I would be the first one to admit that women did not plan to save the sports box office when television became so popular. But now that we've done it, you would think that someone like Carroll D. Rosenbloom of the Baltimore Colts would have said one small word of appreciation before driving off in his long limousine to deposit all those gate receipts at the bank. It isn't as though we were waiting around for Mickey Mantle to wire a dozen roses or John Unitas to send a mash note. But I do think it is time for everybody's "front office" to realize that the hand that rocks the cradle is also the hand that is stuffing all that money into the cash drawers of every stadium in the country.
You ask me why? Simple. Men are widely known to be reasonable and logical creatures. If they were the only ones who liked sports, television would have been the end of football, baseball and most other spectator contests because men would have done the logical thing. They would have stayed at home in their comfortable easy chairs in front of the television set instead of sitting in a freezing stadium or a broiling bleacher. Why don't they? Because women like sports too, and they drag their menfolk out to the stadiums to see the sports women are never allowed to see at home on television.
Let me put it this way. Who has ever seen, or even thought of, a woman spending Sunday afternoon lolling on a sofa, drinking beer, eating sandwiches and watching the Rams play the 49ers? Nobody, that's who. On the other hand, the divine right of kings was never more firmly established than the divine right of husbands to plant themselves in a chair to watch a sporting contest on television and never move until it is over.
Oh, a man may start out graciously by suggesting that his wife watch it with him, but his invitation is good only until he gets hungry. Naturally, his wife is perfectly welcome to watch as long as meals are served, his phone calls are taken, children kept quiet and all the minor emergencies coped with—quietly, please—until the game is over. And, of course, Bill Virdon makes that fabulous catch while she is getting mayonnaise out of the refrigerator, the pitcher hits a double just after she answers the doorbell and Bobby Richardson gets a grand slam homer as she is letting the dog out so he will stop scratching the woodwork.
"Boy, you should have seen it, honey," he says.
The very next time Weeb Ewbank of the Baltimore Colts gets a salary check or Walter O'Malley starts gloating over the seating capacity of the Coliseum, they had better think. Without us, gentlemen, there would be nothing, but nothing. Any wife can tell them that for every loyal, vigorous husband who is willing to drive through crowded traffic to a Saturday or Sunday sports event, there are 99 shiftless, indolent sloths who will settle for an afternoon nap in front of whatever game happens to be on TV. And as for their old alma mater, it could crumble into a pile of rocks before they'd get off that chair and support it.
It is the wives, desperate to see something besides the commercials, the points after touchdowns and the half-time ceremonies, who arrange for the baby sitters, send checks for the tickets and round up the blankets and stadium seats. They have found, by sad experience, that it's the only way they can ever get to see a full game.
Oh, we've tried to be reasonable and logical and stay home too. I know of one wife who wangled a second television set. It was a little portable destined to be placed in the kitchen where, she fondly thought, its presence would eliminate her frustration as wild cheering burst from the living room set just as she had a knifeful of jelly poised over a piece of bread. Did it? Not at all. The foolish girl forgot that the major television networks feel it a sacred duty to counter one sporting event with another, so there are always at least two games going on simultaneously. Portable television sets are so—well, portable. Her mistake was in not getting a set that weighed 200 pounds. Her husband moved that nice little new set in with the other one, turned on the picture plus the sound on one for the White Sox and Cleveland. He kept an eye on the Giants and St. Louis with the sound turned down on the other until something exciting happened. When she dashed in madly to find out what the cheers and boos were all about she didn't even know which game they came from.
Now this is not to say that men are not basically gallant, kind and chivalrous. It is just that they have a mental block about women and sports. Every man believes his wife perfectly capable of discussing intelligently the political situation in India, and he expects her to hold up her end of the table on cosmic rays and space, but when it comes to sports he automatically regards her as an imbecile. If it's baseball, he will turn to her patiently and explain, "See, honey, there are nine men on a team, and each side gets three outs before the other side comes up to bat."
Who does he think carted the boys to Little League practice for three years straight, watched every game and learned the rule book by heart? Does he suppose his son picked up those 900 baseball cards off the bedroom floor?