2017’s Australian Open gave us two great Singles’ finals that spoiled us senseless. Roger Federer blew the dust off his throne after a deserved win over Rafa Nadal for his 18th Grand Slam title, but just the day before, the Williams Sisters went heads up against each other for a #throwback final not many of us deserved.
Serena emerged with her 23rd (twenty-third!) Grand Slam title that evening, and while that got the attention it warranted, there was something about the Williams’ that was kept very hush hush. I mean, I’m sure you’ve all read about it now, but Serena achieved that feat whilst almost 2 months pregnant.
There have been the select few of you (obvs) who’ve reached for your black mirrors to share a needlessly derogatory tweet or two about Serena’s triumphs, and I’ll need yous to keep reading on, because it was about time some #truth gave you a tickle you couldn’t escape.
I’m a “sports fan”, sure, and my interests are peppered across multiple sports and sporting events; be it my pitiful devotion to Arsenal Football Club, my piqued attention for any NBA play-off series tied at 2-2, or my unchanged stance on labeling Maria Sharapova a cheat. These are all great table topics for any conversation I’m forced into, but while I don’t mind the sports chatter, it sometimes hits me like a formality to be in a discussion because, well, it’s a “man thing” to do. Sometimes I genuinely genuinely just rather talk about my feelings.
The idea of men being sports fans has been ingrained as a norm in today’s city dwellers; books, movies, and every other table’s go-to for a conversation ad nauseum. For women, however, their sporting enthusiasm is usually an anomaly that’s only comprehended with a response meandering perilously along the lines of “hey, that’s hot”.
Is there much of a point in assuming women much rather bask in the attention from men who decide they’re hot because of a contribution to a sport debate? Probably not; not in 2017.
The past weekend saw Notts County announce the liquidation of their ladies’ team – 2 days before the start of the Women’s Super League season. Midfielder Danielle Buet was amongst the many who were left in a lurid nightmare, taking it to Twitter to bash the club for missing out on “the balls” to inform the players to their faces. Another tweet from her said that they were “left jobless and homeless”.
Mind you, this is a team featuring many England internationals, four of whom guided England to the 2015 World Cup semi-final, so “jobless and homeless” sounds over-sensationalised, and a kick in the teeth to actual people with a much rustier CV and without an actual mortgage. But the matter should question the elemental matters at hand; isn’t football, the “richest sport in the world”, built on money? And for all the adverts and messages ringing around LCD advertisement boards flaunting unity in football, isn’t someone going to step in and prevent a club from folding? AND could this ever happen to a men’s football team playing in England’s footballing tiers?
For every troll having a laugh or two on the Internet about Serena Williams’ intimidating physique, or questioning a woman’s ability to chest a ball in a football game, there are bigger villains in boardrooms and banks who can’t find the time of day to clear the mess from bottom up. FIFA’s decision to play the 2015 Women’s World Cup on artificial turf trickles slowly and painfully down to the many of us who dismiss the importance of women and sport when being forced to discuss it over a beer.
Football’s different now, as are most other sports. I don’t quite have a “…when I was 12…” anecdote to shed light on it, but it really is different. Sports’ metamorphosis from a celebration to a corporation came without warning, and has brought about weekly dichotomous affairs that expose more institutional forces’ gaffes than we need.
Andy Murray won his second Olympic gold medal for tennis in 2016, and John Inverdale took his two minutes with the Champion to embarrass himself.
“You’re the first person ever to win two Olympic tennis gold medals. That’s an extraordinary feat, isn’t it?” Asked John, clearly not shy of sucking up to Andy.
“I think Venus and Serena [Williams] have won about four each,” came the apt reply.
While it’s become increasingly easy to pass a crude comment about women who are in or into a sport, it’s well easier to point fingers at someone’s prejudice and ignorance that goes into passing that comment. Telling off people who tell off other people, and in turn satiating the vicious cycle that remains in the inequalities of today’s sporting world. What gets done to rectify the mess that is fueled by a handful of trolls on the Internet? Fuck all.
Sports, at the end of your long and tumultuous days, are entertainment. Sports have passion, they’re fun, they’re stressful, there will be winners, and there will be losers – but they are meant to be entertaining.
My point isn’t that y’all should shut up and have some respect for the game and its athletes; I don’t get paid enough to preach. My point is the constant and incessant white noise that comes with a sport and entertainment these days. In-game commentators across various sports talk a lot about equality in the sport (or the lack thereof), and journalists have a field day writing you a thousand worders on just that, but I’m beginning to think the problem is no longer stoked up by us, the fans.