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GUEST COMMENTARY: Women’s sports deserve a chance

Sky fans cheer during recent game Allstate Arena. VeronicArreolsays women’s sports are different but not boring.  |  John

Sky fans cheer during a recent game at Allstate Arena. Veronica Arreola says women’s sports are different but not boring. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times

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Updated: October 29, 2011 12:36AM

At a recent Chicago Sky game, I heard the most emotion-filled cheering coming from behind me. Was it my 8-year old daughter or one of her friends from Girl Scouts? I had organized the outing as a way for me to share my love of women’s sports with these girls.

I turned around and was pleasantly surprised to see it was one of the brothers who had been dragged to the game. Next to my husband was another brother, who kept nudging him as if to say, ‘‘Did you just see that?’’

After the game, one of the moms came up to me and asked, ‘‘Is it always like this?’’

Oh, yes. Yes, it is.

Despite almost 40 years of Title IX and all the love we have for women’s athletes in the Olympics, there is still a stigma attached to attending women’s sporting events. The biggest argument is that they are ‘‘boring.’’ Women’s games are slower than men’s games. And, of course, (most) women don’t dunk. I will admit that the games are different. But different isn’t bad. It doesn’t mean worse and certainly doesn’t mean boring.

We just witnessed the country gripped in Women’s World Cup fever. It broke the tweet-per-second record. Soccer is the most popular sport among children, especially girls. I would pick up my daughter from summer camp, and she would ask, ‘‘Did we win?’’ She didn’t care that the game was waiting for her at home on our DVR; she had to know. For her generation of girls, this is their game — and it is far from boring. While she was certainly born with some bravado, excelling at sports made her see what that swagger can do. No amount of ‘‘Good jobs!’’ can equal dribbling down the field and kicking a goal.

This summer, I have attended women’s professional soccer, basketball and softball games. Each game was filled with cheers, oohs and aahs. You could hear various chants from the crowd, including the ever-present, ‘‘Go, girl!”

The 8-year-old boy led a rousing round of ‘‘Let’s go, Sky!’’ I believe we have a generation of boys growing up who will cheer a Sylvia Fowles block as well as a Derrick Rose dunk. These boys will grow up to value women’s physical strength, not just their emotional strength.

What I learned at that Sky game is that it just takes one game. If someone is a sports fan and can let go of preconceived notions, they can get so caught up in the game that they will forget whether they are cheering on a woman or a man.

With just one game, I am betting that most people who hate on women’s sports for being boring will end up just like that 8-year-old fan — cheering so loudly that someone will turn around and join in.

Veronica I. Arreola is assistant director of the Center for Research on Women and Gender at UIC.

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