10 Questions with Christine Brennan

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3. Women Sports Readers

RCS:   You were very kind in a recent "Best of" issue of the Washingtonian to recommend RealClearSports. But we have to admit -- perhaps unsurprisingly -- that you are one of few women to do so. In fact, despite consistently featuring well known women writers like yourself, Jackie MacMullen, Karen Crouse, Jemele Hill and Jennifer Floyd Engel, 97% of our readers are men -- and other sports media outlets show similar demographic breakdowns.

Do you have any advice for how we can attract more women readers?

Brennan: I wish I did. I think that what's happened is women who love sports -- be it a 60 year old or a 40 year old or a 20 year old -- probably go to a certain site, and feel very comfortable with that site, whether they're women's sports-related sites or maybe newspaper sites. I haven't done any surveys on this, but knowing my friends, knowing their habits if they care about a team, they might go to a newspaper site for that team or maybe even go to the team site itself.

I think what we've seen in general is that women are participating in sports more than ever before, but what we have not yet seen is women becoming spectators and consumers of sports in vast numbers the way men are. I'm a realist. At the end of the day I know that some of my biggest "fans" criticize me for being some kind of radical feminist, so it would probably shock them to hear I'm a registered Republican. I love Big Ten football as much as anyone, for instance. But I also want women's sports to succeed, and I want women to support women's sports. So far, women are not consuming sports like men have for generations. And maybe they won't. I don't know. 

But I do think we need to wait another generation or two to be sure, which of course is not what you want to hear. It's not what your sponsors want to hear. It's certainly not what women's leagues want to hear. But here's what I wonder: is it possible the typical 40-year-old woman today is not yet the huge sports fan her daughter might one day become?  The 40-year-old very likely did not grow up with sports her whole life as her brother did. A 40-year-old would have been born in 1969. Title IX was signed by Richard Nixon in 1972, but it didn't really have much of an impact for 5-10 years, at least. So what I'm saying is the emergence of women in sports has been going on really for only the last 25 years or so.

But let's look at the 10-year-old girl today with the total sports immersion we have now for both girls and boys in this country. When she grows up, when she's 40, and she and her husband are looking at their checkbook and he says he wants the ticket package for the Maryland men's basketball team this year, will she say, "Great, and I want the package for the Maryland women's basketball team?"  Is that when interest in women's sports is really going to hit, say 30 years from now?

It's probably more of a cultural question, and I don't mean to get all sociological and cultural on you here, but I wonder if it's going to be awhile for women to feel that sense of entitlement that sports is a birthright for them just the way it has been for men for generations.  I don't think most women who are currently in their forties or fifties have felt that. I always have, but that's because I had my own personal Title IX in my father, who threw a baseball with me in the backyard, who took me to Toledo Mud Hens and Detroit Tigers baseball games, to University of Michigan and Toledo football games. I'm 51 years old, I was born in 1958, well before Title IX, so I'm very unusual for my age. So maybe it's just going to take another generation or two. I don't know if that's a great answer to your question but it's the only answer I have. And a long one at that, eh?

10 Questions with Christine Brennan



4 / 11
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