Becky L. Jacobs

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Tennessee Journal of Race, Gender & Society


In the wonderful, magical realism of the iconic baseball movie, Field of Dreams, Kevin Costner’s character, Ray Kinsella, hears the phrase, “If you build it, he will come,” as he walks in his Iowa fields. The voice’s pronouncement was prophetic, and, when Ray builds a baseball diamond, Shoeless Joe Jackson and other long-dead baseball legends do come – they come to play baseball on his field. Authors R. Vivian Acosta and Linda Jean Carpenter also make use of this movie quote in one of their biennial reports on women in intercollegiate sport. Regrettably, however, while Title IX has made strides in fulfilling its promise to female athletes to build them an equal playing field at the intercollegiate level, a better movie analogy is probably the 1992 movie, A League of Their Own, starring Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, Madonna, and Rosie O’Donnell. The movie is based upon a team of athletes from the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (“AAGPBL”), a women's professional baseball league founded in 1943 by Philip K. Wrigley and several other major league baseball executives when professional male players were fighting in World War II. Like the real players in the AAGPBL, the players in the movie constantly worry about their futures, particularly when the war ends and the male athletes return home. This concern is not a Hollywood construct. During the course of its existence, attendance at AAGPBL games at times was strong, attracting as many as 10,000 people at one memorable Fourth of July double-header in 1946. Attendance peaked during the 1948 season when ten teams attracted 910,000 paying fans. However, as more and more time passed after the end of World War II, attendance and revenue declined, and the league eventually disbanded in 1954. Except for a few very rare cases, this is the reality of women’s sports, and, while Title IX can do many things, it apparently has yet to change public opinion and preference. Title IX seemingly has not yet had a significant impact on spectatorship and revenue for women’s sports, and, in this essay, I want to explore the relationship between attendance at women’s sporting events, revenues at a collegiate level, and how these factors might impact the motivation of women to participate in sports or to become professional athletes.

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