I love sports. Playing and watching. Especially baseball. And the Angels, I have my older brother to thank for that. I’ll never forget him teaching me how to play baseball. I imagine now that it must have been incredibly frustrating for him teaching a seven year old all of the concepts he had learned. But he did it. I remember setting up a paper plate as home plate and some other items we found as first, second, and third. Getting told that the heavy stick I was holding was called a “bat” and that the goal was to use the bat to hit the ball that he was going to toss to me and to try to run and touch all the bases before returning to home plate to score.
The first time he tossed the ball to me I hit it and I was so happy I ran as fast as I could around the bases. Then he told me it didn’t count. I didn’t understand why. I had done what he told me to, I hit the ball with the bat. Then he told me I had hit it “foul”. I thought he was making stuff up because he didn’t want me to be good at something so fast. I probably did some pouting, knowing how seven-year-olds react. That was when he pointed to lines that he had drawn in the dirt and said that the ball had to stay in between those lines when I hit it to count as a “hit”. I decided he wasn’t trying to rob me of my glory at catching on so quickly and went back to the plate so he could toss the ball to me again.
I hit it foul again. I was disappointed because he called the first foul a strike and the second was another strike and he told me I only got three strikes then I would be out. I waited for him to throw the ball again and for the third time, I hit it foul. I was mad because it was my third time hitting it foul, which meant it was my third strike.
I started to get upset, dropped the bat, and moved to take the ball and throw to him (he’d already taught me how to catch and throw the ball), when he told me I wasn’t out. I was so confused. The first two fouls were strikes but the third one wasn’t? I wasn’t going to argue. I clammed up thinking he was making a mistake or something. He threw the ball again.
This time I wasn’t ready and didn’t swing the bat. I was going to complain (more than likely whine) but he called it a “ball”. I asked what that meant. He explained the strike zone to me and I thought: why does anyone ever swing? It must be way harder to actually get the ball into the imaginary box more often than not, right? So I decided that my tactic was going to be not to swing at all and get on base that way. The next throw was right in front of me and I made no move to hit it. My brother called me out. I cried.
I look back on those lessons with nostalgia. I’m grateful my brother took the time to teach his little sister about his favorite game and team. I learned, though, that not every male is as enthusiastic (or patient) when dealing with females and sports. My first experience with it was playing softball with mixed teams of guys and girls when I was about twelve. Neither my brother nor sister were there. The girls were chosen last, which I didn’t understand, I had been playing with my brother for five years and thought I had gotten pretty good.
I came up to bat after the boy in front of me struck out. I was walking up to the plate when I saw the boys all waving the outfield to come in closer. I was so furious. They had never even seen me play before and were assuming I was going to be bad! I got ready and the first pitch I hit over all of their heads. They seemed shocked for a second, staring at me open-mouthed and wide eyed, I took advantage and ended up at third before they were able to run out after the ball and get it back to the infield. I was never underestimated, or chosen last, again when I played with those teams. I have to admit, that felt really good.
I was reminded again of the negative opinion some people have of female sports fans the other day when I was reading a sports article and thought about replying to the author about some things that were omitted from the article, and I went to the comments to see if anyone else had already brought it up. I saw the very first comment was by a female who pointed out the inaccuracies I was going to address, making it needless for me to point it out, then I saw how many replies this comment had and it made me curious, so I clicked to view the replies. It was shocking to me to read some of the comments saying that women belong in the kitchen and not commenting about sports. I was taken aback that such a things would be up there, in this day and age, to see that there are still people who hold that view.
As a female sports fan, I have encountered this prejudice at times. When I was in the dorms at college, I was the only female who went to the guys’ dorm to watch the World Series on their huge TV (incidentally, I was also the only one rooting for the Angels to win against the Giants) and every time I went over there, I saw some of them looking at me like I didn’t belong there.
I told a story in another blog post a while ago about telling male co-workers that Babe Ruth had been a pitcher. They didn’t know it already, had to look it up, and were surprised when they found it to be true. But after that, I had proven to them I knew what I was talking about, and from that time forward, they seemed to trust that I knew what I was talking about when it came to sports. To this day, it feels good to prove that gender has no bearing on understanding how the game is played, who plays it, how they play it, etc. And that a female can have as much knowledge as a male about sports (if not more sometimes).
I have my brother to thank for sharing with his little sister a love of sports that not only endures today, but has gotten stronger with the time that has passed. And for imparting his knowledge when possible to help me gain a greater understanding of the sports that he first taught me to enjoy. I can never express my gratitude enough. I can, however, debate with him (and anyone else willing to have a friendly debate) to show that his little sister has indeed learned all he taught and more and hope that by demonstrating my comprehension to others, I can help erase some of the negative bias toward female fans.