As I write this post, the San Francisco Giants are streaming their workout and intrasquad game, and KNBR’s Murph and Mac (Brian Murphy and Paul McCaffrey) came on to chat a little bit. Murphy talked about how popular the Giants are, particularly among female fans. I wasn’t listening closely, but it caught my attention when I heard the morning show co-host say something about how women think certain players (I’m pretty sure I heard Brandon Crawford mentioned) are “dreamy.”
Being the media observer (instigator?) that I am, I immediately checked Twitter for a reaction, and as usual Twitter didn’t disappoint (thanks in part to Wendy Thurm, who writes for Baseball Nation and Fangraphs).
This brings up a few points.
1. Whether you go to games or follow a wide assortment of Giants fans on Twitter, it’s clear that there are thousands upon thousands of Giants fans who happen to be women. I don’t know if there are equal numbers of male and female Giants fans, but it’s certainly possible. It isn’t hard to find women who love any sport (my sister digs UFC and NASCAR, for instance). But anecdotally, it seems like the sport with the most vocal fans and passionate, skilled writers who just happen to be women is baseball.
2. First Twitter-related point: baseball is BY FAR the sport where I learn the most from female fans/writers on Twitter. Stats I’m unaware of, angles I wish I came up with myself, jokes I laugh at and use as my own … I’m constantly stealing material from women on my timeline, and I don’t feel the least bit bad about it.
3. Second Twitter-related point: in following a wide range of Giants fans, there are a lot of comments about the attractiveness of certain players, and not just Crawford. I’ve seen people fawn over players such as (but not limited to) Pat Burrell, Andres Torres, Buster Posey, Jonathan Sanchez (must be the eyebrows), Tim Lincecum, Brian Wilson (both with and without the beard), and even the recently added Angel Pagan.
4. Here’s how to drive hardcore female baseball fans crazy: talk about pink caps and/or Alyssa Milano, call them “cleat chasers,” or insinuate that the only reason they like the players is because they have crushes on them and like the uniforms (the tighter the better!).
Are there women who think Giants players are “dreamy”? Sure. Men, too. But Murphy’s comment brought to mind a schoolgirl lying on her bed, drawing “Brandon + Annie” on her binder surrounded by a heart (with a circle dotting the “i,” of course). The word “dreamy” made his comment sound dismissive, and while it was probably unintentional, it sounded like Murphy thinks there must be something behind the passion from all of these female Giants fans, because they couldn’t possibly appreciate the game on its own merit — like men can.
(Note: Murphy quickly backtracked from the “dreamy” comment, probably after seeing several responses — like Wendy’s — via Twitter and email.)
I’ve written many times in this space about my 90-year-old Nana, who watches every Giants game and keeps score. Without her love of the game, which she passed down to my mom — who, along with my dad, raised a sports addict — I probably wouldn’t be writing about this stuff all day and night. Strong women who love baseball have been a part of my life since I was born, and not once have I compared their appreciation for baseball and its players with the kind of puppy-love shown for boy bands, Twilight actors or Justin Bieber.
Men and women love baseball for the exact same reasons, and for the lucky ones among us who are blessed with the gift of sight, both genders appreciate the visual side of baseball. It’s an unsaid part of fandom that men appreciate an athletic body, because to admit such would mean losing one’s balance on our society’s masculinity tightrope. Beckley Mason wrote about this subject after ESPN The Magazine’s “Body Issue” hit newsstands, responding in particular to a photo of a nude Blake Griffin:
For a male-dominated culture of sports appreciation that uses “pause” and “no homo” to qualify anything remotely suggesting a homoerotic thought, it’s probably time to come to grips with that fact that men like looking at really fit men doing really incredible things with their bodies. It’s not all about the battle, the fight, or the war. The enjoyment that comes from physical beauty is integral.
That we humans amaze ourselves in a manner that does not deny sexuality but rises above desire is nothing new, but is one that is discordant with our fan culture.
One of the great things about baseball (and all sports, but let’s keep it to baseball for the purposes of this post) is that it brings both genders together in appreciation of what humans can achieve. You know, like Top Chef or Project Runway (and yes, I’m comfortable enough with myself to admit I enjoy watching the latter).
Everyone likes baseball for different reasons and the same reasons. But let’s save words like “dreamy” for legitimate baseball dreams — like the one I had last night (true story), where I was sitting in the second deck at Mays Field during the NLCS and I caught two foul balls in the stretch of five minutes. I have to admit, I was pretty disappointed when I woke up and realized the Giants were still in Arizona, and all I could do was dream of them reaching the NLCS again.