Welcome to Part IV of “The Women of TGS” series, where we bring you thoughts and stories from the female contributors of The Tailgate Society. Today’s featured contributor is writer and TGS editor Nicole Gustafson.
“The year 2020 has been really tough for a lot of people, and it’s definitely made clear for me that sports enrich our lives in so many ways.”
What teams/sports do you follow?
I mainly follow the Green Bay Packers, Chicago Cubs, and Iowa State Cyclones. I have a soft spot for the New York Yankees because they were my dad’s team before I picked the Cubs as my own. I would consider myself an extremely casual fan of the Chicago Blackhawks and Milwaukee Bucks, but I don’t watch hockey or NBA often. And I’m beginning a Minnesota Lynx fandom thanks to former Cyclone Bridget Carleton.
How did you become a fan?
I became a fan of sports overall by watching them with my dad. He literally always had sports on and would watch anything. The Packers, Yankees, Blackhawks, and Bucks were his teams. So I mostly held onto those, but since the Yankees were so successful when I was a kid, it was not popular to be a Yankee fan in Iowa! I remember my 7th grade social studies teacher reading us a joke before class – a list of all the things that had happened since the Cubs last won the World Series. I had grown up going to Iowa Cubs games in Des Moines so I felt defensive of them. That, if you can believe it, was when I became a Cubs fan. I grew up kind of a UNI fan in college sports because both of my parents went there. But since Iowa State was the closest to Des Moines, my dad and I went to more ISU events than anything else. I would say I’ve always liked Iowa State, but I fully became a fan when I went there as a student.
What is your favorite sports moment?
My favorite sports moment was definitely the Cubs winning the World Series. Obviously it was super hyped up because it wasn’t just winning a championship, it was breaking a streak. Then add Game 7. Then add the rain delay. It was kind of a weird sports memory because I was alone, and there was no one to celebrate with. But it was the most surreal sports moment I’ve felt. I didn’t know if they could really pull it off.
What is your least favorite sports moment?
I’ve had some tough sports moments. I survived the Cubs losing 100 games in a season. I watched the Packer defense get soul-snatched by Eli Manning and Colin Kaepernick again and again. But no team has broken my heart like the Cyclones. I think losing Georges Niang to a broken foot was the worst blow, but they weren’t eliminated at that moment so I would say my worst moment was when they lost to UAB in the first round of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
How have sports impacted you and your life?
Sports have had a big impact on my life. They gave me something to bond with my dad over. I enjoy light trash talk with opposing fans and playing fantasy sports with my friends. I did an internship and graduated college with the intention of being a sports reporter. It was the first job I ever actually enjoyed. The year 2020 has been really tough for a lot of people, and it’s definitely made clear for me that sports enrich our lives in so many ways. I’m glad we have found a way to safely have a little sports (as a treat).
Is there a particular athlete who inspires you? Why?
I don’t really have an athlete that inspires me. I try not to put them on pedestals because they’re all just humans, but I appreciate the good work they do. Anthony Rizzo, whom I named my dog after, is a cancer survivor who visits hospitalized children a lot. He has a foundation that organizes several charitable events every year. Aaron Rodgers has worked with the Wisconsin charity MACC Fund, which is also for children with cancer.
What is your hottest sports take?
My hottest sports take is probably that I hate the DH in baseball, but I have lost that fight as of this year. My mind will never be changed, though.
If you could say one thing and know the entire sports world would listen, what would it be?
If I could say one thing and the entire sports world would listen, I would tell everyone to promote and support sports for women and girls. I was fortunate to grow up playing sports and watching women’s sports. My dad never made me feel like the games or the athletes were lesser. But the reality is that women’s sports struggle to find the funding and the exposure that men’s sports have. The USWNT is proof that people do appreciate women’s sports. We have to invest in them to get new fans in the door. If we assume that most people don’t already have a favorite women’s team, we have to find a way to get them attached to one. Put their games on big name, easily accessible channels. Show their highlights on SportsCenter. Don’t make their scores so difficult to find on apps. Stop tweeting stats about cities or tournaments like the women’s teams don’t count. And for the love of god, if you hear a man (it’s always a man) talking about how women’s sports are inferior, tell him to shut the fuck up.
Nicole was born in Chicago and raised in Des Moines. She took her talents to The Iowa State University, where she earned a degree in journalism. You can find Nicole cheering on her favorite sports teams, hanging out with her dog, or finishing a Netflix marathon. Nicole is a big fan of #pitcherswhorake, fat guy TD’s, and carbs. She’s not a fan of mornings, winter, or vegetables and will complain to anyone who will listen.