WHY MEN WATCH FOOTBALL (NOT written by RamTime)
"Why do you bug me during football? Did I bother you during childbirth?"
TV Host, "Tool Time"
Why Men Watch Football.
By Bob Andelman
Mothers. Daughters. Wives. Sisters. Women in-laws.
Perhaps the greatest unspoken reason that men love football is because it gives many of us a few precious, uninterrupted hours away from those wonderful women in our lives.
Football presents one of the last great places where men can hide out. It's a game that women are not going to start playing any time soon and that few women care to attend in person, so men can still be men and watch the games, hootin' and hollerin' and behaving like jerks. Like Three Stooges movies, women just don't get it.
"Has football gotten in the way of relationships? I'm sure it has," Barry Dreayer says. "Past relationships didn't have a clue what was going on, didn't want to to have a clue."
Love 'em, hate 'em, can or can't live without 'em, men feel that women often complicate their lives at all the wrong times. Twelve-forty-five on Sunday afternoon is not the time to ask the man in your life to get up and do anything. It is not the time to engage him in deep conversation about Junior's grades or suspicions that Muffy is a lesbian. And it is definitely not the time to complain that he hasn't been showing you enough attention lately. Because for the next 6 hours, it isn't going to get any better.
Some women threaten their husbands with divorce because they can't bear the thought of losing them to football one more week. Some women do more than threaten.
* * *
Retired Nabisco Brands sales management executive and Los Angeles Rams superfan Jim Runels decided two could play that game. He divorced his football-hating wife and married a woman who not only tolerates the game but loves it.
"My first wife? I had to sneak off by telling her I was going to play golf," Runels says. "Then I'd go see a football game. I'd come back late and she'd ***** and complain. She'd get mad at me. I'd never hear the end of it. I could never get her to go to a football game."
Runels' home office in Yorba Linda, California, is packed with all manner of Rams paraphernalia -- hats, phones, umbrellas, helmet telephones, directors chairs, pins, cards. "Plus I have jerseys -- Bob Waterfield's No. 7 with my name on the back!" he says. "My first wife, I could never get through the front door with this stuff. When I met my second wife, Marge, I made it clear I was a Rams fan. I sent her a Rams card and she sent me back a Rams magnet and a note that said, 'See? I'm a Rams fan, too!' We clicked."
The new Mr. & Mrs. Runels -- members of the Rambassadors fan club -- make annual sojourns to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl and have even been to the Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
* * *
The day before he got married, Joe DiRaffaele, owner of Labor World, a Coconut Creek, Florida, chain of temporary help services, told his bride there were a few things about him that she needed to know.
"Like what?" she asked.
"One day, I'm moving back to New York," he said. "And Saturdays, I watch football. And Sundays, I watch football. I don't go out."
She knew what she was getting into, DiRaffaele felt. "You know how things change when you got married and have kids? She had to understand."
Then, an amazing thing happened. One day, Kim turned to her husband and said, "You have to teach me about football." And she got into it. One Monday night, the Dolphins were playing the Jets and Joe set the VCR to tape the game while he was out. "But my wife watched it," he says. "When I got home she said, 'The Jets really got hosed.' " Joe decided right then and there that he was a lucky man, married to a rare woman.
Time passed and the DiRaffaeles' daughter was born, on a Saturday. Joe, of course, was watching college football at the time.
"Every time football is on, my daughter watches," DiRaffaele says. "She's 20 months old. I call 'Touchdown' and she does the referee's touchdown signal. She does clipping -- she bends and puts her hand behind her knee. When commercials come on, she walks away. I guess she likes the action of it. My wife has a black shirt with Joe Montana on it going back to pass. My daughter points to it and says, 'Football!' We're a football family."
* * *
Ralph Weisbeck's wife likes football, too, but she doesn't watch many games.
"She gets too excited," Weisbeck says, laughing. "She only comes in if we're three touchdowns ahead. She won't watch the game from the beginning; she's afraid they're going to lose. She can't stand losing."
* * *
Modern women discover a number of ways to cope with their men on NFL Sundays. They:
• Leave for a few hours.
• Stay, ***** and moan.
• Learn the game.
The rest of Why Men Love Football might be subtitled And The Women Who Want to Kill Them as we suggest possible responses for women struggling with man who plan to watch football come what may.
