I consider myself to be a pretty devoted fan of Boston College athletics. Alumni Stadium and Conte Forum have become all too familiar to me as an avid football, hockey, and basketball fan. However, until recently, I had only ever gone to men’s games. This was not because I did not want to support the female athletes at BC, it was actually because I stupidly assumed that any games that were not included in the Gold Pass that we all purchased at the beginning of the year would cost extra. At the time, that seemed logical because if I’m paying to see a men’s hockey game, why should I not pay for a women’s hockey game? It never even occurred to me that such an inequality would exist.
Before the Beanpot, I decided to attend a women’s hockey game. I noticed that both the men’s and women’s teams had the essentials: a hype video, concession stands, and the BC band there to cheer them on. But one thing was vastly different about the games—the number of audience members. Apparently, making every women’s game free has not helped to increase the number of students in attendance. My roommate and I were two of about five students in the audience at the women’s hockey game, which prompted my roommate to say “I hate that they make this feel like a joke.” This leads me to question, who is at fault for this?
The phenomenon of women’s sports being less popular than men’s sports is nothing new. There are numerous perspectives on this, but the two main ones seem to be that this inequality either stems from a lack of coverage of women’s sports, or that the biological differences between men and women make women fundamentally less interesting to watch. Maggie Mertens, a journalist from The Atlantic, believes the lack of excitement surrounding women’s sports is because the men have “higher production values, higher quality coverage, and higher quality commentary.” She continues, saying, “When you watch women's sports, there are fewer camera angles, fewer cuts to shot, [and] fewer instant replays,” which makes it seem like “a slower game.” However, an online user cited in this article believes that “elite female athletes are simply not equal to their male counterparts in terms of physical ability.” Another user echoed this sentiment by saying “women’s sports that are identical to men’s sports…will never be popular because men are faster, stronger, and more athletic.” In my opinion, comparing women’s and men’s athletic abilities is counterproductive. When there are men’s and women’s teams for the same sport, there are often different rules for each gender, thus making it a completely different game. Instead, we should appreciate each sport for what it is, not what it “should” be.
BC Athletics has tried to increase student attendance at women’s games, most notably by mandating students to attend the women’s games to receive vouchers to then trade in for tickets for the evidently more desirable men’s games that are not included in our Gold Pass. This has happened numerous times in the past, most recently at the Syracuse vs. BC basketball game. While I will applaud BC for trying to encourage students to go to women’s games, forcing the students to attend games that are often at very inconvenient times during the school week only builds resentment towards the women’s teams.
I was convinced that the Women’s Beanpot would be a different story. It was held at Conte, advertised very well (I saw their posters everywhere), and was free. For the Men’s Beanpot, hundreds of BC students, including myself, waited in a neverending Ticketmaster queue, spent at least $25 on their ticket, and then dragged themselves all the way to TD Garden to watch a men’s hockey game. While the student section for the first round of the Men’s Beanpot tournament was sold out, from what I could tell, it seemed as though less than 20 students were in the student section at Conte for the women’s game. The men’s team, defeated in the first round, lost to Harvard 4-3 in overtime, while the women’s team won against Harvard 3-0.
Unsurprisingly, a large number of BC students, including myself, made their way to TD Garden for the men’s consolation game. BC defeated BU 4-2, which is always a satisfying outcome for the Eagles. For the women’s final, I was hopeful that Conte would be packed to the brim, as many suggested on Herrd. Despite the fact that it was a home game, our student section still paled compared to Northeastern’s.
I knew that I was going to write this article as I was watching the final, so I prayed for a win. I thought if the women won the Beanpot while the men lost in the first round, that would somehow change the rampant sexism on our campus and force us all to acknowledge the successes of BC Women’s Athletics. However, as our impending loss became evident (2-1 Northeastern), I realized that the women’s teams should not have to win to give the public a reason to watch and support them. We’ve had some pretty tough seasons for men’s football, basketball, and hockey this past year, yet students continued to show up at nearly every game. At the end of the day, we should support them because we are all Eagles. Every single one of the athletes on the women’s and men’s teams have worked their entire lives to get to this point, and they all deserve to hear us chanting “Let's Go Eagles” in the stands while they put their all into the game.