During the most stomach-in-throat baseball game I've seen in years – the Toronto Blue Jays were down by eight runs and somehow clawed their way to eventual victory – I got into a heated, healthy Twitter debate with another fan about the merits of the second baseman, the animated Munenori Kawasaki. I say he's a spark plug who brings electricity to the team; the unknown tweeter thinks he's no more than a mascot.
The debate was just getting good (and Kawasaki kept proving my point on the field), when I received this reply: "Go back to cheering for the cute players, like women do."
There was nothing I could say that would change his sexist perspective: I could tell him I hold a season pass, have been to many away games this season, explained the infield-fly rule to my boyfriend more times than he'd like me to admit. I am the person who stays through all nine innings and chirps those who pack it up in the seventh. But I shook it off, because, hey, it's just one guy on Twitter with 23 followers.
But it appears he's not alone. Major League Baseball itself has joined in his chorus of insinuation that women can't like baseball for baseball, that they must be there for the cute boys or fun songs.
MLB has announced a series of events at various stadiums called "Fields of Fashion." Besides the game, a night will feature "fashion shows, manicures by OPI and more." The series is an effort "to create a special event for women out for a night out at the ballpark," the press release says.
It's not just professional baseball that thinks women need extra motivation to support the home team. An official women's T-shirt from the Pittsburgh Penguins went viral on Twitter because it declared that the wearer "wants the stick" and loves to "puck." Because, of course, women are sex objects. Thanks for your sexist contribution, hockey.
The Jays Shop, too, carries mildly insulting women's gear: sequined tanks, "meet you in the dugout" deep-vees. The only jerseys available in women's sizes are indeed the players widely believed to be "cute," while the men's section offers exponentially more.
Dear professional sports: Your female fans do like sports for sports' sake. And if they're not fans, they won't come to your games for the fluff.
That those who operate multimillion-dollar teams, and even a contingent of fans, believe women won't attend a game without receiving a manicure or appealing to men with sexy shirts scares me as much as Adam Lind's reproducing goatee or Brett Lawrie's dugout handshakes. Which is to say, it scares me a lot.