I have to start this column by stating one thing: I am completely PRO women sports. I respect the hell out of female athletes who train day in and day out to compete at the highest level of performance possible. This article is more intended to the leagues, conferences, PR gurus and general public as a means to bring awareness to the fact these women bust their ass much of the time to little accolades. I want to help change that.
When people first spoke of a UFC women’s division the main reaction was one of “ugh … really?” At least that’s what I heard around my water cooler. Men had zero interest in watching two women beat the living crap out of each other in an octagon, let alone paying big bucks to see it on a pay per view. Now in a pool of Jell-O…. I might have swayed their interest.
But Ronda Rousey has changed all that. Aside from being an attractive female, she is a force to be reckoned with in the ring. Neither of these things are what really compel people to hand over their hard earned money to Dana White to watch her fight. No, it’s this larger than life “heel” persona she has created about herself. And she’s crafted it perfectly.
Some people respect Rousey for her world class judo skills. Others consider her a spoiled brat. As someone that has witnessed this woman in a gym and in action, I think of her as the bitch I will never cut in line for the water fountain. Love her or hate her, she simply doesn’t give a damn. All that matters to her is that you respect those around her whom she cares about.
As a girl growing up in girl world, I can’t tell you the number of times I have heard girls say, “I would respect her more if she would just say that @#$% to my face.” Well, Rousey does just that. While some may have viewed her refusal to shake Meisha Tate’s hand as a blatant sign of disrespect, in Ronda’s mind her actions were fully justified. After Tate’s behavior towards Rousey’s team on “Ultimate Fighter,” Rousey was done playing nice. So no apology … No handshake. And until her trainer and team receive and accept said apology it will probably remain that way.
The most compelling people to watch, not only in sports or entertainment but generally in real life, are the ones that have strong opinions. The ones who lay it all out there of what is right or wrong. At least in their minds. You don’t have to agree with them but they certainly aren’t going to shy away from sharing it with you either. I consider myself a pretty vocal person, and it’s not necessarily how I always go about my life, but I can’t deny that I don’t tune into certain television shows just to hear what some of my favorite soapbox grandstanders may say or do next.
Women sports need more personalities like Rousey in order to survive and thrive in a market dominated by men. No one heralds the WNBA finals or buys their video games for PlayStation. (Do they even make those? … Will check the Google machine later.) Women’s golf? … Volleyball? … Softball? Soccer? … Aside from Hope Solo, Brandy Chastain and the Williams sisters, show me a woman from any of these sports that SportsCenter dedicated more than 30 seconds of their rundown to.
Which brings me to my point, women like Rousey are paving a new way for women in sports. I only hope other female athletes, their teams, and their representation see genius in her marketing and help bring awareness to the “stories” behind their stars. Maybe then we can really begin to play ball with the boys.