With the traditional holidays behind us, it's time to gear up for the sports fans' holiday season: the NFL playoffs. And when I say gear up, I mean it, ladies.
With today's NFL merchandising, we women can dress just like a wide receiver or assistant coach on our favorite team, the same way the guys do. Foam fingers may be one-size-fits all, but that has been little consolation for women wanting to wear their favorite team's colors.
Women's game-day gear used to consist of borrowing your boyfriend's oversized football jersey or sweatshirt. Today, there are entire lines of clothing designed and cut for a woman's shape and taste. The NFL online store has a whole page dedicated just to women's sports fashions, including a collection of football-inspired jackets, jerseys and more designed by popular actress Alyssa Milano. That means the shirts have waists and hips, and don't hang down past our knees.
The NFL counts its women followers in large numbers, with some studies saying women make up as much as 43 percent of the fan base.
Steelers faithful can be particularly proud that Pittsburgh has been a leader in the trend toward wooing the women. For years, the Steelers have hosted a football camp just for the ladies, and it sells out in a hurry. That means a hardcore smash-mouth football team with no cheerleaders is one of the most forward-thinking when it comes to their female fans. Other NFL teams are following suit, with ladies' clubs and other special promotions.
The league also reaches out to women in its commercials, recognizing that those who control the purse strings control the world, or at least the holiday shopping lists. But women aren't just buying football stuff to give as gifts, they're buying it for themselves.
There was a time when sports merchandise for women consisted of cake pans, cookie cutters and dip dishes shaped like footballs. Fortunately, those are still available, and thanks to gender equity in sports, lots of men use them when they whip up their specialties for their pre-game parties. Giving credit where credit is due, some of our best tailgating cooks are men.
So let's celebrate this age of sporting enlightenment, where fans of all genders, ages and races are recognized: where men can enjoy the playoffs with their women friends and (do I dare say) wives, rather than viewing sports as an escape from the gentler sex. Women, meantime, can love football and enjoy it all with their men friends and husbands, without being afraid to show off their gridiron knowledge and enthusiasm.
Who would have thought that a sport with blitzes, bombs and bootlegs could bring Mars and Venus together. Forget the battle of the sexes: football may be the universal language of love. Let the games begin.
Kellie Goodman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her column appears on Tuesdays.