Not another feisty feminist-y thing, do I hear you sigh?
Well, no, it isn’t. Hold on a minute and all will become clear. Well, clearer. And, please, stick it out to the end, it’s really, really not all about men.
OK. To start with, here’s part of a definition from the Oxford Concise Dictionary.
“Amusement. Diversion. Fun.”
I can see where men with balls – and wheels – and legs – might fit into that definition. But mostly balls. Some round, some a bit pointy, some dimply, some fuzzy. Some white, some brown, some yellow, some red. Yes, they play with balls of many colours, men.
Now here’s part two of that same definition.
“Pastime. Game. Outdoor pastime.”
Do you see where this is going?
The big clue in the definition follows that last ‘pastime’:
“hunting, fishing, racing, cricket, football”.
Two of those activities involve balls.
But the others are also part of the definition of, ‘sport’.
I’ve had time on my hands these last few weeks, such that I have occasionally, in desperation, looked at the ‘Sport’ section of our newspaper.
I suspect they’re all pretty much of a muchness in what they cover, sports sections.
And I find it very helpful that it comes as a separate section – I can set it aside without bothering to look – unless I want to work out when’s a good time to go to the shops (answer: when one or all of Liverpool/Everton/Man Utd are playing).
One Sunday recently, though, I must have had a funny turn. Because I not only looked at it, I counted the number of pages devoted to ball sports in a 20 page section.
The answer was 19.
Of those 19 pages about one third of a page was devoted to a black, female footballer, the rest to male balls – footie, rugby and cricket. (Footie meaning British football, ie, real football).
The remaining page was mostly horse racing fixtures.
It bugged me. And that annoyed me.
Me – being bugged by the sports section?????
I know it’s a time of year when there’s not much in the way of tennis or athletics or what have you, but even so. It was spherically-fixated. And almost totally male.
This last week it’s been like a nail sticking through the heel of my shoe. Irritating and unwanted.
In an attempt to get the shoe off, metaphorically speaking, I’ve been flicking through the sporty bits on an ad hoc basis. When I remember. Or when I am very, very bored, to be honest.
I can now claim, in an utterly unscientific manner, that if you were an alien who could read English and wanted to work out what ‘sport’ was by using the newspaper it would be:
football, rugby, cricket, golf, horse-racing – with the occasional spot of cycling.
And almost exclusively done by men.
Last weekend there was a small item on the female Oxbridge boat race winners. But other than that and the female footie player, it’s been men, men, men all the way.
Now, that’s fine – have a stand-alone, male, ball-oriented section by all means.
But why call it ‘sports’?
Even men do other things with their spare time. One of my nephews, for example, is a bit of a hockey nut. Some men play badminton, squash, or darts. Water polo, bowls, or shove ha’penny. (Oh, pipe down! It could be a sport. Remember that definition? Pastime? I rest my case. And what a great way to pass time in a pub.).
Swimming is the biggest sport in terms of regular adult participation in the UK.
And what about fishing?
Women also play football. Three boys of my acquaintance who live in a house backing onto a local football pitch climb the tree in their garden to watch – who do you think? Not the local team, but Everton Ladies. The best football they’ve seen. Worth risking life and limb? Ah, the daredevil young!
Women also play netball and lacrosse, they swim, run, hurdle, throw javelins, play badminton and squash and bowls and cycle – they tango…
What I’m trying to say is, why not make the sports section a sports section? A great long section with all sorts of interesting pastimes and games – not all competitive in a cut-throat way.
Then footie fans (football is second to athletics in the participation league) would have to thumb through other things and maybe, just maybe, find they’re hooked on bowls or ferreting or hill walking. Or marbles.
I said maybe.
Advertising would pay for it – pet food and fishing rods and running shoes and tennis rackets and sports bras and cameras – and elastic bandages.
When the streets are thronging with many heads, bowed over many mobile phones, when couches are no longer groaning under just potatoes but also slobs and blobs, why not encourage more activity, more diversity, more sports?
More FUN! 🙂