The concrete ceiling

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Everyone has their embarrassing middle school emails — [email protected], [email protected], [email protected]. But as cringeworthy as these are, I think mine takes the cake — [email protected].

Sixth grade marked the beginning of my lifelong love for sports. I remember spending hours on nba.com researching different players’ stats and comparing players from 30 years ago with ones from then. I knew the top five players in every statistical category and would keep track of how their numbers changed. I even had a subscription to SLAM Magazine and would hang the posters up in my room.

At 12 years old, I found it less common for the girls in my group of friends to want to discuss stats, so my dad was the only one I could constantly nag. Lakers games became a tradition between us, and on drives home, I would badger him for an hour straight about the difference between a good and great basketball player.

When high school started, my NBA obsession took a little bit of a back seat to school and the sports I played. I had less time to spend on the computer, and my Lakers were so bad that I couldn’t even bear to watch.

Still, even as I made more friends, none of the girls that I was close to wanted to talk about how Alex Smith was finally learning how to pass the football or about the Giants’ World Series run. My brother, however, was finally old enough to enjoy sports himself, so he became my outlet for discussion and tagging in Facebook posts. I’d have a few conversations with some of my guy friends here and there, in which I felt like I was a part of an exclusive club, invited to “talk with the guys.”

Senior year of high school, I got my first formal “invitation” — a guy in one of my classes asked me to join his fantasy basketball league. I attended a draft at one of the league member’s houses and as ridiculous as it sounds, it made me really happy. I was finally included in this “boy’s club.”

I didn’t care that they tried to create consequences for whoever I beat, and I actually found it rather funny. I was really careful about asking questions, though. I knew I was a real fan, but I wanted to prove that I was as well-informed as they were, because I had no doubt that in the back of their minds they had already disqualified me as valid competition.

Girls always seem to be underestimated when it comes to sports. Even I fall into this trap. When I see female sports commentators on TV, I am skeptical of the validity of what they have to say. I subconsciously wonder, did she get the job because she actually knows what she’s talking about?

I’ve been warned of how slim the chances are of being accepted into the sports world because women are automatically taken less seriously. But despite this invisible glass ceiling — or should I say, very visible concrete ceiling — that will be working against me, I know my passion for sports will never die.

The weirdness that I feel being a girl who loves sports is still present, though.

Last year, I lived in a building in Unit One called Putnam. At the beginning of the year, I went down to the lounge to watch football on the building’s only TV. A group of guys would always come down, joking around and making me feel incredibly awkward and out of place. I went a couple more times after that and tried to force my roommates to come with me but eventually stopped going altogether, feeling uncomfortable from the inherent exclusivity of it all.

I shouldn’t have felt this way, but I couldn’t help it. My sports enthusiasm makes me feel odd and out of place sometimes. But I still want to be a part of this male-dominated clique.

Being a girl, however, doesn’t make me any less of a sports fan. In seventh grade, I waited all day to get basketballs signed by Andrew Bynum, Ron Artest and Derek Fisher. My whole Facebook and Instagram feed is filled with ESPN, NFL or NBA posts. I’ve been to more Lakers and 49ers games than I can even count. My middle name is Montana after Joe Montana, for goodness sake.

The concrete ceiling may be strong and daunting, but it isn’t unbreakable. And I don’t plan on allowing it to stop me from doing what I want to do and being who I want to be.

Taylor Choe covers men’s water polo. Contact her at [email protected]