The U.S. Open Tennis Tournament starts tomorrow. After reading “Pets Are the Portable Part of a Tennis Player’s Entourage” in the August 30, 2009 New York Times online, I winced internally. Even before reading the story, I thought to myself, “I bet this story is all about dogs owned by female professional tennis players.” I read the story waiting and hoping that just one male player with a furry canine tournament companion would be mentioned. Nada. So it left me with many questions.
Owning a dog is an equal opportunity activity, so why does it appear that only women players have dogs as part of their entourage? The NYT article offers some explanations that are predictable such as companionship, relieves boredom, dogs don’t care if you win or lose their tails always wag, and dogs calm nerves and ease stress to name a few. But the doggie gender gap in pro tennis seems odd to me.
Are male tennis players dog haters? Are the women pros more lonely on tour than the men, therefore travel with dogs to ease the solitary life of tennis travel? Neither of these explanations seem likely or realistic. Do male players in reality travel with dogs but this is not a “media worthy” story? What does it say if a male travels with a dog verses a female player? A dog is an appropriate companion for women but not males? If females have a doggie buddy does it make them appear more feminine? Therefore if a male player had a little Poodle or Yorkie, it might not be perceived as manly–would his competitive nature be called into question? But male players could have a Pitbull or German Shepard or even a Yellow Lab, but I get that traveling with a small dog is much easier and cost effective. Facetiousness aside, why are the dogs of female pro tennis players newsworthy on the eve of a Grand Slam? Is there no other news in women’s tennis? Does coverage of dogs marginalize female players’ athleticism? Does it make them appear less serious and more frivolous…likening them to celebutante Paris Hilton? Does it somehow further construct a brand of femininity that is marketable? What do you think?
Besides news that (women’s) tennis has gone to the dogs, be sure to keep your critical eye on how the media covers two players who have something in common–their parents! Kim Clijsters returns after a two year maternity leave and Roger Federer is a new father of twins. Which player will we hear more “parent talk” about and more discussion of how parenthood affects one’s tennis performance? Any guesses?
note: picture from Free Dog Wallpapers.