A couple of news stories have me wondering about women’s sports.
The Tour de France — the world’s most famous bicycle race — ended Sunday. Vincenzo Nibali from Italy won the men’s month-long race.
There was a women’s race, too. In it, about 120 cyclists raced over the last portion of the Tour de France course, finishing in Paris.
Women raced a much longer Tour back in the 1980s. Over time, the race became shorter and lost sponsors. After 2009, it disappeared. The current race organizers say there is not enough interest in a longer women’s race. Female athletes are hoping this year’s mini-Tour will make people more interested in a longer event.
The second story is that the Citi Open is being played this week at the William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center, on 16th Street Northwest in Washington. There are really two tournaments: the Association of Tennis Professionals men’s tournament, in which the players compete for more than $1.6 million in prize money, and the Women’s Tennis Association’s competition, in which the players compete for $250,000.
That means the men are getting more than six times the money that the women are.
The sad truth is that men’s sports are more popular than women’s sports. The only women’s sports that are more popular than the men’s version of the sport are maybe women’s figure skating and gymnastics.
What I have been wondering lately is: why? Why are men’s sports so much more popular than women’s sports?
I am sure that some sports fans (especially men) will insist that the best male athletes are better than the best female athletes. The players in the National Basketball Association are the best in the world. People like watching the very best.
But lots of sports fans watch men’s games — college, high school, minor league games — in which the players are clearly not the absolute best. They watch because the games are competitive, hard-fought and exciting.
Lots of women’s sports are fun to watch, too. The U.S.-Brazil women’s soccer match in the 2011 World Cup was one of the most exciting soccer matches I have ever seen. The Maria Sharapova-Simona Halep tennis final in this year’s French Open went right down to the last point. I saw a Maryland-Wake Forest field hockey game a couple of years ago that still gives me goose bumps when I think of it.
Of course, men’s professional sports have been around a lot longer than women’s sports. Major League Baseball started in 1876. The National Football League in 1920. The NBA in 1946.
Still, with so many girls playing sports these days, shouldn’t women’s sports get more attention and be more popular?
Bowen writes the sports opinion column for KidsPost. He is the author of 19 sports books for kids. His next book, “Double Reverse,” will be published in August.