I just had to wait for things to simmer down. To allow the NFL to muddle through some sort of excuse for allowing the Neanderthal behavior to continue along Concourse D during New York Jets games. To see what other thoughtless statements would hemorrhage from the security forces in charge of keeping the peace at Giant Stadium (the stadium is shared by two football teams, the NY Giants and the Jets). But, now, it’s been almost a week since the New York Times broke the story. At this point, I’m doubtful that I can be appeased on this front. I wonder if I ever could have been satisfied.
Now, those of you who know us, know that Jackie and I are no prudes. But I don’t think you have to be a prude to not like getting groped by strangers. I don’t care who you are, it’s happened to all of us. Some of you can say that these women should have stayed away from Concourse D if they didn’t want to be subjected (or subjugated?) to the halftime ritual where men line up and yell for women to lift up their shirts. You think women have to go to places like Concourse D to get groped? How naïve! Those who oblige the mass of men are rewarded with cheers “You’re not uptight like those other girls!” “One of the gang!” “Dude, your girlfriend is hot!” Those women who do not participate are sometimes spit upon and jeered. Now, some guy might say, “Hey, you want to grope my package, it’s OK with me!” Even better if the voices of a hundred women are screaming for you to show them the money (or the loose change or whatever you’ve got)! We know that men and women, as a group, think of these things differently. Those hundred voices booming through the concourse? Taunts. Bullying. Shivers go up the spine. “Loosen up! Have fun! Lift up your shirt!” Are you the hunter or the hunted?
Apart from society’s ills, I am irked about how the NFL positioned itself as some forward-thinking league when it comes to marketing to women. Baloney, say I. Why so cynical? Because it is a load of crock when it becomes clear that the league as a whole has done the minimum to show its women fan base it cares so that they can feed the fuzzy story to the media. I could go on, but Jackie would probably prefer that I don’t cuss in our blog. I have bills to pay, too, you know. I’m happy to keep it clean.
It was three years ago that Jackie and I went to a Seattle Seahawks game together. We were working for a local charity outside the stadium for the first part of the game and were allowed to go watch the game for the final quarter or so. It was a great game but, without official seats, Jackie and I were left to wonder, looking for a place to watch the waning minutes. We found a good standing-room only spot. That was until some BIG PLAY happened. It wasn’t the drunken sustained roar that erupted from the stands that was unsettling. It was the physicality of it all. We were pushed, jolted and jostled. We’re pretty strong women standing in a perfectly legal spot and, honestly, we felt waaaay uneasy with what was going on. With all the guys looming and screaming around us, we were the only women in sight. It wasn’t a good scene and it’s a reminder that, basically, there are Concourse Ds everywhere. Even in Seattle, believe it or not.
The NFL has made some visible and newsworthy strides to reach women fans. Merchandising. Good start. Offering NFL 101 clinics so women can become better acquainted with the game. Excellent move. Grouping. Harassing. Spitting at and throwing bottles at women who don’t bare their breasts at games. At best, questionable strategy. Unless, of course, that turning a blind eye to such things is a necessary component of lip service. Let the guys be guys and let’s make sure that the women have some more feminine shirts to wear to the games and call it “reaching out to women.”
We all know that drinking beer in excess and excessive behavior is part of many sports – not just football. So why come down hard on the NFL? Really, maybe it’s only one team’s bad scene. Loosen up! Regardless, I expect better. Call me a prude.
When the story broke last week, it was Big News. Security guards said dumb stuff, executives said dumb stuff. “The problem is,” said the VP of security, “you got to watch four or five hundred people …What do we do, arrest everybody that starts chanting?” If necessary, yes, arrest everyone. But you should lose your job if you think that’s the only solution. Another executive, this one a little higher up and who is retiring next week, said that there was little to do about drunken crowds, other than trying to reason with them. See how far that got you guys? When was it time to try Plan B? Instead of dispersing the riotous crowd, the Sunday before Thanksgiving, security approached a woman after she’d answered the cry from above and showed her *****. She was informed about public indecency laws and released. Awwww. How charitable. I’d like to see if senior security guards pull rank to cover the beat on Concourse D.
There was no Jets game this week. But the forces were out for the Giants game, where there has been no problem of this kind reported. According to the Times, there was a maze of event staff and police in the offending area. The quotes were ready, though. Outgoing security dude remarked about the increased security and undercover operations planned for the upcoming Dec. 6 Jets game, their next at Giant Stadium: “We will do this until we nip the problem in the bud.” How appropriate. And about four years too late, according to my calculation.
So, I’m still steaming. But I can live with it. Hopefully, with regard to combating harassment, wherever it goes on, things will never simmer down. The Concourse Ds of the world pop up in the most unlikely places, you know.
Photo credits: Concourse D (NY Times); NFL ball (fitnessvillage.com); Manning jersey (footlocker.com)