Monthly Archives: March 2008
Jane Fonda, eat your heart out. Sure, some of the big guys are already playing ball in Japan but, for me, baseball season begins when I walk into the stadium. I train for that moment. I need to be in top form for Monday’s game when Jackie and I join several friends for a day’s worth of ditching work and other responsibilities where we act like we have nothing better to do than enjoy a few midday drinks, trip over curbs and, for those who partake in such footwear, catch our high heels in sidewalk grates.
So, specifically, you might wonder, what have I done to prepare for baseball season? Last night was a perfect example. I was at the symphony to catch one of the worlds most prodigious pianists in recital.
At intermission, I’d arranged to meet two friends over glasses of champagne, which I’d ordered for all of us before the concert even began (this, so that we wouldn’t have to wait in the intermission line that the rookies queue up in.) All day it drove me crazy that my friends had better seats than my date and I had. We sat in my regular season ticket seats in row FF while my friends were rubbing elbows with the swank patrons in row N – twenty rows closer. As we chat and giggle over our bubbly, I mention once again to my friend that I helped select the better seats and she perks up: “Hey, there are two empty seats right next to us!” (Are you thinking what I was thinking?) “Jen,” I say, in my best incredulous manner. “Do you think we’re at a ballgame, or something? Are you suggesting that we seat hop at the symphony?” How crude! We all shrugged. I looked around the lobby’s atrium. Had anyone heard us?
The four of us downed our drinks and proceeded past my bush-league seats in row FF, heading straight for the black Steinway positioned at the middle of the stage. It was like sneaking past that usher at the ballpark and I was nervous. Was someone going to ask for my ticket? I tried to act natural. Head up, D, walk purposefully. Smile and nod. We followed our friends to the plush seats in the middle of row N. “Excuse me, ma’am,” I said to the woman behind me as I handed her the coat that was carelessly tossed over “my” seat. Boy, did I act the part. For the woman behind me, it was like those days at the baseball park when you feel like you’ll have some extra space to spread out your limbs and belongings until some philistine shows up in the fifth inning and asks you to get your feet off of his seat. But, the difference here was that it wasn’t my seat and I was still fool enough to feel entitled.
I’ll spare the suspense because we weren’t booted. This doesn’t mean I had fun, of course. I was twitchy nervous between every piece – that’s when the ushers allowed late arrivals into the concert hall. Once a couple stopped at the end of row N and looked at their tickets, counted seats, whispered and pointed. I kept my head down. I did not smile. I did not nod. They walked to an usher before moving along to another section. But it was too late for me. I had already died a thousand deaths.
So, there’s some of my training. It could be said that I faced far worse consequences at the symphony than seat-hoppers face at the ballpark, where such behavior is often tolerated with a wink and a sideways smirk. Still, I found hopping at the symphony is not terribly different from the tactics used at the ballpark. Not that I’ve ever been barbarian enough to pull such a stunt at a ballpark … not as a straight-thinking mature-acting adult, at least. But, if called upon to behave in such a boorish manner, I’m now prepared. Thanks to my rigorous training regimen.
Different sports are making marketing to women a priority. This isn’t news. The practice has been going on for several years. Baseball’s Ladies Days, for instance, started in the 1800s. But, as opposed to these days, it wasn’t the women’s money that teams wanted. Rather, teams granted women free admission to the stadiums because team executives thought the presence of women would make the men-folk less crude and rowdy. Of course that was before women rioted when the Washington Senators starting pitcher Win Mercer was tossed from the game after an argument with the umpire in 1897. The women tore up seats and smashed windows. The offending umpire, Bill Carpenter, was smuggled out of the stadium in a disguise.
But, aside from free tickets and special promotions offering spa vacations and manicures, what I’m really talking about today is how sports are trying to lure women with merchandise. Having women connect with a player or team isn’t enough – it is expected that women brandish their allegiance with a hat or t-shirt. Not just any hat or t-shirt. Teams often suggest a pink item. You know, because chicks dig pink. Now, don’t go thinking I’m for or against pink stuff for political reasons. You won’t see me wearing pink because I look dreadful in any shade of pink. Jackie looks good in hot pink — but the powder pink hue often sold in team stores does nothing for her perfectly pale Polish complexion. So, the “pink it and shrink it” marketing isn’t intended for us. But that doesn’t mean it’s not for some. My stepmom looks stunning in pink. I even bought her a pink Boston cap a few years back (the lifelong Orioles fan has the misfortune of marrying into a Boston family. Oh well. Probably not too late for that annulment).
And of course it’s just not baseball that is making women think they should think pink. The NFL has pink everything, too. And haven’t we all heard enough about how NASCAR is the favored sport among women? There is even a line of harlequinesque romance novels created around a NASCAR theme. Chicks dig Harlequin novels. And there is an upcoming NASCAR-inspired movie, too. A chick flick. NASCAR has scads and scads of driver-specific jerseys that are tailored to show toned mid-riffs and bodacious curves. And don’t think that the open-wheel racing world is keen on being left behind when it comes to collecting some money from women. Though they are taking the highroad, so to speak. Formula One racing is now offering a diamond-clad watch by TAG Heuer for $2,300. The marketing material says that the company made the watch for “women who want chic design and serious sports-inspired functionality.” It has a pink face and, as you can probably tell by the price tag, lots of diamonds.
You know, Formula One executives don’t want just anyone cheering for their drivers.
Then, right up there with Formula One clientele is bass fishing. According to National Sporting Goods Association, 12.9 million women fish. Yet many cannot zip the vests over their chests. So… big clothing manufacturers are on the case. "Columbia considers the technical and performance aspects first and then we bring in new colors designs and fit… Colors such as sea foam green, sunkist coral and periwinkle are colors that seem to appeal to women," a Columbia spokeswoman said.
I can’t tell you how many women I’ve heard from that abhor sports marketing to women. They say it’s demeaning and pandering. They thumb their noses – and whatever else they can get their hands on – at pink merchandise. As if pink shirts automatically label a woman a non-fan, or, — GASP! – a casual fan. Do all fans have to wear an $80 authentic MLB-licensed [insert favorite player’s name] double-knit jersey? I don’t think so. Can’t we all just get along?
Ultimately, teams and their fans can’t judge a book by its cover. Not all women like pink. Not all pink-clad women are pushovers. And, as the Washington Senators found out in 1897, not all women demure when their starting pitcher is thrown from the game. Then, there’s my beloved stepmom, who still remembers the cold duck induced hangover she had the morning of October 18, 1979. That would be the day after Orioles lost Game Seven – and the World Series – to the Pittsburgh Pirates. She looks great in pink. And she’s a fan.
photo credits: baseballlibrary, boston.com, amazon, llbean