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- know her statistics inside and out
- understand the flow and strategy of the game
- understand the history of the game
- and, although not necessary, experience playing the sport is preferred (the higher the level the better).
Should any mistakes be made in the expression of the above abilities the legitimacy of the female will automatically be questioned by male fans. It's pretty much a lose lose for women in the arena of fandom because not knowing diminishes one's worth as a fan and knowing too much, as highlighted by Rich Santos' in his article, The 6 Types of Female Sports Fans, the "All-Knowing" female fan presents a threat to the masculinity of her male compatriots.
The biggest mistake a female fan can make is to express heterosexual desire for a male player. As articulated in "Can Men and Women Watch Sports Together?":
It. Just. Isn’t. Done.First, that injects sex into the conversation. Never a good idea. See above, re: men are idiots. Bring up sex, you are inviting guys to think about you sexually. Secondly, nothing alienates the average heterosexual male football fan faster than reminding him of the game’s massive latent homoerotic appeal. You might as well badmouth America or take a wiz in the guacamole. (Quoted in Women Sports Fans and the Men Who Judge Them)Please note that this rule only applies to women because men are allowed to freely discuss the sexuality of Ana Ivanovic, Julia Mancuso, and Hope Solo but mentioning sexual feelings for Tom Brady is a definite no-no. This might be the biggest double-standard; however, all of the above listed requirements for a female fan are completely irrelevant for anyone who pees standing up. Men are assumed by other men to be sports fans, to know the game and to understand it's inner workings. Only once a man is exposed as less than a fanatic is said man's value questioned by the group BUT it should also be acknowledged that membership to the male fan group will, generally, always be more welcoming to a male Fairweather or Wannabe fan than an All-knowing female.
Ultimately, as expressed by a number of other female sports bloggers - why does the female fan experience have to mirror/mimic the male fan experience to be received as authentic? Men and women are drawn to sport for a myriad of reasons so why should the outcome be the same? I realize, that for men, some of the apprehension around female fans is that watching sports is one of the few bastions left as a space for men (supposedly). However, I think the misunderstanding here is that most women do not want to crash your Super Bowl scratching, screaming, meat-fest; and rather, would like to be accepted for their level of interest (regardless of what that is) and not have their value as a sports fan interrogated. Watching sports with the guys often seems like the best way to get into the very exclusive club, which clearly has a "Men Only" sign hanging on the door. Everything else (i.e., pink jerseys, women's only viewing parties, women's sports) is so commonly construed as less than the "real" that watching men's sports with men appears to be the only viable solution. Thus, a paradox has formed by which, the more men try to draw their boundaries women keep trying to gain acceptance.
The last thought I will touch on regarding female fandom is a great point made in an open letter titled "The Plight of the Female Sports Fan", which is that it is difficult to be a female fan when the sports industry actually valorizes the abuse and mistreatment of women. Watching professional sports and its commercials is a constant reminder that we are not welcome and are still thought of as "less than" with the author's example of eight players in the 2012 Super Bowl having recent sexual allegations made against them. Furthermore, one need not search too hard for a sports commercial where women are objectified (what the heck does Adriana Lima have to do with football? - Oh that's right, nothing!) It is unfortunate that we must prove our worth in order to become a legitimate member of a community that so adamantly disapproves of our membership. But don't you see fellas, you have created an institution so powerful, mesmerizing, and desirable that we are willing to contribute to an industry that overtly objectifies and marginalizes us. How messed up is that?