* * *
In the Berger household, Eric's love of football led to separate TVs and separate activities on Sunday. "My wife doesn't get into sports," he says, "but she tolerates it because she knows it's important to me. She knew how it was when we got married and it's not going to change."
Women often feel that football transforms their men into spectators in their own lives. They're probably right. But as one wife put it, "Football keeps him home. It's a hobby. My women friends say, 'Thank God he has something to keep him busy.' "
The same woman almost divorced her husband when he lost his job and filled his days as commissioner of a fantasy football league. They worked that out, but she became a staunch advocate of being anywhere but the living room when her husband pitches camp to watch football. She has no interest in the game. Rather than pouting and tapping her foot, waiting an eternity for the game to end, she'll go out with other disaffected women. Or she'll tackle paperwork brought home from the office.
Dr. Seppo E. Iso-Ahola says women should accept football as part of their man's behavior. "If you start arguing with that, especially if it's with somebody highly, psychologically invested in football, that is only going to lead to problems," he says. "It is much easier to accept that and say, 'Okay, my husband or boyfriend likes that and chose that and I accept that.' That doesn't cause problems."
"I think each person should have a parallel life," Dr. John M. Silva says. "If I'm going to sit at home all afternoon and watch TV, I shouldn't hold my wife prisoner and make her watch TV. If she wants to go out and tend the garden or go shopping, I think it's important for two things to go on. One, that the woman develops some appreciation for the interests of her spouse, and two, that they also have enough independence in their relationship that they can pursue some separate interests."
There's another good reason for women to flee on NFL Sundays. If they stay, men may expect to be waited on.
A lot of husbands want their wives nearby, even if they are not watching the game. They want them in the house to serve them, answer the phone, keep the kids quiet, get the beer and run to 7-Eleven for more when it runs out.
Hey, doll! We're out of pretzels! Are those nachos ready yet? How 'bout some beer!
"I can see the argument or displeasure with each other," Dr. Bruce C. Ogilvie says. "What can you tell women? Have a women's Sunday, doing things that please them. Leave the home scene because you are not going to change these apes. Do something that brings you pleasure. Be selfish. Go out and do something very, very selfish so you come home and feel totally good about what you have done."
Dr. Stanley H. Teitelbaum recommends that women construct more of a life of their own and develop independent interests so that while their man watches the game, they can do something besides family chores.
"There are couples who can do that," he says, "but there is also a risk, too, because the more people do that then the more they go their separate ways. After a while comes into play new questions: 'How much do they really need each other? How much do they really have with each other? Would they rather go separate ways and get involved in their separate activities and interests or do they really have shared interests and things in common? Do they really want to be together?' Going their own way is okay on Sunday if it's really important to him or on Saturday to watch the game. She can make that accommodation and do other things provided that there are enough other times in the course of their week that they have more mutuality, togetherness and harmony. In that scenario, the relationship probably can work."
Women can find themselves in a no-win predicament if their husbands and boyfriends don't take pains to understand the potential for conflict on Sundays. It doesn't speak well for the survival of these relationships if, to survive, a power game develops in which the husband/boyfriend is in control of the relationship and dictates, "This is what I want to do and this is what I like. Either fit in, go along with it or don't."
Every woman has her own way of dealing with separation anxiety on game day.
Chicago Bear Report managing editor Larry Mayer's second date with the woman he eventually married was at the Bears' 1987 season opener, a Monday night game versus the New York Giants. The Bears won the two previous Super Bowls and Mayer couldn't think of a more exciting place to be. His future bride didn't let on at the time than any place else would have been more exciting to her.
"My wife hates sports," Mayer says. "She was just being polite. She can't stand sports. She only travels on the road with me because the Bears play in good cities. In Tampa, she goes to the mall across the street from the stadium. In New Orleans, she brings a paperback to read in the stadium."
* * *
Railing about a toilet seat perpetually left up would probably prove less aggravating and more constructive than trying to talk a man out of watching football on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon.
"If a woman asks her husband to do things other than watch football, he won't find that acceptable. That can very easily lead to arguments," Iso-Ahola says. "In that context, I can see why violence would happen. These males are very highly invested, psychologically, in this game. Their tolerance level for other things is low. There is psychological data that has shown that when we watch or observe somebody else perform aggressively then our own behavior tends to become aggressive as well. Therefore when these men are watching football -- an aggressive and violent sport -- their feeling of hostility in general tends to significantly increase. If you have an opportunity or situation at home that lends itself to arguments, then it is easier for the man who is already aggressively aroused, or in a hostile mood, to act."
