Sports vs ?

imgres-1Now more than ever women are finally making their way into the board room, building successful companies, finding shared equality at the C-level and are having their voices heard for change.  It is a positive change across all dimensions of our work life and our home life.

I have found myself countless times in a room of men or at a dinner table with men who come from all walks of life.  Students, investors, entrepreneurs, producers and more who each come from different socioeconomic backgrounds with different personal goals and interests.  There is one common denominator that men have (not all men but my guess is 90% of men) it is sports.

Men who literally have no common interests and have never met before can somehow start a conversation connector with sports.  It is fascinating.  A group of guys who really don’t know each other can go out for a meal or meet at an event and begin talking about sports and all of sudden there is a common connection that changes the game.  I have witnessed this time and time again.

What is the common conversation denominator for women?  I can toss out a variety of topics from motherhood to books to fashion to politics to exercise but 90% of all women are not interested in those topics.  There are pockets of women who can connect on these different topics and generally nobody starts off the conversation with “how about the new look for fall” vs “how about those trades the Knicks just made”.  The Knicks toss out into a room of men generally starts up the conversation.

Perhaps men find comfort in the simplicity of talking sports where as women have to work harder to find that common connection. Sports is not only a common denominator it equalizes the playing field and creates a connection in this strange way.  I sometimes wish that women had something like sports to talk about.

Comments (Archived):

  1. awaldstein

    Not into sports at all.To me wine and fitness are my connectors to the world, cross genders, cross everything.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Love it

      1. awaldstein

        Wellness on the nutritional front especially with women is an connector for me.Doesn’t matter if they have children, nor what age, nor what they do.The power in the wellness world (some $2T a year in spend) is that it is driven by the idea of people being in control of their health, their sense of power, their sense of beauty and rolls over in massive waves everywhere.And surprisingly, everyone is looking for information that is simply not there: Ex–what is the real reason gluten is bad for you that is driving the massive gluten free trend. It isn’t bad for you really at all, but it does almost nothing good for you.Enjoy!

        1. Gotham Gal

          As for me, it is a conversation I don’t enjoy having.

          1. awaldstein

            With you then I”ll talk wine and travel.

          2. Gotham Gal

            fair enough

          3. LE

            I never fail to be impressed with the wide variety of food you are able to eat (that I can’t). In no way do I have a stomach that could even come close to being able to tolerate that wide variety of food (I have to stick to the basics only unfortunately). Seeing where you go, and what you eat, reminds me of Anthony Bourdain…

    2. AMT Editorial Staff

      Food, wine, fitness, books. 🙂

  2. drmarasmith

    Actually, I think sports is a connector for women as well! I also don’t think there is a “universal connector – for either gender. Being open minded, present and thoughtful leads to connections and converstion. Perhaps the context is more important than the particular topic.

  3. Inna Raykhman

    i disagree, i think motherhood is a common conversation topic for women, those who r mothers, just because its so bloody bewildering) at the same time, a lot of women (me for example) r not very accepting of the fact that a biological process is so defining. so there is an inherent fight, at least in me.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Someone said that to me the other night when we had this conversation. Motherhood spans generations and many do not have children.

  4. Matt Kruza

    Yeah sports are hard to top. Just had this conversation a week ago with one of the smartest women (and very career minded and successful in financial world). I think sports is so triggering because its the closest to pure animal instincts, primal activity that modern society has, while still being safe. Its also a high passion, but low conflict / tension topic. I am a super cleveland sports and Ohio State fan, and love giving shit to michigan fans (i think they might beat us in football if we let them have 13 men on the field..), but its never too hard of feeelings. SOme of the other topics brought up here, fitnes and motherhood specifically don’t have the same level of passion, but also can be contentious (can seem like you are saying my fitness is wrong, or for a woman that does have kids that those who don’t are “doing it wrong” etc.). I really don’t think there is anything on a macro level as comparable to sports. Interesting though if the best answer isn’t just to have women use sports like men do? I know many woman whoknow more about sports than most guys.. so perhaps just sticking with sports is a good topic? I suppose one hesitancy is that 90%+ of sports discussed has been adn probably will be about mens sports so from a gender balance that can be disconcerting.

    1. Gotham Gal

      agree…sports are hard to top.

  5. Brandon Burns

    The only sport I follow is tennis. Imagine being that guy in the room. :-/

    1. pointsnfigures

      You need to go to different rooms!

