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You like sports? Prove it!

Hi friends,

Being a woman in sports means working in a fun and fast-paced industry, breaking the glass ceiling, creating new opportunities, and opening doors for those who will come after you. Unfortunately, being a woman in sports also means people quizzing you on your knowledge, or worse, those same people being shocked that yes, you actually know your stuff (no matter how much experience you have or what your credentials may be). Let me tell you about a recent conversation I had where I experienced just that.

The fun side of being a woman in sports

It was with a recent graduate of my alma mater, the University of Delaware. A political science major who was working as an administrative assistant on Capitol Hill, he was interested in my sport management degree and asked what I did. I told him about how I started my career at ESPN working in the Stats and Info Group primarily focusing on college football, before joining the Philadelphia Eagles in a draft-focused player personnel role and later starting my own sports research company. The guy responded with, “So you’re like, a really big college football fan?” Duh. (No jk, I didn’t say that. I smiled and said yes.)

His follow-up was to ask what I thought about “Coach Prime revolutionizing college football” (lol). While this was prior to their blowout loss to Oregon (which was expected by anyone who watches college football), I said I was out on Colorado. When he asked why, I mentioned that both their offensive and defensive lines were undersized and that they’d be completely dominated at the line of scrimmage by any half-decent team (sorry, TCU). I added that I doubted the o-line’s ability to protect against better opponents like Oregon. Then I told him that I found the underdog narrative to be ridiculous given Shilo Sanders played at South Carolina, Travis Hunter was ranked a five-star recruit by most recruiting services, and even Shedeur was a three-star on Rivals, a far cry from the unranked no-name that Deion was making him out to be.

His response? “Wow! So you like actually know your sh*t? Like I don’t think even I could give that kind of analysis. Like even my friends who love football probably couldn’t.”

Couple things here:

  1. …I…just…what? I mean I guess he meant it as a compliment, but I had just told him about my 6+ years of experience working in football so was the shock that I would have some knowledge in my chosen profession really warranted?

  2. I don’t think even I could’ve given such an in-depth breakdown.” I’m sorry, are you Andy Reid or Mina Kimes? I missed the part where you were a brilliant football mind.

  3. I didn’t provide some in-depth, next-level analysis (because most people aren’t interested or don’t get it). I said their linemen were undersized and overmatched. That’s a pretty basic stuff.

If you’re a woman working in sports or even just a female sports fan, I know you’ve got your own story. You’ve definitely dealt with a subtle or off-hand comment like the one above. Though you’ve also probably gotten something a little more blatant and direct too. For example, raise your hand if you’ve ever been asked to “prove” your sports knowledge. “Oh, you’re a Yankees fan? Name every member of the 1947 World Series team.” (Here’s the ’47 Yankees roster in case you’re interested because that team had some names, including MVP Joe DiMaggio.)

It's frustrating, especially when we all have guy friends who aren’t treated the same way. If the same conversation that I detailed above was between two men, would it have gone differently? Obviously, I can’t say for certain, but I know that throughout my career, I’ve had too many situations where that’s been the case. I remember sitting in the research room at ESPN while several male coworkers were sharing their favorite current MLB player. When I volunteered that mine was Mike Trout, a manager laughed and asked, “Why, because you think he’s hot?” It was upsetting but not shocking.

Conversations like that are part of why empowHERed exists. Our goal is to get to a point where female sports fans are just fans, where women in sports aren’t quizzed on their knowledge, and where respect is given regardless of gender. We’re not there yet, but together we’re working towards that vision and we’re closer than we’ve ever been.

Have a situation like the one I just described? We’d love to hear about it! Share your funniest (yes, that’s how we’re choosing to look at these incidents) “You like sports? Prove it!” moment with us. Because they’re going to happen. But don’t ever let those moments make you doubt yourself.

Remember, you’re awesome and you belong here.

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