I like sports. This is not a diary about hating sports. I'm going to say that right off the bat. I grew up playing soccer, ran on the cross-country team when I was in high school, and went to a college known for its trips to the Final Four. Keeping fit and healthy is important to me, and I think you can get a lot of positive benefits from being on a team. Camaraderie, learning how to be a good sport, winning and losing gracefully, respect for other teams as well as one's own teammates and coaches ... there are a lot of positive things that come out of it. I always enjoyed playing sports growing up.
A few years after college, I married a long-suffering Mets fan. I grew up going to the local minor league team now and then but was never really much of a true baseball fan myself.
However, now I have two boys, and while my younger son doesn't have any interest in sports, the older one, age 11, is a baseball fanatic. He has loved baseball since the age of 3. I remember being 7 or 8 months pregnant with our younger son, lying on the futon in our family room because I could barely sit up comfortably, and throwing him a ball, and him throwing it back, over and over again. When he was 4, my husband took him to his first major league game and he refused to leave the seat for even a minute to go get ice cream, he was so enthralled with the game. How many 4 year olds do you know who would rather watch a baseball game than get an ice cream cone?
He likes basketball and football too, but baseball remains his number one interest. He started playing Little League at age 4 and now plays both Little League and travel baseball. It's his passion, and we try to temper that with the occasional other activity, like, say, going to school and reading.
We are lucky on the reading front in that there is actually quite a bit of print material out there that relates to sports. There are books by a few authors for this age, such as Mike Lupica and Brian Green. There's the sports page, which he reads every morning. And then there's Sports Illustrated and ESPN Magazine. Of course, there's the SI Swimsuit Issue, which I pitch in the recycling the minute it comes in the box. But it's hard to avoid the sexism even in the regular issues.
I opened the mailbox a couple of weeks ago to find this -
This is just one tiny example of the way women are portrayed in sports culture, but since most of the time I don't read this stuff very closely this was one example that caught my eye.
Can you imagine a women's magazine showing a successful woman on the cover in the position Brandon McCarthy is in in this photo - with her husband, a male model, semi-undressed and gazing adoringly at her? Somehow I can't. "Look, she's a successful (whatever) and she married A MODEL!" Not very likely.
Not to mention the reference to those who came up with the statistical analysis of his mechanics as "nerds."
I'm trying to raise my son to respect women and believe that we are actually human beings and not just objects, but I have to say, sports culture is not really helping me out here.
My husband gets it. He tapes games on the DVR so that when the two of them watch games together, they can fast forward through all the commercials for Cialis and ads with models in bikinis selling fast food or cars. But there's not much you can do about the print ads, or even the articles apparently.
My kids also get the kids' version of Sports Illustrated magazine, called Sports Illustrated Kids, and I have to say, that one has done a pretty good job of focusing on both girl and boy athletes, and not portraying girls as sex objects. Both girls and boys are the focus of articles and "spotlight" types of features.
What is a liberal parent, who also appreciates sports, to do? And why can't the magazines for teens and adults grow up to the level where the kids' magazine is?