      1. Brandon Burns

        Ha. I’ll let your above comment about women and Federer speak for itself. :-PSpeaking of which, at Wimbledon, Federer just played the game of the year. Rooting for him to go all the way.

        1. pointsnfigures

          I joke with my female friends about Federer. Is it the tennis, or is it the man? It’s a little of both for sure!

          1. Brandon Burns

            Federer is a legend. I doubt he’ll see his records beaten while he’s still alive. And certainly no one will ever play as beautifully as him.

          2. Matt Kruza

            Know a little tennis, but not as much as most other sports that I am up to date on. You don’t think djockovich (sp?..i butchered i am sure) will beat? Isn’t he only llike 6 majors back and still has 4-5 good years left?

          3. Brandon Burns

            Djokovic’s 3rd round loss to Querry last week at Wimbledon was embarrassing, but also telling. He seems to be concealing recurring injury issues, the same as Nadal when his tumble from the top started. I think Djokovic will have a Nadal-style flame out, and plateau before he beats Roger.I don’t have any hard evidence for this, other than not really liking Djokovic, lol. A betting man would probably bet that Djokovic tops Federer in a couple years. All he has to do is win 1 major per year until he turns 34, the same age Federer is now. That said, Federer hasn’t won any majors at all since he was 29, the same age Djokovic is now…The fall from the top comes swift and fast… unless your name is Serena Williams, it seems.

          4. Matt Kruza

            appreciate the analysis. all solid points. clearly this is why i asked as you know more on it!

          5. Dorian Benkoil

            Why don’t you like Djokovic?Just asking.

          6. Brandon Burns

            Why does a Steph Curry fan not like LeBron James? Who knows, really. :-PDjokovic is just a bit robotic for me. He’s a great technician, but he’s more likely to win a point by over powering you than outsmarting you. He has an all-court game, but he mostly just fires baseline passing shots down the line. Federer plays with much more diversity, comes to net more often, is a great volleyer, and has no trouble moving around the court to find a winning angle. At the very least, he’s more interesting to watch.Plus I’m prone to rooting for the underdog, which Federer is at this point in his career.

      2. Brandon Burns

        But you’re right, you gotta find the right room for you. Tech bros aren’t my scene. Knowing that is better than not.Good thing dudes in the more creative lines of work, or working tech roles in non-“tech” companies, usually aren’t talking about sports anyway.

        1. pointsnfigures

          That’s for sure! My partner is not “sporty”. We were talking about State Farm Arena and he had no idea what we were referring to

          1. Brandon Burns


  6. pointsnfigures

    Don’t women talk about Roger Federer? That’s sports : )

  7. lisa hickey

    Here’s my thought on men and sports:A guy I know is a salesperson. And he told me that part of the reason he follows sports is because they are such a universal connector with men—who are also 90% of the people he sells to. So he actually uses sports conversations as a business strategy. I don’t actually think it works as well in today’s world as it used to (less time for small talk, more diversity of interests as we see here). But for years he was one of the companies top salespeople. Men are also socialized to enjoy competition, and to not talk about their emotions. So sports gives men the opportunity to express emotion and enjoy competition.On women:I think it was different before the birth of feminism, and the reason it changed was because feminism (I’m using that term very broadly) allowed women to be more multi-dimensional and escape rigid gender roles. This is pure speculation, but I bet that decades ago the conversations were either around motherhood or how to get married to the guy of your dreams. And you had to do that by being pretty (hence some of the focus on beauty). But I am SO happy we’ve expanded beyond that. (I say that as a very happy mother of 4 who talks about her kids every so often).And on the future:As evidenced from the comments by guys here, I believe men are expanding into much more multi-dimensional roles. (Disclosure: My company is all about creating more multi-dimensional, less stereotypical roles for men.) But what I’d like to see with conversations is more easy ways into some of the most pressing issues of our times. For example, some colleagues and I are wondering what would happen if you could work environmentalism into every conversation. Not in a preachy way, or a doom and gloom way, but one that either talks about the grandeur of the natural world we live in or just shares practical advice for moving the world forward together. As an example, a friend of mine went to the dentist, and showed the dentist a bamboo toothbrush and talked about the billions of plastic toothbrushes in the landfills. And the dentist was not only open to it, but said he would discuss it with other dentists. All because of the challenge of “hey, I bet your could have a conversation about the environment with anyone.” Or…using that as a business strategy—as in the sports example above— my daughter noted: “When I go to a business meeting in NYC, people ask me if I want to meet over drinks or coffee. When I go for a business meeting in Boulder, they ask if I want to meet while on a hike in the mountains.” I get that talking about the environment doesn’t seem sexy, or cool, or maybe even all that interesting—-but it *could*.As a women—as a human—I like to talk about the environment, and politics, and technology, and the future—those are grand themes that permeate the majority of my conversations these days. But I’m also willing to jump into conversations about wine and travel and motherhood and sports. I think the multidimensionality of conversations is an huge change that has happened that has personally made my life better.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Lisa…really well thought out. Great comment. Let’s hope for that future.

