A few weeks ago, I got an email from a reader named Marla Siegel. I know we have a lot of female readers and Colts fans, and I always enjoy hearing their perspective on things. I've asked Marla to give us all some insight into what it's like for a woman who is also a die-hard football fan. It's harder than you think! This is the third of three installments. You can read Marla's full post here.
Beneath those Shoulder Pads, We See Your Soul:
So maybe some people react differently to female football fanatics than to our male counterparts. But is there also anything qualitatively distinct about the reasons why some of us females develop and maintain this pigskin passion in the first place? (Disclaimer Alert: Please bear in mind that these suggestions, and in fact the vast majority of what’s written throughout this entire piece, are based purely on my own observations and anecdotal experiences; not some lofty claim to a general and objective truth):
I’ve noticed that my female football fanatics and I tend to have a keener interest in the lives and personalities of the men who don those helmets. Being an awesome player isn’t necessarily enough to earn our hard won fangirl devotion; we like them to be awesome people as well. Believing that these men possess attributes we value and admire serves to validate the amount of time and emotional energy we devote to supporting the team. Personally, I’ve developed a knack for twisting even the most commonplace, unremarkable anecdotes about my favorite players into ‘evidence’ that they’re pillars of humility, integrity, and general awesomeness. Sometimes, with players I’m especially predisposed to like and admire, even the absence of bad behavior is enough to endear me. (Wait, so you mean he hit the brakes when he saw that old lady trying to cross the street rather than, say, impatiently running right over her with his SUV? He must be a saint! I KNEW I was justified in revering this guy!)
Female fans often enjoy delving into a player’s perceived psychological makeup and personality as much as they do his stats and freakish on-field athleticism. Jeffri Chadiha’s in-depth, brilliantly written 2009 piece on how Dallas Clark’s spirit and resiliency enabled him to overcome adversity has permanently solidified Dallas’s spot at the very top of my personal ‘Favorite Colts Player Ever’ list more than a season’s worth of game-salvaging plays ever could. Of course, lest Dallas let this honor go to his impossibly adorable and seemingly humble head, I should note here that this FCPE list is neither particularly difficult to secure a place on (do you not completely suck both on and off the field? Are you not named Mike Vanderjagt? You made the cut!) nor too hard to move up on (Pierre Garcon and Robert Mathis both recently earned substantial promotions due purely to their prompt and kind responses to two of my Tweets…nice work, boys!) The point being that I---and the few other female football fanatics I’m lucky enough to know---love feeling that kind hearts beat beneath those perfectly sculpted chests. Which is my awkward segue into chatting about….
A Different Kind of ‘Fantasy’ Football:
I’m a little hesitant to dwell on the drool-worthy attractiveness of some of the players here, because I really don’t want to reinforce the stereotype that female fans appreciate the sight of obscenely muscular men tackling one another to the ground more than they appreciate the game itself. But today’s modern, multi-tasking woman can focus on strategic Xs and Os while simultaneously taking in the game’s more delightfully shallow pleasures. And consider the qualities possessed by most of the NFL players who play at an elite level: talent, passion, intensity, and a uniquely focused energy and determination (the kind that highlights just how lazy people like I am by contrast). Those are all very attractive traits, and it’s unsurprising that we might be attracted to men who possess more than their share. Wearing those sinfully tight pants that leave precious little to our fertile imaginations is just a bonus.
As the NFL Turns:
If you’re looking to convert new female football fanatics (and please do…I get lonely!), one of the more successful strategies involves stressing the degree to which the NFL is filled with as much compelling human drama and scandal as the daytime soaps, Emmy-winning dramedies and “reality” shows sitting at the top of many TiVo priority lists. Every season, we’re treated to a handful of underdogs triumphing over the odds; a continuous cycle of player-team battles, breakups and the occasional harmonious reconciliation; the development of intra-team bonding or strife and the renewal of respectful (or less respectful and therefore juicier) inter-team rivalries. New and often unexpected superstars will emerge even as former greats confront the painful realization that their time in the league is at an end. (And it’s even more painful when the past-their-prime players in question don’t realize it’s time to hang up their cleats, but that’s for another post). Those potential female football fans who never grew out of their fondness for ‘bad boys’ can take heart in knowing that a couple of players can always be counted on to get themselves arrested or, even more hilariously embarrassing, on TMZ.
You know how being a fan is exhilarating, difficult and somehow more simultaneously draining and rewarding than you expected it to be? Well, that perfectly describes my experience writing this piece. If even a single line amused or resonated with one reader, then I’ll consider my rookie appearance here a genuine success.