pride in the team :)” and I couldn’t agree with her more. I never liked pink regardless, but it is definitely a fashion statement. I have seen actual female fans wear the pink, but it has been in my experience that usually the girls who are not fans but using it to show guys that she’s sorta interested or the team is doing well and it’s “hip” or “in” to sport a jersey (these are jut my observations, they could totally be off). I wear my jerseys, the actual jerseys in the team colours because I love the team. I also wear my jerseys off season. I remember when I was taking the college tour at West Chester University in 2008, it was end of April and I was still wearing my Chargers jersey! I even wear my Clay Matthews jersey in the summer to the point that the jersey numbers are peeling. In fact someone in my creative writing class wrote on my draft of “On Being a Metal Head” (found in my book In the Strawberry Patch) that I might like to wear flannel instead of leather, but “[my] Packers stuff was very close if not superceding it” Yeah, football season or not tends not to make a difference to me when it comes to wearing my jerseys.
On Being a Packers Fan
I don’t really know what led me to love the Packers, maybe it was in watching games that led me to discover that love. I remember before I converted to Islam, my dad and I watched an Eagles game and the Packers smoked them. There was something about the team that I liked—their playing skills were awesome. Around the time the Saints won the 2010 Super Bowl and that was about the time I was getting into Islam and didn’t think about the Packers much, let alone football (I regret that). Though, at the beginning, before I converted and just as I converted I would talk about football to the man that helped me convert (he was a Patriots fan, watch me cringe. Yes, not an Eagles fan, but there another team in the same category). I think that the gender roles and the confinement of giving up football and heavy metal was the reason I left (among other things).
After the leaving, I returned to the glory that is football and watched an Eagles game with my dad. They were playing the Packers and the Packers more than smoked them, they whooped their asses. The way Clay Matthews played sold me, as well as something I could feel about the team that at the time I couldn’t place my finger on. I did my research and watched games after games and I placed why I fell in love with them—the Packers are all about their fans—the fans own part of the team because Curly Lambeau didn’t want the team to become a monopoly that cared only about money and not about the fans and the fans could buy shares. They also treat their fans like royalty and they are philanthropical by donating to good causes (Clay Matthews donated to Duchennes Disease and it taught me a bit about it because I didn’t know it existed before the commercial). And their playing skills helped too, they have usually been a good team. I can honestly say that my love for the Packers made me appreciate football more.
I sometimes think that I bring them luck every time I watch the game (I know, silly superstition). In the playoffs in 2011, the Packers won almost every game. We were all nervous they wouldn’t make it (Eagles are a guaranteed win because they smoked them again), but they made it to the Super Bowl! I was numb with excitement. I know it was their dedication, playing skills and determination that led them to the Super Bowl, but I like to think I helped a little with good luck. I am a huge fan and nothing will change that, I live and breathe the green and yellow. I live and breathe football and nothing people say about that will change it. I like what Zach texted me the other day about my love for the Packers when I said I nominated myself as Packers fan of the year, “You do [deserve the title], you’ve taken one year to do more than most Packers fans ever have or ever will do” and a comment he left me, “most girls your age and also when you were younger would have mild obsessions lasting a short span. You on the other hand immerse yourself into new things… [that] in the long run or at the very least you become so dedicated that it seems anything but random. You became a Packers fan suddenly, but now you've been to the green bay hall of fame, you're a true cheese head and are loving every min of it. go w/ god, old friend :)” He couldn’t be more correct.
1 The Quarterback Sneak is when a play allows a quarterback to sneak through “a hole created by the linemen.” This usually involves the Quarterback lunging through the linemen or jumping over them. This is typically used for short distances “when every inch counts” (Peete 102).
2 Image was taken from: http://www.reebok-nfljerseys.com/cheap-authentic-green-bay-packers-aaron-rodgers...