    2. Matt Kruza

      Lisa, definitely good comment and I actually enjoy talking about many of the topics you list. However, don’t you think some of those topics can be controversial for casual conversation? Sports gets heated, but is easy to keep in context (even for us aggressive, overconfident males!). But environmentalism and politics can get deeply personal, super quickly, and it not easy to brush off fashion like if we disagree on sports. Personally, if ever meet you I would love to discuss the topics you discuss even though I think we might disagree often. I have found that most people aren’t good at handling emotionally charged topics in casual conversation (of course I could have bias and perhaps be bad at it myself- even if I don’t htink i am, but regardless I certainly see most people struggle for sure). Also checking out your goodmen project site. Interesting at first glance. Is it primarily the website, or are there also corporate engagements / culture design work that your company does around those ideals?

      1. lisa hickey

        Hi Matt. I agree that those topics are on the controversial side (although the *really* controversial ones I save til after I get to know someone). But that is the change I see happening in the world. That we have to learn to talk about these things if we are to survive. I disagree with a lot of people—a lot of people disagree with me. Some on this very blog. And honestly, there are still times when it takes great effort to disagree with kindness and empathy and understanding. The more we have people who step up and at least try to do that, the better we will be as a society. At least IMHO.Thanks for checking out The Good Men Project. It’s mostly the website—it took us quite some time to get profitable, and we’re just now beginning to push outwards. We do work with corporations who are interested in the conversation about the changing roles of men, we also run online classes and speak at schools, and we are expanding into live events and in-person meet-ups.

  8. Sandi Lin

    Travel/vacations and food/restaurants 🙂

    1. Gotham Gal

      some of my fave topics.

      1. pointsnfigures

        I’d talk food with anyone….

        1. awaldstein

          You use home made schmaltz in your knaidels?

          1. pointsnfigures

            I get my schmaltz from Butcher and Larder in Chicago. Knaidels aren’t my gig! Only champagne goes with them

  9. LE

    Isn’t the common connector with women “the kids”?I am in the 10% “no interest in sports”. I remember my first girlfriend’s father when he started talking about baseball to me. I said “I don’t follow any sports”. It was if he didn’t even hear me. He just kept talking about sports.In retrospect I wish I knew about sports exactly for the reason you mentioned (you get left out if you don’t). [1] Otoh the time I don’t spend watching sports can be used for something else that is valuable and maybe make up for that. (I think it has actually).[1] I don’t have any interest in sports because my Dad had no interest in sports (he was an immigrant) and I wasn’t involved in a group of kids in high school that were into sports.

  10. LE

    By the way it should be said that another reason that men can’t socialize with women is that they are women. At least if the man is married or in a relationship.I could setup a meeting with any man, and my wife (who isn’t particularly jealous), wouldn’t bat an eye. But if the same casual type meeting was with a woman, it would have to be only under certain really clear circumstances to not raise any eyebrows.

  11. Dannie HD

    Very interesting point @gothamgal:disqus !You made me think about the women groups I joined recently: one is a global group of young makers and the other is an all Israeli women group with +7,000 “supergirls”. From what I could tell, the largest common topics shared are:1. Recommendations (food, products, professionals…)2. Finding new ways of helping others with our knowledge, talent and time3. Improving ourselves by consulting each other and sharing the daily challenges we encounter.In other words, our “sport” is being open, honest and authentic. 😉

    1. lisa hickey

      I love the idea that finding new ways to help others with knowledge, talent and time has become a common ground.

  12. Jessie Arora

    Love the way you articulate this. I’ve often thought about this exact topic, and specifically the ability for men to remember detailed performance data from decades ago. It is a universal interest.

    1. Gotham Gal

      what my brother can remember about sports events 30 years ago boggles the mind.

      1. Jessie Arora