|What men really want|
By Stacey Pressman
Special to Page 2
I can't tell you how many times I've heard it:
Now here's the clincher:
"I can't believe you, of all people, don't have a boyfriend!"
This observation is enough to send any 20-something single female into a quarterlife crisis. But before I seek out Dr. Phil, or Gloria Steinem-ize the fact that I don't need a man to validate my existence, I want to vent my frustration about that generic "you-know-sports-so-guys-must-like-you" descriptor:
It's a farce.
It's a lie.
It's not even remotely true.
Let's face it -- men really don't like women who know sports.
In fact, when a man realizes that a woman does know sports -- especially football -- she has somehow encroached on his masculinity. She has entered the neutral zone and made illegal contact with his manhood.
What men really mean when they say, "I like a chick who's into sports," is that they like a "chick" who will tolerate their own sports watching.
Oh yeah, and if you can make a tasty bowl of guacamole on Sunday, you're a goddess. And of course, looking cute in that fitted No. 55 Junior Seau jersey a la Bachelorette Trista Rehn, well that's an added ... uh, bonus.
Men couldn't care less if the objects of their affection can actually tell the difference between a flea flicker and a reverse, differentiate between a blitz and a dog, or identify the soft spot in a zone defense. In fact, when and if they can, it scares the crap out of them.
Guys can accept questions, corrections and explanations relating to the intricacies of the game from other guys. But there is very little patience, even slight annoyance, when a woman adds insight that extends beyond the color of the uniforms and the basic you've-got-four-chances-to-go-10-yards fundamentals.
This past fall, I was out with a couple of buddies who were discussing the surprise performance of Eagles' third-string quarterback "Jay Feely." I was quite surprised to hear it, too. So with what I thought was great delicacy and just the right touch of light humor, I politely said, "I didn't realize the Falcons kicker had now become Philly's new quarterback."
These guys didn't even get it. (I suppose I ought to forgive them, though, since most fans outside Atlanta would be hard-pressed to name a Falcon other than Michael Vick, let alone the kicker.)
Granted, I've screwed up my share of sports references. Still, I'm sensitive to "nit-picky" mistakes. As a woman working in sports, the repercussions of such a misstep by a "skirt" can be career-damaging. And, in journalism, the only thing of value is your credibility.
Unlike my male counterparts, I can't afford mistakes.
Women (with maybe the exception of Suzy, Melissa, Lesley, Pam, Andrea, Michelle, and Bonnie) who make comments about football are rarely taken seriously by guys. It's almost always construed as trying to impress.
Remember the scene from the movie "My Cousin Vinny?" You know, the part where Ms. Mona Lisa Vito is on the stand testifying about how the 1964 Buick Skylark didn't have posi-traction so the metallic mint green getaway vehicle must have been the 1963 Pontiac Tempest?
The dynamics are similar.
In the movie, Ms. Vito's knowledge of automobiles came from hanging around her brothers -- all mechanics.
In real life, consider my friend Erin Comella, the lone female born into a family that breeds NFL and NCAA Division 1 college fullbacks.
Her baby brothers are Greg Comella of the Tennessee Titans, Matt Comella, formerly of the New York Jets, and J.P. Comella, a Boston College standout who just recently declared himself for April's NFL draft.
"I often make up excuses for why I know certain facts about football," Erin says. "When talking to guys, I can almost feel myself shrink when I say, 'Well, I have to know that in order to function in my family.' "
Why do we resort to this kind of defense? Maybe it has something to do with that furrowed brow look you men give us ... you know, that perplexed "How and why do you know that?" gaze.
Or perhaps it's from that moustache you instantly sprout as you morph into Alex Trebek and bombard us with those trivia questions, hoping to expose us for the imposters we must be.
As I have been so often informed: "You can't possibly know a thing about football. After all this is a complex game you've never played."
And to some degree, you have a point. But then again, male gynecologists don't have vaginas, and somehow some of us have learned to trust their judgment.
Interestingly, Erin mentioned that once her Comella identity is revealed, any guy she is talking to no longer seems interested in talking sports. "He either becomes self-conscious, because he is under 6 feet tall and weighs 160 pounds," she said, "or he realizes he is no longer free to talk crap about the players."
I surveyed just about every male friend I have to get an initial reaction to the encroachment theory. Here's the most common follow-up question: "Well, how would you feel if I knew more about, say, designer handbags than you?"
Totally illogical. Why? I guarantee you the number of women watching football (54 million according to an ESPN/Chilton poll) exceed the number of straight men toting Kate Spade bags. Football might be masculine, but it appeals to the feminine ... and not just women with jobs in sports and blood relatives who happen to be professional athletes.
But fear not, pigskin-loving men. There are plenty of female prospects out there who don't know a damn thing about football -- and don't care to, for that matter.
A few months ago, I went out to grab lunch with my friend Karen. I had to make it quick. I was on deadline and needed to get back to work to find a photograph of Peyton Manning's father when he was a quarterback with the 1984 Minnesota Vikings.
Karen was genuinely interested in my project and asked how I was going to get the picture. But as I was explaining what the job entailed, she interrupted and asked, "Wait, who is Peyton's father again? It's not Walter, is it?"
OK ... forget the black-white thing, and that one man's first name is kinda, sorta the other guy's last name. Discretion is the better part of valor. So I politely said, "No, his name's Archie," and dropped the subject.
But my curiosity was piqued. I'm interested to know the answer to the following question:
Of women with equal physical beauty, which do men find more appealing -- one who thinks Walter Payton could be Peyton Manning's father, or one who actually knows that the white Peyton threw for 4,200 yards this season, while the black Payton's career yard rushing total was 16,726?
I don't know the answer to that question, but I will be sure to mull it over in the offseason as I am ordering my fitted Seau jersey, and whipping up the spicy guac.
Stacey Pressman is a freelance producer for ESPN and a contributing writer to Page 2. She can be reached at StaceyPressman@aol.com.