When the 49ers won the Super Bowl in 1995, my three boys and their father raced out the front door of our San Francisco home and roared “49ERS RULE!” until they were hoarse. And they weren’t the only ones yelling… A chorus of male victory shouts rang out through the streets and well into the night.
Not that the 49ers are lacking female fans. My daughters and I are always happy if they win, and we’re not alone. But men seem to share a passion for their sports teams that is almost tribal. I have never heard two women discussing Monday Night Football at a cocktail party, yet I have listened to men meeting for the first time dissect an entire game together as if they were best buddies.
I don’t know of a single activity that unites women as passionately as watching sports unites so many men. There must be a gene that impels males to tether themselves to a seat in front of a television for hours on end, oblivious to everything but the game, the snacks and sometimes the beer.
It’s not just football, baseball and basketball either. I have two sons who can watch golf for hours, as excited about a putt as they are about a touchdown. One dreary Sunday afternoon in Germany, I even witnessed my brother-in-law watching billiard tournaments!
One of my favorite young men, a former high school athlete, insisted that he never watched sports. I believed him until I found out that he is obsessed with off-road truck racing. Something tells me that might be a sport…
When he was just a toddler, my youngest son, who never stopped moving and making mischief, would sit quietly next to his dad mesmerized by football. By the time he was seven, he could rattle off names and statistics for players on teams across the country. It was as if his brain had a separate computer dedicated to sports. By the time he was eight, he was on a city team. He played football through the end of high school, and I cheered with all the other parents even though I didn’t always understand what was happening. Every time my son was tackled, I would cringe and close my eyes and pray that he would get up again.
My middle son went through a baseball phase that included playing on a team, collecting cards and memorizing batting stats. Oh, and watching the San Francisco Giants!
My oldest son loved soccer and traveled with an elite team. When I would hear the hum of some foreign crowd cheering and that peculiar nasal tone soccer commentators seem to share, I would know he was home.
As for tennis, I’ve lived with that male obsession for several years now. It was quite bearable until more and more of the women started grunting and letting out banshee cries with every ball they whacked.
In her last decade, my French mother started to watch the Denver Broncos. My brother explained all the football rules to her, and she would sit with him and his friends happily watching the games. But I don’t think it was football that excited her. It was hanging out with the guys…and her little crush on John Elway.
On Thanksgiving, the television is usually on all afternoon, with just enough of a pause for my boys to eat as much as they can, as fast as they can, before rushing back to their posts on the sofa.
My kids were with their father this year, but I did cook a few things to bring to a friend’s house. And I turned on the television so I could hear the familiar background comfort of a football game.
Now if only I could remember what first-in-ten really means…