the new site's note to readers, she felt overwhelmed with all the sports intel she had to get on top of fast. "I realized that there was no quick way to really learn sports; no way to break through all the sports news and clutter targeted to educated fans," she remembers.
It's an issue I've given a lot of thought to myself, for several reasons. One, my boyfriends never know that much about baseball, and I've many times considered printing and laminating "Bunting's Baseball Basics" wallet cards to save me trying to explain why a given play or at-bat has me in the fetal position on the couch. Two, that cuts both ways – my attempts to learn about the NFL meant that my patient friend Alesh spent an hour drawing "backfield in motion" on a crumpled napkin. For a single kind of penalty!
And three, sports is probably the dominant language of shared culture in the U.S., and to know about sports – or even one sport – is to become a member of a club, to belong to something, even if it's just a game. Murphy-Vargas calls sports "the original reality TV" – but not everyone watches TV, or the same three channels we all used to get by with. Not everyone sees the same movies, or reads the same books. So if you find yourself solo at a big wedding, or stuck in the jury room, or trying to find common ground with new co-workers, you can hope one of them is into "Harry Potter" or "Breaking Bad" – but you can bet American dollars that somebody has an opinion on the Pats. It's a great source of small talk and common ground.
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Not to give the site too much guff here. Even if the women's slant is only a marketing angle, it's a solid one, and Murphy-Vargas insightfully notes that playing fantasy football makes you a fan of the real thing. Plus, she could totally spin it off into a life-coach-style one-on-one sports-knowledge "boot camp," staffed with senseis on every sport. And maybe the occasional lapse into "women watch sports differently from men/need more help learning the games" editorial will drop away after a while. We hope it takes the pink with it.
But I still feel like it condescends to women a liiiiiittle bit. The design scheme contains a lot of pink, and the idea that 1) only your male friends have the information you want, but 2) it's embarrassing to have to ask them for help keeps coming up. True, Alesh helped me understand a few complicated plays – but my sister-in-law also knew those answers, and if you're afraid to ask your "friends" for simple information without fear, maybe…get new friends? The site doesn't fall into most of the usual sexist traps – only covering stereotypically "girly" sports like figure skating, for instance – but what's wrong with pitching it as a resource for ANY busy person who's intrigued by college hoops but doesn't know where to begin? Why assume it's only women who need that intel? A couple of my exes couldn't have told Tom Brady from Tom Seaver.
Murphy-Vargas also commented to Emily that "There are a lot of women who are not so much interested in the play-by-play or the heavy stats or the statistics coming out of the sport or the game — they just want to know why the hype and what’s the story." Well, sure. When I first got into baseball, I didn't go straight to the sabremetrics books on my dad's shelf; I read the biographies first. But this is true of any new fan, not just women, and a new fan will eventually know enough to understand and care about what VORP means. Stats can deepen the experience. I don't love the Barbie-math-is-hard-ness of that remark – and I don't understand the play-by-play part of it at all. The play-by-play is pretty much the point; if you don't want to sit through it, fine, but in that case, you can get by with just parroting the headlines.
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