Fuck This Shit: Actually, It’s Not Funny At All

A football beat reporter in an NFL press conference asking a team’s quarterback about routes shouldn’t surprise anyone. It definitely shouldn’t surprise the quarterback, who has been asked countless football questions at press conferences. But yesterday, Jourdan Rodrigue, the Panthers beat reporter from the Charlotte Observer, asked Cam Newton a good and completely normal question about his teammate embracing the physicality of routes.

Did Newton answer the question, as you would any standard press conference question? No. He didn’t. Newton’s response was to laugh at her and belittle the very idea of a woman having even a basic understanding of routes. He said it was “funny” to have “a female” asking him about routes. “A female.” A female what? An adult, female human? There’s a word for that, it’s “woman.” When you refer to a woman as a female, you’re already showing your ass. We know what that means. And, for the record, I don’t think there’s anything even remotely funny about a woman asking a question about routes.

Newton’s comments are emblematic of this idea that sports are the purview of men, and that women who try to participate in any way are trespassing into Man Territory. That we don’t belong here.

When you are a woman who claims a love of sports, you are often not taken seriously. Some guys (and, yes, it is only guys who do this) feel the need to act as self-appointed gatekeepers (because I guess sports loses something if you let the chicks get involved?) and will quiz you. Nevermind that the dude sitting next to him at the bar doesn’t know the difference between a slant route and a post route, Broey McBroerson is gonna make damn sure this broad knows her place.

I was 15 the first time I remember this happening to me. After proclaiming my love for the Yankees, I was told that the only reason I liked them was because I thought Derek Jeter was hot (my favorite player was actually Andy Pettitte) and that he was sure I couldn’t name more than three players on the team other than Jeter. I named every starting position player, the starting rotation (in order) and was halfway through the bullpen before he told me he’d heard enough. 15-year-old Meghan was triumphant. But after two decades of dealing with that kind of bullshit, it’s gotten really exhausting.

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The quizzing can go one of two ways. Either they’re asking you the assistant coach’s high school team’s mascot, or they’re asking you some offensively obvious question. A few years ago, I was sitting at bar next to a Sox fan and a Yankees fan who were debating something. Sox fan tried to bring me in for support, but I told him I wasn’t able to back him up, as I am a Yankees fan. In response, the Yankees fan pointed at the TV showing the Yankees game and asked me if I could name the player on the screen. It was Derek Jeter. And he was baffled as to why it was offensive to assume I might not know who the most famous baseball player of the previous two decades was. (The Sox fan, to his credit, knew exactly what was wrong with the question.)

I spent a little too much time getting mad online reading comments about yesterday’s Newton incident. Whether Newton intended to be sexist or condescending is irrelevant. He’s been around the game long enough to know women are here too. And if, in the whole of his sports playing life, Cam Newton has never had a substantive conversation about football with a woman – not a relative or a friend or a girlfriend or a random girl at a bar – then that says far more about him than it does about women.

To be clear, all dudes do not do this. Our ADB slack is six guys and me, and they don’t think it’s weird that I’m a female human who digs sports (ed. note: we do, however, think you’re weird). And when I’ve found myself on the receiving end of a mansplanation about college basketball, I appreciate my guy friends who’ve cut it off with a, “Dude, she knows more about this than you do.”

I played a lot of sports growing up. My friends played sports. My former-collegiate-athlete mother was often our coach. Title IX is four decades old. Women have been covering sports since before I was born. We’re not new here, and it shouldn’t surprise anyone to learn that a woman likes and understands sports, particularly when that woman’s job is to write about football. While I didn’t play college basketball, I’ve never found that to be a requirement for any of the men who cover college basketball. It’s not actually that hard to understand these games.

When a woman tells you she digs a sport or a team, believe her. Don’t assume she likes the team colors or the uniforms or just thinks the players are hot. Start by assuming that she has the same baseline of knowledge about the sport that you would grant to a man.

I’d like to never hear “you know a lot about sports for a girl” ever again. I’ve heard it more times than I can count. But at least I’ve got my response down.

No, dude. I know a lot about sports. Full stop.

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Meghan Bard
2003 UConn grad, recovering journalist, cardigan wearer, former Daily Camper, current lawyer.