* * *
The expression "football widow" refers to spouses of football fans who become invisible to their families from October to January. If yours is a busy family, working all week or busy with the kids, there is the expectation -- not unfairly -- that on Sunday you'll have some time together. But if the guy is more excited and interested in watching the game on TV than in having an outing with his family, he better expect trouble.
In that kind of stereotypical situation, a wife may feel aggrieved and neglected, that "This is our one day to really be together and go out, but you'd rather sit by the tube and watch football! You'd rather be married to football than me!" The husband retaliates: "Hey, I've worked hard and busted my butt all week. Finally, I have a chance to relax, drink a few beers and enjoy the game. But you won't give me space and the room to relax." He feels nagged and a mutual resentment builds.
One of the things that tends to help women a lot is trying to understand not only their own point of view but to get in the other person's shoes. One of the ways couples can do this is to switch roles. Stand back from being so hot under the collar and role-play with each other, assuming the other person's lines. Have a dialogue with the man expressing the views that he thinks the woman has and the woman expressing the views that she thinks the man has. If they can do that, they are in a position to better understand how the other one feels. Once there is greater appreciation for that, there is more of a foundation for negotiation.
Smart, experienced couples don't wait for NFL Sunday to arrive. They anticipate it before it happens, negotiate their needs ahead of time and trade off. "This Sunday, I'm going to watch the ***** game and next Sunday we are going to do something else together." Or they'll structure Sunday so that at 4 p.m. she knows he is going to be watching the game. "I'm going to be watching the game but let's do something together in the morning and the afternoon before 4."
Dr. Michael Messner says discussion in social science circles about the viewing of violent sports revolves around whether it is something that helps men blow off steam or something that makes men more aggressive and prone to violence. Most of the evidence compiled by psychologists suggests the latter.
"Viewing aggressive and violent sports like boxing or football is more likely to de-sensitize men to violence and victims of violence," Messner says. "In terms of domestic violence, one of the things that is important to recognize is that when fans identify with teams, half of the fans are losing all the time. So if a man watches an aggressive, violent sport coupled with drinking some alcohol with his friends and his team loses, his aggression and frustration level both simultaneously go up. The tendency, once the game is over, to turn that aggression and frustration on someone close is what explains the fact that women's shelters always report much more activity and business on Super Bowl Sunday. In other parts of the world, during World Cup soccer, the same thing happens."
During the media hype leading up to Super Bowl XXVII in Pasadena, California in 1993, much was made of a report that Super Bowl Sunday is the busiest day of the year for women's shelters. An author of the report, Garland F. White, a sociologist at Old Dominion University, immediately claimed the report's findings were taken out of context. But many social scientists and psychologists nonetheless believe Super Bowl Sunday is a very dangerous day for women.
* * *
Some women want to learn about sports and get involved as much as possible themselves so as not to leave this as some sort of exclusive male territory. Other women do the exact opposite and on football Sundays they take shopping days with their women friends and get out.
"Rather than seeing this as something that women need to respond to," Messner says, "I think it's something that men need to think about and talk to each other about. Not necessarily that we should quit liking or watching sports together but I think we should try to understand the way it is connected to other parts of our lives. What it means to us in terms of our relationships to women. Does watching sports and the way we watch sports contribute to more supportive and intimate and peaceful relations with women? Or does it separate us more and make us more likely to be antagonistic and even violent towards women?
"Those are questions that men need to ask themselves," Messner says. "Until we do, women are going to be left trying to find ways to keep themselves safe rather than participating with us as equals."
A completely different school of thought suggests that women can never fully appreciate the game, no matter how hard they try. It's just not in their makeup.
Dr. William Beausay says that the large majority of women found at football games go there not to watch the game, but to accompany their companion. "I used to know the exact percentage of women who go because they love football -- it was about 8.6 percent," he says. Even that small number was made up of women who liked the sport for its pageantry, the atmosphere, the colors, the music and the spirit, Beausay says.
"They would never say the powerful team or an effective team, a great athletic prowess or winning. Those weren't the reasons. There were usually aesthetic reasons for women," he says.
So, according to his research, most women at football games are there because of their men. If the men didn't go, they wouldn't be found dead there.
