Apr 22,2010

Big Ben’s Big Bad

As a female sports fanatic existing in a predominately male space, I’ve tried to remain as gender neutral as possible. Sure, I’ve made a crack or two about TO’s abs and rolled my eyes at Jessica Simpson’s pink Cowboys jersey, but I’ve also doled out stats and dished volumes of player analysis. My aim has and always will be to talk about football first and foremost, but sometimes being a woman colors the conversation.

For instance…

I predicted Hank Baskett’s statistical nose dive in a pre-Colts and post-Kendra era. You give a man a knocked up Playboy Bunny and a supporting role on a reality TV show and you take away his receptions. It’s simple feminine logic.

I’m also very confident that Brett Favre is coming back to the NFL next season. Yeah, “the love of the game” and “one last hurrah” will certainly prove to be part of that decision, but the bottom line is that he can’t stand an entire year alone with his wife. While I genuinely think she’s lovely, the truth is they’ve been on and off since high school. Now that he’s got his daughter and a brand new grandson living with them there’s NO WAY he’s spending all 52 weeks of the year in Mississippi.

And finally, on lighter note, I firmly believe that having both Mark Sanchez AND Jason Taylor on the same team will dramatically increase the number of I Heart NY baby doll tees sold by the Jets in 2010. Sexiest team in the NFL? Em, hellz yes.

All of this being said, I’ve made a conscious effort to eschew the Ben Roethlisberger controversy. Until 24 hours ago it didn’t really affect the upcoming NFL season so I stayed quiet. What surprised me, however, was how many people wanted my opinion on this particular headline. In fact, last week a fellow sports blogger (who happens to be a dude) asked me “as a woman” my feelings about Big Ben’s potential suspension. Well I’m not interested in giving my opinion as a woman, I’m interested in sharing my opinion as an NFL viewer and consumer of their product. And since everyone from Jim Rome to the ladies of The View are sounding off, I am too.

I absolutely support Roger Goodell’s decision to suspend the Steelers’ QB for six games. I think it was a very sound business decision. And it seems most people agree. According to USA Today, 88% of people polled think Roethlisberger should be suspended for at least one game – with 66% of the people clamoring for a 4-8 game suspension.

A lot of analysts have remarked, however, that while the punishment is deserved it doesn’t necessarily fit the crime. They go on to explain that the lack of specificity within the league’s personal-conduct policy muddies the moral waters. Just this morning football wife and talk show host, Elisabeth Hasselbeck, said the only problem with the ruling was that prior to this a “player could have a DUI and only get suspended for two games.”

While I hear and understand the point they’re trying to make, I think everyone is forgetting a crucial part of this story. Believe it or not, women now make up 40 percent of the NFL fan base. In an eye opening article, Queens of Sunday, author Amy Sorlie goes on to explain that 45 million women watch NFL games each week and that 375,000+ attend the match-ups in person. She also points out that the Steelers maintain the largest female following of any team in the NFL.

Coincidence? I don’t think so.

Goodell’s a smart guy. As the commissioner of the league with the fastest-growing female fan base, he’s sending a message that violence against women is not OK and will not be tolerated. Altruistic or not, making the game more accessible and inviting to women results in a direct increase of revenue. Simply put, add more eyeballs and make more dollars.

So, yes, I do think Big Ben’s big bad was used as an opportunity for Goodell to capitalize on a growing demographic. And as part of that demographic, I applaud his decision. Like Terry Bradshaw, I think #7 has an image problem and I’m learning not to like the guy.