It’s that time of year again. Football is back, which means it’s also time for at least one Milwaukee media outlet to inevitably decide to fill time and bandwidth with an antiquated guide to help its female listeners/viewers/readers survive the NFL season while in the proximity of the powerless, sports-crazed drones to whom they are bound by love. This season, the unsavory honor went to WTMJ’s John Mercure, who led an on-air interview with professional matchmaker Stephanie Kluver of ItsJustLunch.com Tuesday afternoon.
Even after getting past the word “survive” being used in a headline of a piece about relationships and football in this post-Ray Rice-elevator knockout video world, the segment—likely something a producer forgot to cut from the show schedule weeks ago—and accompanying post serve literally no function, except to set the progress of ever-blending domestic gender roles back approximately 60 years in under four minutes.
In the text that accompanies the insipid bit of audio, the host claims “This time of year can be tough for men” because the abundance of pigskin action gets in the way of other aspects of our lives. “How can we be expected to be good husbands and fathers when there is a game on almost every night of the week?” Mercure writes. Fortunately, Kluver was called in to help women assist men in maximizing their football viewing, while avoiding all that basic human respect and relationship etiquette bullshit.
The clip finds Mercure—to his credit, seeming to employ a sarcastic “why are you making me do this shit?” tone—asking Kluver, “Why won’t you guys just let us watch some football?” The matchmaker readily admits there are women who like football, but also delves into man’s collective obsession with the sport, saying, around this time of year “they start succumbing to the high demands of this higher power, which is football season.” As intense as the ambrosia of concussions, car commercials, and Cletus the Fox Sports robot apparently is to us weak NFL fans, Kluver is quick to offer some handy tips to break the spell. While courting, she recommends women gauge their potential partner’s obsession by “strategically” scheduling a date the same day as a game and seeing how he handles it. Secretly issuing tests to witness the behavior of a relatively new boyfriend bodes well for a long and trusting relationship, right? She essentially goes on to say if your man can’t put down the remote during regulation on Thursdays, Sundays, and Mondays, there’s only one course of action. No, don’t break up with him quite yet. Instead, try to set dates on the football-free nights of Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday.
Kluver also offers a tip or two to the fellas out there, including “let her host a football party” for you. That’s right…LET her do that. Do the right thing, guys, and allow your partner to clean obsessively, bake maniacally, and tidy up for you and your friends on her weekend. Who said romance is dead? After the guests leave, make sure not to deprive your significant other of the immense pleasure of cleaning up after the party you so graciously permitted her to throw.
In all, this throwaway segment is an overt means to fill time. However, unlike the station’s discussion about whether lip balm should be banned in schools (which actually happened on WTMJ last week), this lame and altogether lazy attempt to co-opt the popularity of the station’s Green Bay Packers coverage irresponsibly thrusts both women and men into now-ill-fitting molds that were cast decades ago. Even amid the NFL’s ongoing suggestion it doesn’t care about its female fans via its botched initial handling in the Rice case, women make up a significant portion of the league’s viewership. A recent Washington Post article estimates the figure to be around 45 percent. With more fantasy football players emerging from all corners of society, it’s not taking a great leap to assume more women are partaking than ever as well. Yes, there are still women out there who only take interest in Clay Matthews’ muscles, the social element of a Packers party, and how their self-modified pink jersey looks on them, but that sect of female fan is quickly going the way of the buffalo. Besides, there’s no shortage of men who turn up on game day who aren’t truly invested.
Almost as insulting as the station’s sweeping generalization of women is its reduction of men to our most basic, almost caveman-like form. The segment (and more so, the text within the post) seems to imply a loss of control, a battle against “football psychosis” (which evidently can only afflict the male part of a couple, not the other way around), almost as if we all operate on auto-pilot each season as slaves to the almighty God of football—our lawns, children, and relationship quality be dammed. Though millions of American men (present company very much included) watch a staggering amount of football each weekend of the season, it’s foolish to suggest we’re incapable of functioning between snaps and after the final whistle blows. My laundry remains done, I’m still capable of washing dishes at halftime, and preparing dinner between the 3:15 game and NBC nightcap. I know I’m not alone. To imply males lose basic human function for roughly half of each week between every September and February is a damming, though fortunately inaccurate, assessment of our sex.
Though brazenly suggested in yesterday’s broadcast, the world isn’t some sitcom-like realm where helpless man-children are wont to require their unrealistically attractive wives/replacement mommies to keep the cold cuts and cans of implicitly-labeled Budweisers coming, lest he be forced to leave his lucky seat on the couch. The 216 seconds of essentially dead air WTMJ broadcasted statewide Tuesday was, at its root, meaningless. But that’s the thing: it was meaningless. Every year a station dusts off this stale “Survival” storyline and trots it out to force feed to an almost non-existent slice on a pie chart of its female listeners/viewers, it only perpetuates the exaggerated game day gender roles that no longer apply to most of society. It’s AM thinking in an FM world. Let couples find their own unique balance, and stick to the lip balm commentary.