"I don't think women are socialized in the same way as men," Dr. D. Stanley Eitzen says. "They are raised in the same type of society but they are raised to be feminine. To be feminine is to not be aggressive and not be dominant and they also don't play football. They haven't had that experience for the most part and, in fact, when it comes to football, they are on the sidelines being the supporters, cheering and all of that kind of thing while men are the doers. I think this represents a very sexist kind of society, but that is, in fact, what we are.
"Many women get into football and enjoy it, too" he says. "I don't think they have the same depth of feeling that men do because we have played it. We understand the intricacies of football and the precision that it takes to really have a play work well as well as the level of aggression. I don't know that women understand that because none of their sports in our society really are that way. They can be a little bit aggressive in field hockey and things like that but it is not the same."
Silva says he's intrigued by the way football coaches encourage their young men to develop aggression to be hitters, blockers and tacklers, giving rewards for the "best hit of the week." Best hits are bone-crushers, where the opponent who was tackled does not get up for a while. Players gets decal on their helmets for causing that.
"An ex-Denver Bronco told me that every Monday, some people had envelopes in their lockers with money in them," Silva says. "It was for extra hard hits. That's against league rules but it's just part of this macho thing. I said, don't you realize that if every team does that it increases the level of people getting hurt? He said, 'You don't think of it that way. You think of it on an individual basis and you are being rewarded.' Men have been socialized to understand this mentality; I'm not sure very many women do. In many ways women have been robbed because our work world is an aggressive, tough, rock 'em-sock 'em kind of place where men have the advantage of this kind of experience that women don't."
* * *
MenMMMen get really upset when their mates cannot identify with something that is as crucial to them as football.
"It is important if you can develop some appreciation and some knowledge for the sport," Silva says. "I don't care which way it goes, male/female, female/male. If the wife is interested in some sport, it behooves the husband to develop some interest and vice versa. Some games, I really do enjoy having my wife watch with me.
"I'll say, 'Do you know what happened right there? Do you know what that call was? Why did the team that recovered get to keep the ball?' " he explains. "Sometimes men watch and we know what is going on but our spouses don't. I find that the more I ask questions, the more knowledgeable my wife gets about the sport and the more knowledgeable she gets the more interested she is. One of the reasons a lot of women are not interested is they don't have a full understanding and appreciation. And when they ask a 'stupid' question, especially in front of your friends, they get ridiculed. What is that going to do?"
Some women gravitate to the game and meet with resistance if they get to liking it too much. They start watching it with their boyfriends, husbands or friends but find that men have a really hard time talking to them about it and taking it seriously.
"My sister told me that it took her husband's friends 10 years to accept the fact that she knew as much as they did about the Raiders," Messner says. "They did eventually learn to respect that she knows the game and she is very happy now that occasionally they will even ask for her opinion on something. They didn't even know how to talk to a woman about those things. There is an assumption among men that women will not be interested, aren't interested and aren't knowledgeable."
That's been Larry Selvin's experience. Sort of. "Either women don't understand the rules or they don't know the players. If they know the rules and a few of the players, they're tolerable," he says. "Actually, that goes for men or women."
Dan Jiggetts, the former Chicago Bears player turned sportscaster, enjoys talking football with women. "Most guys will seek out a woman that wants to watch a football game with them," he says. "They're very understanding. When you want to sit down and talk strategy, the women listen. They lock in. The guys say they understand, but the strategy goes over their heads. They're watching who gets knocked on their tail."
"My wife is a Cleveland Browns fan," Atlanta management consultant Mark von Dwingelo says. "When we watch games, she occasionally asks, 'Why'd that happen?' Or, 'Why'd they call that penalty?' I appreciate it. It's only annoying if the Browns are playing the Giants. If the Giants are on, she knows the game will only last three hours -- she can hold her questions. She'll say something to me and I'll say, 'Gretch, what am I doing?' And she'll say, 'Okay, I'll ask you later.' "
Re: WHY MEN WATCH FOOTBALL (NOT written by RamTime)
wow....I never knew some women didn't like football. What is wrong with them?
Re: WHY MEN WATCH FOOTBALL (NOT written by RamTime)
The three most important women in my life - My mother, My sister, My Girlfriend all know more about football then most men do. I guess I'm lucky. Or maybe the guy who wrote this is living in the past?