I nearly spit up my Miller Lite when, watching an NFL game recently, I saw a Wal-Mart commercial in which the company explained the role of women in football: “Have you ever wondered why football players say ‘Hi, mom!’ when they’re on television?” The Wal-Mart narrator asks. “Because we’re the ones who wash their uniforms, drive them to practice, keep the fridge stocked full of food. … And they say mothers don’t know anything about football.”
It was a lucky thing that I saw this commercial, as it afforded me an opportunity to mount my high horse and gallop into the land of Outraged Woman. This commercial—Wal-Mart’s insidious representation of what a female does for one of America’s most popular sports—hit even my husband’s ears like a bullet. He looked at me, smiled, and said, “Did you just hear that?”
Before seeing the commercial, I had considered writing about the Football Mom—a moniker that, for me, seems less frightening than Soccer Mom. In my dreams, a Football Mom can make wilier calls than Steve Spurrier; cite recruiting statistics as easily as others cite Britney Spears’ crotch shot statistics; and would much rather watch a good football game than Oprah. Further, a Football Mom is not dependent upon her children’s interest in playing the sport. Rather, she leads the family in its weekly ritual of watching big men clash on the gridiron.
More than anything, on holidays, a Football Mom is not relegated to the kitchen—she sits on the couch and watches the big games while others help with the culinary duties. She demands equality and is respected as an athletic—and domestic—peer.
Wal-Mart underestimated its audience.
My son was born on opening day for college football last year—a detail that does not go unnoticed in the land of the Southeastern Conference. Even before he was born, family members had given him onesies touting competing football teams. I grew up in Florida as a devoted Gator fan (I didn’t miss a home game from age three until I left for college), and my husband is an avid University of Georgia Bulldog fan. Thus we are a house divided with a baby whose loyalties will be won by the highest bidder, loudest barker, or widest chomp.
I have always poo-poo’d the idea that football is for boys. When I was five, I was settled on having three children, whom I would name Benjamin Franklin, Sally, and James Jones, who was at the time a running back for my vaunted Gators. I spiraled into a weeklong depression every time the Florida State University Seminoles beat the Gators, and as a preteen, I read recruiting and signing news in the local paper.
Back to the present: I’m proud of being versed in football, and now that I’m a mother, I need a descriptor that does not bring up distressing visions of minivans and sidelined careers. I am ready to roll out “Football Mom” for women who just happen to be moms and who also happen to enjoy tackles, sideline brawls, and touchdown passes. But if Wal-Mart has anything to do with it, “Football Mom” will be just another stereotype for moms who understand nothing about the game except how much bleach a dirty jockstrap requires and what her little-big cutie needs to eat before the big game.
Let’s not listen to stereotypes about women and sports. Let’s rise up, play, and win this game. I, for one, will raise my son to think of the females in his life as playing a role other than laundry washer and grocery shopper. Maybe I’ll take a play from my own mother’s playbook: By age twelve, he’ll be washing his own laundry.
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