By Roslyn McLarty
This is the second part to a two-part blog post that answers some of the tough questions we’ve received since starting The GIST. Part I, discusses the question “Why should women have to conform to a man's world? Why should we need to learn about sports to talk to men?”. If you haven’t read it yet, definitely head on over and give it a read first. We go into why sports are for everyone, (not just for dudes), and how we would never want our readers to have to fake an interest in sports to talk to anyone! We want our readers to genuinely enjoy keeping up with sports news and allow them to connect with people through sports in an authentic way.
Anyway, from my experience, a really big part of getting into sports is knowing what the heck is actually going on. I played soccer growing up so I really like watching soccer more than the average person. But if you asked me to watch a Blue Jays game and took away the atmosphere, the summer weather, the drinks and hot dogs and friends, I would NOT be down. Ellen says she would though. (She used to watch baseball on TV alone, and even on the RADIO - I would never!). And the difference is that, to be honest, I don’t really get baseball. I never played it growing up. Don’t know the rules or strategy other than someone hits the ball and tries to run around the bases. But I hear from friends that it’s actually pretty interesting and fun to watch when you get the strategy behind the game. So, one of the things we try and do at The GIST is provide people with opportunities to learn more about sports so they can get into it if they want. (Maybe I should spend a little more time with our GIST baseball glossary…).
This brings me to the next tough question we’ve sometimes been asked:
Why are you dumbing down sports for women?
We’re not. But we are offering our readers additional educational resources to learn about sports so that they can enjoy them more. We’re not assuming all of our readers don’t already know what offside is, or the role of the running back, or who the best team in the league is. But we’re also not assuming that they do know these things. And that’s why we’re different from a traditional sports media company. It’s hard to jump into an article from a TSN and understand what’s going on if you haven’t been following the team or sport. And, it’s hard to be interested in what’s going on if you don’t know the background, the backstories, the players, or the rules. So, in our content, we offer people the choice to learn more. We don’t take up much space in our actual newsletter, but, we link to resources housed on our site for those that don’t know what, say, a triple double is. In our guides, glossaries and FAQ’s we break it down in a really easy to understand manner for the non-avid sports fan, which, turns out, a lot of our readers are.
On a scale of 1-5 (with a 5 being someone who feels they could guest-write for TSN and 1 being someone who doesn’t know what TSN is), 75% of our readers have ranked their confidence in sports knowledge as a 1-3. That means 25% of our readers are a 4-5 (people we would consider avid sports fans, who might not need the educational resources). So with these stats, we think our users might appreciate having the option to read an explanation on how a league is organized, definitions for sports terms, positions or acronyms, or a low down on who’s who in the league, in order for them to better enjoy and appreciate the rest of the content and the sport itself.
Like any subject matter, when you’re teaching someone who is not already a 5 out of 5 on the topic, you can’t just jump straight into it without starting with the basics. If you’re a 1 out of 5 in your accounting knowledge, I would need to explain to you the purpose of accounting, what a balance sheet and income statement are, and start with the basic debits and credits before we can have a full-fledged discussion about whether or not a company is using the right revenue recognition policy. (Sorry for the accounting example). Similarly, at times we do start with the basics and the backstories , so that our readers can get fired up with us about why something that happened in the sports world is so exciting or upsetting.
Another similar question we’ve been asked is:
Why do you have to deliver sports differently for men and women?
I’m not sure. Why are less women sports fans than men? It seems the way sports news is currently being delivered is not adequately meeting the needs of all women… otherwise the gap between male and female fans would be smaller right?? (Recognizing there are other contributing factors as discussed in Blog post 1).
I flipped on a sports podcast the other day because I was like “Hmm, I am the co-founder of a sports company – surely I should dive a little deeper into the sports world. How about I start listening to some sports podcasts to get up to speed?”. It was a few guys talking basketball, shooting the sh!t, being kind of bro-y, laughing about stuff that wasn’t making me laugh. And I had this moment where I was was like ‘WOW. This is NOT for me. Thank god I have Ellen and The GIST to teach me sports”. Not to say there aren’t any male delivered sports news out there that I might like more… but I just feel like if the podcast had been women chatting about sports in a funny way that was more relatable to me, I’d be way more into it. Not to mention more open to listening to the whole thing and learning in the process. So that’s what we try to do. We want to be your funny, sports-obsessed girlfriend getting you up-to-date on what’s happening in the sports world in an efficient yet entertaining way. We say stuff that you can actually relate to and find funny. We want to both entertain you and inform you, so that staying up-to-date on sports news isn’t a chore, it’s a fun part of your routine.
Studies show that women actually consume sports media in a different way than men do. We, as women, are generally also more interested in the human side of the athletes and the backstories. That’s just our nature. How did the athlete feel? Which athletes have the best chemistry on and off the court? What’s the backstory of this team or this rivalry? Who’s the underdog making the inspiring comeback? Who is the athlete dating? Who’s their family? What are they like at home with their family? It makes watching the sport more interesting when you know the people behind it all. We want to provide that contextualization (rather than stats on performance history, for example) for our readers so that they are just genuinely more interested.
I had the pleasure of attending game seven of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals in Boston this spring which was SO fun (hello LeBron Jaaaames!). Leading up to the game though, you could certainly not catch me reading up on the teams’ performance over the season or player stats in preparation for the game. Instead I was waay more interested in knowing about the backstory on Kyrie and LeBron playing together for ages and Kyrie leaving LeBron after their loss in the Championship, and the massive beef that ensued. Ellen filled me in that there were rumours Kyrie requested the trade, that Kyrie unfollowed Kyrie on socials, but LBJ showed he wanted Kyrie as part of his all star team. All this set a way more interesting scene for game 7 than any stats could’ve. To me it was just more interesting!
In addition to curating, contextualizing, and spicing up news that we think you should be paying attention to because it’s what people are inevitably going to be talking about, we also do our best to feature female athletes. Professional female athletes are so badass and inspiring, and we want to make an impact on closing the gap in gender inequality in the sports industry. We also curate news and provide a female lens on issues being faced by females in the sports industry that you should be aware of, that you should care about and that you want to care about. Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse of more than 300 young female athletes, the unfairness of Serena losing her WTA seeding because she wanted to have a baby, to name a couple. And we provide a female lens not only on these heavy topics, but also on the lighter stuff too.
Wrapping It Up
At the end of the day, we want to empower women through sport. We want to deliver sports content in a way it has not previously been offered. We want to fill a gap in the industry. We want to give female athletes some media time. We want to provide a female lens on issues in the sports industry and to highlight those issues faced by women. We want to educate women who want to learn more about sports (like me sometimes!). We want to offer women the opportunity to fall in love with sports and to make that part of their lives however they want to, whether that’s to connect with people in personal and professional settings, or to purely just enjoy it for what it is and leave it at that. The choice is yours. The difference now is we want to give you the choice in the first place.