Men, as you might expect, were generally more interested in sports than women, but the differences weren’t huge. And football’s dominance extends to both genders.
For example, 53 percent of women in the Washington area say they care about the NFL, with 25 percent saying they care “a great deal.” Both numbers were far higher than the percentage of men who say they care at all or a great deal about the NHL, NBA, Major League Baseball or professional soccer. (For each of those sports, less than 40 percent of area men say they care.)
This is reflected in the stands at FedEx Field, and by the makeup of my Twitter followers, many of whom are women, many of whom know an awful lot about football.
Those facts, though, might surprise folks at the Redskins new women’s club, WOW! (Women of Washington Redskins). The group’s Web site evidently assumes that women have the general football knowledge of toddlers, or possibly space aliens from Neptune who believe football fields are ancient striped burial grounds meant to preserve the souls of baby goats.
“Women may make up 44% of the Redskins fan base, but we’re sure there are ladies out there dying to get into the game if only they could understand it!” the site reads.
Follow the link, and you’ll find a guide to NFL football. It starts like this.
“One 11-man team has possession of the football. It is called the offense and it tries to advance the ball down the field-by running with the ball or throwing it — and score points by crossing the goal line and getting into an area called the end zone.”
(Somebody may want to show this guide to the Redskins, who seem largely unfamiliar with that very exciting-sounding area.)
“The other team (also with 11 players) is called the defense,” the guide continues, gently dislodging brain cells from your head and swatting them merrily into the atmosphere. “It tries to stop the offensive team and make it give up possession of the ball. If the team with the ball does score or is forced to give up possession, the offensive and defensive teams switch roles (the offensive team goes on defense and the defensive team goes on offense). And so on, back and forth, until all four quarters of the game have been played.”
By now, if you’re a woman, you’re probably curious about that funny surface those strange and scary men are running around on. Like, why is it green? Isn’t that so silly! Feel free to sit down and have a Diet Coke, if all this complicated manly stuff is making your poor head hurt!
“Little white markings on the field called yard markers help the players, officials, and the fans keep track of the ball,” the guide explains. “Probably the most important part of the field is the end zone. It's an additional 10 yards on each end of the field. This is where the points add up! When the offense — the team with possession of the ball — gets the ball into the opponent's end zone, they score points.”
Among other highlights, the guide also tells its female and space-alien readership that “the object of the game is to score the most points,” that “a touchdown is the biggest single score in a football game,” and that the quarterback is “a man of many talents — he not only throws the ball, he outlines each play to his team.”
(Nowhere does the guide suggest that, for some accursed teams, the quarterback is not, in fact, a man of many talents.)
There is also a glossary, if you’re “tired of football sounding like a foreign language.” “Game Clock,” for example, is defined as the “scoreboard game clock,” while “Unsportsmanlike Conduct” is “any act contrary to the generally understood principles of sportsmanship.”
Look, I have no problem with reaching out to new fans. I just don’t see why you’d aim such a kindergarten-style look at America’s favorite sport toward an entire gender, as opposed to, say, unfrozen 16th century Swedes, or cute kittens, or especially bright pieces of cardboard.
Plus, many of these terms are completely unnecessary for a fledgling Redskins fan. “Touchdown,” for example.