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June 7, 2002
by Bill Hogan



Joumana Kidd wasn't the only female in the stands at the Fleet Center in Boston when husband Jason was being unmercifully heckled by Celtics fans. And if the numbers stand up, the odds are she also wasn't the only battered wife in the arena.

So it occurred to me that among the "wife beater" chants that rang out loud and often there might have been a voice or two that had more personal reasons for the verbal onslaught.


Spousal abuse is an emotional issue. Maybe there were some in the crowd that thought it was necessary to publicly demonstrate that athletic achievement is in no way atonement for intolerable off-court behavior.

Maybe it was just a bunch of overzealous, drunken loudmouths spewing venomous taunts inappropriately. If so, they certainly received their fair share of admonishment by the media.

And based on every description I've read and heard of the 'perpetrators', it's clear it dawned on no one that there may have been a few in the crowd that were displaying a justifiable contempt toward the image of a man they know too well.

But that seems to be the trend in professional sports. It's a common perception that if men are playing the game, it's men who are watching. And, by extension, its men that sportswriters address in their columns and its men that advertisers jump through hoops to attract.

Check out the billboards the next time you're at the ballpark. Or the print and banner ads in your favorite sports magazine and most-visited online sites. From what I've seen, an accurate demographic composite of the target audience is that of a beer-bellied, balding, unshaven man suffering from impotence.

What is it about the male sportsfan that makes these marketing gurus believe there is an overwhelming need for beer, hair replacement treatments, razors and Viagra?

More to the point, what makes these same gurus believe that it's not worth their while to suck up to female sportsfans?

The presence of women at the ballpark, stadium and arena is no longer an aberration. And they're not there just for show. ESPN panned the crowd at Joe Louis Arena after Detroit's overtime loss to Carolina in game one of the Stanley Cup Finals. There were as many Red Wings jersey-wearing women sitting in stunned disbelief as there were men. These women weren't there for the ambiance, they were rooting on their team.

They watch Sportscenter and peruse the latest issue of Sports Illustrated. They comb the box scores and a day at the races means running down to the corner news stand for the Racing Form not a trip to the boutique for a new hat.

Sports magazines "for women" offer dieting tips. And they have multi-part fitness articles on workout makeup that won't run and deodorant that won't quit. But there's nothing about the American League batting leaders or the leading scorers in the NBA playoffs.

Female sportsfans know when the offense is offside and a pass interference call when they see one. And they can explain the infield fly rule about as well as the infield fly rule can be explained.

And they buy jerseys, hats, banners and big foam fingers. They consume hot dogs, beer and chili cheese fries. And there's always a line into the ladies room (through no fault of their own). The stadium builders make the ladies room much smaller than the men's room under the assumption that there won't be many ladies in attendance. Wrong.

While the action on the field, court and ice is dominated by men, the stands are littered with non-pot-bellied, non-balding, smooth skinned women with no concern about suffering from impotence.

Sportswriters take notice. There's a new kid in the bleachers. And she's sporting a lot more curves and a much nicer smell than the sweat-socks you put in your crosshairs when pounding out your latest column. They read your stuff too.

The next time you write about a boorish oaf tossing a bottle onto the playing field, first make sure the culprit wasn't a boorish oaf-ette.

When I look around the stands to see who the big mouth is that's yelling "you're a bum" at every visiting team batter that steps to the plate, I'm no longer surprised if it turns out to be a woman.

And I won't be surprised the day the marketing genius' catch on and replace that can of Budweiser over the scoreboard with a giant bottle of Midol.


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