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The Daily Tar Heel

COLUMN: Why girls shouldn't be afraid to love sports

Jillian Fellows
Sports desk writer Jillian Fellows.

When I was 8 years old, the Red Sox broke their 86-year World Series drought with one epic comeback against the New York Yankees, and one perfect sweep against the St. Louis Cardinals. 

I thought the entire world was rooting the Red Sox to pull it off from my hometown in Webster, Massachusetts. 

In my little mind, baseball was the most enormous thing in the world. It was dramatic, rewarding, and extraordinary all at the same time. I fell in love with that 2004 team, and every Sox team that came after it.

Growing up, I was a sports fan just like any other kid. I watched my dear Red Sox go on to win several more championships throughout the years, along with the New England Patriots, and some bonus wins from the Celtics and Bruins. 

I researched the old greats adamantly. I could tell you just about any player’s stats on command. I was just a typical kid who loved sports.

But there was one thing not so typical: I was a girl. 

And where I’d love to say that this was only one small detail of my fandom, and that it really didn’t matter in the grand scheme of things, it became the whole crux of who I was. 

As a girl, I wasn’t expected to care about things like how Derek Lowe pitched the most spectacular no-hitter in ‘02, or how I knew right from the start that Dustin Pedroia would send all those pitches deep into the Green Monster at Fenway Park.

The girls in school picked on me for wearing my Manny Ramirez jersey all throughout October, and what’s worse was that the boys shut me out of all their exclusive sports conversations.

“Did you see the game last night?” They’d say. “Do you think Buchholz could be better than Lester?”  

As I bit my tongue—for fear of it being ripped right off by the cruel worlds of adolescent boys—I learned that girls and baseball could never mix. I supposed, by the age of 13, that I was better off hiding my passion in the dark than accept that not everyone would understand why I loved what I loved.

I dreamt in private of growing up to become a part of my passion, somehow. I wanted everyone to believe that females could become as successful as men in the sports industry. 

Most importantly, I wanted to believe that for myself.

By the start of college, I ventured off into the curious world of journalism and newspaper writing. 

Lo and behold, what I really desired to write was sports. And I did.

I imagine that I grew a bit naive after those middle school years, that once I entered adulthood I would finally be understood simply as a sports fan, and that the imbalances would finally disappear. 

I’ve spent the last three years of college on the sports desk. At the two colleges I’ve attended, I have made up around the two to six females that actively write sports. 

In the press box, in the interview rooms, on the field, I have been surrounded by mostly all men during my career. This isn’t very surprising, as more than 85 percent of sports writers are in fact male.

And I have felt very small at times. There are still moments where I long to run away, claim a spot somewhere on the bleachers and hide from the noise.

There have been many times when I’ve felt unworthy and incompetent during my sports writing career, where I don’t believe that I could possibly ever write as well as my male colleagues. 

We often like to believe that women cannot understand and love the game as deeply as men do, that us females will eventually reveal ourselves as frauds or as inadequate—that those ‘04 Red Sox memories are reserved only for a certain subset of people, one that doesn’t include me in it.

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When I was younger, I dreamt of being that one female voice broadcasting on my TV. I was searching for a role model, a woman who loved the game so fiercely that no one would ever doubt her. 

Although I’m not quite sure of where my career will go nowadays as my junior year at UNC comes to an end, I yearn to be the role model for the kid I once was.

To you cherished young girls who watch your teams so diligently from the uneasy, jagged place in which you stand, you must know that loving sports has no rules. 

You do not need to be anything other than who you are. Young or old, male or female, it just doesn’t matter. 

@jillianfellows2

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com