Like much of New York, I’m caught up in the Giant’s post-season run, so this Sunday I’ll corral my 14-year-old daughter in front of the TV to watch them play San Francisco in the Conference Championship. I’ve always tried to share my love of football with my daughters, getting out to the Meadowlands to watch in person when we could. When they become women in the working world, they’ll be able to talk the game with the guys, and that’s great, but football also offers a way to teach my girls about the stupidity of boys and men when they get together — especially when drinking is involved.
Of course we really go to enjoy the sport. We’ve had great times — watching big plays and getting caught up in the excitement filling the stadium. But we have also witnessed groups of guys cat-calling and ogling female fans. We’ve seen a couple of fights, and incidents where signs were ripped up and yellow-coated security swarmed into the seats.
There may be plenty of parents in the stands with their kids, couples young and old who clearly share a joy of the sport, and the excitement of seeing the game live. But as predictable as the National Anthem, there are always dozens of dudes, loud and sloppy by half time, swearing at the officials and pointing or whistling at women in the stands.
There are plenty of incidents in the news I’ve railed against at the dinner table — the men lining the infamous Gate D ramp at Jets games a few years ago, harassing women to show their breasts while stadium security looked on; or the blow-up sex dolls that were batted around the bleachers at Fenway Park in the ‘90s.
When we’re at a game, though, I’m not trying to stop the bad behavior my girls notice. Rather, I want them to figure out how to avoid or manage situations they may find themselves in some day. I’d like them to get to college knowing not to walk into a frat party with their guard down, understanding how a guy’s behavior can change unexpectedly when in the company of his mates and a keg, and realizing when to leave a bar before the atmosphere turns unpleasant.
My older daughter often reminds me that I’ve never been a teenage girl, as a way of dismissing any advice I might offer. Regarding the manners of men in these situations, I point out she’s never been a teen- or college-aged boy, and that I might have some insight she lacks. While I don’t want to condemn all men, and women are certainly capable of making senseless choices, there are lessons I hope can be learned by observation, avoiding the unpleasant experiences my daughters might otherwise have.
Sports are a great thing. Both my kids play a number of them, enjoy being active, and like watching the pros compete at the highest level of skill and achievement. Unfortunately, games can also bring out the worst in some players and fans, whether you’re at a soccer game in Europe, a hockey match in Canada, or any competition in the U.S. Athletics certainly allow us to watch humans reach heights miraculously beyond physical and emotional limits — but also exhibit some of the lowest behavior of our species. I want my girls to learn from watching both types of conduct. I hope we only see the good stuff in the Giants’ game. And that they win, of course.
Reach Arts Editor Juliet Linderman at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (718) 260-8309.