Cover for Ortiz: The Sport Marriage: Women Who Make It Work. Click for larger image

The Sport Marriage

Women Who Make It Work

Survival and sacrifice with the ultimate team players

In The Sport Marriage, Steven M. Ortiz draws on studies he conducted over nearly three decades that focus on the marital realities confronted by women married to male professional athletes. These women, who are usually portrayed in unflattering and/or unrealistic terms, face enormous challenges in their attempts to establish and maintain functional marital and family lives while the husband routinely puts his career first.

Ortiz defines the traditional sport marriage as a career-dominated marriage, illustrating how it encourages women to contribute to their own subordination through adherence to an unwritten rulebook and a repertoire of self-management strategies. He explains how they make invaluable contributions to their husbands’ careers while adjusting to public life and trying to maintain family privacy, managing power and control issues, and coping with pervasive groupies, overinvolved mothers, a culture of infidelity, and husbands who prioritize team loyalty. He gives these historically silent women a voice, offering readers an in-depth analysis of and perceptive insight into what it means to be a woman in the male-dominated world of professional sports.

"In this keenly observed, empathic, and insightful work, Steven Ortiz recounts the inner experience of wives married to both a man and his sports career. Ortiz observes the precise order in which wives sit on the bench in the stadium, how they respond to affair-seeking groupies, to more senior sports wives, news of a sudden cross-country trade, an intrusive mother-in-law, a lasting head-injury. He explores the complex art of managing a backstage role. This is the best book I know of on the sport marriage."--Arlie Russell Hochschild, author of Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right

"In this insightful book, Steven Ortiz unveils the heretofore hidden realities of the lives of women who marry male pro athletes. Beneath the veneer of public glory and fortune the general public may assume makes for a perfect life, Ortiz reveals the stresses and strains of women’s emotional and managerial labor as 'marriage workers' in a high-pressure, career-dominated marriage. Through sensitive interviewing and deft observation, Ortiz shows both the oppressive costs of these women’s subordination within the sport marriage, and their creative, and even sometimes resistant, strategies to assert and meet their own and their children’s needs."--Michael A. Messner, coeditor of No Slam Dunk: Gender, Sport, and the Unevenness of Social Change


Steven M. Ortiz is an associate professor of sociology at Oregon State University.

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