Saturday, December 20, 2008

Ah, To Be A Woman That Writes Sports

I try to be an extremely neutral and accepting person. I cover all sports with the same enthusiasm. Women, men, children, and everyone else regardless of whatever demographic group you are in can come and be interviewed, covered, and make comments. Sports is sports in my eyes...if that makes any sense. It does not matter to me who is playing the sport.

Anyhoo...I am in on the fact that not everyone feels that way. As I was wondering what I would write about today I thought I'd share some stories that would not probably not happen in the same way if I was male. Please comment if you feel differently.

First off, even coaches and players that "like me" and are "buds" say some pretty silly things. I was on the sideline of a game watching a play that was a 4th and goal situation. Sometimes when I have the video rolling, I "see" the play without really seeing the play. There was another person standing near me talking and I basically turned around and when I looked back, there was 8 points on the board. Alright, they obviously made the touchdown and a 2-point conversion. What I was thinking to say to one of the others on the sideline was, "Wow, that was quick to get a TD and the 2 points in that short amount of time." Instead, I said, "Wow, what happened?" The gentleman next to me proceeded to explain that a touchdown was worth six points and they didn't kick for the point after...yadda yadda. I recall thinking how interesting that this person knew I was a sports writer but felt that I didn't know how 8 points could get on the board. I wonder if he would have given a man the same response? I just walked to the other end of the field since the kickoff was happening.

One of my favorites was the high school football coach that I was emailing to get an interview with. I was writing for a small, local print publication and trying to get some info since he was newly hired. I left my phone number for him to contact me when he had a chance. Okay, maybe my first name doesn't exactly register to some if they glance quickly, but I am pretty sure that "Apryl" is not a man's name. At any rate, I received a phone call for asking for "Mr. DeLancey". I explained that I was his wife and asked who was calling. It was the football coach I had contacted. He wanted to talk to the sports writer. I calmly explained that it was actually me that he was looking for. He asked that I email the questions and he'd get them right back to me. Great. He did eventually give me the answers, but he sure took his time.

Another funny thing is covering golf. When I go to fittings or talk to instructors, they like to get very close to help me with my swing. My husband, being the golf nut that he is, always accompanies me to these golf events. The instructor or fitter still gets very close to me and barely shakes his hand. I mean, they do shake his hand but they describe what he should do where they feel they need to actually hold my arms to do the same thing.

I heard an interview with ESPN's Linda Cohn once describing the same sorts of experiences. She even commented that the men on ESPN will jokingly say that a baseball team beat another "by a touchdown" if the score had a seven point differential. Will she? Never. She said that she would never hear the end of that and everyone would assume she knows nothing about baseball.

I may sound aloof about this as I write about it to you in a tongue-in-cheek manner. I just always take the high road. Imagine how much fuel I would give naysayers if I lectured or became angry with them. I will just carry on, covering sports and enjoying every minute of it. I mean really, it does not matter what job you are doing whether you are a woman or a man...someone will always be there to criticize.


Lindsay said...

I thought this post was really interesting. One thing I've noticed is when I used to play college rugby and even now when I attend games, men on the sidelines or men's players who don't know me well feel they have to explain to me what's going on. I know I have twice the amount of rugby experience as all of them and they assume I don't know anything. When I was a college freshmen, all the male players treated me like I'd never seen a rugby ball before. Turned out they didn't know much about the game and I had to teach them some of the rules.

I handle the situations in the same way you do. Mostly because I'm not quick enough to come up with a smart-ass comment

I was the sports writer for our college paper for a semester, and I can't remember any situations where people were intentionally or unintentionally sexist.

And One said...

Hey - I was talking about this topic the other day over at Black Fives blog. Claude Johnson ran a piece about people who say Obama isn't "black" enough and how ridiculous that is as a concept.

Here's the comment I posted:

As a woman, this hits home. Do I throw like a girl? No. Is that an insulting reference? Yes. Do I represent all women? No. Are references to me qualified by physical descriptions? Yes. Are references to men prefaced by height and weight? Rarely.

Is it wrong to have gender-specific organizations if the eventual goal isn’t mainstream integration? I don’t know. Is being apart the same as being equal? No. Am I tired of being a “female sports writer” when my peers are simply “sports writers”? Yes.

So what does it mean to be a woman? I hate to shop, I hate to dress up, I hate to cook; am I not woman enough? [Shrugs] Is there a point to discussing whether someone is woman (or black) enough? If so, I haven’t found it yet.

I am who I am. No label will ever capture the wonder/beauty/individuality/soul of a human being.

In the meantime, there’s so much to do, so much to see, so many people to hug. Let’s have a Label-Less Day and see what happens.

Apryl DeLancey said...

Lindsay, I'm glad you never experienced any misogyny while you were a writer. The rugby tales don't surprise me.

Yes! Label-free! I try so hard at that. This is why I cover everything with the same enthusiasm. I like no labels because we are all individual regardless of our demographic. Let's start pushing for label-free living!

Lindsay said...

Great point Carolyn! The worst is when I actually find myself falling into the trap of being a certain way, as in actually trying to act, look or dress a certain way just to impress someone else or try to fit in.

It's scary that people do it without even realizing it sometimes!

Doret said...

The You Tube clip was perfect as always. How long does it usually take to find those. I don't know why this still happens its 2008, woman watch and play sports, its not a radical idea. The other day I turned passed a womens college basketball game -two men were calling the game. I am okay with that but why can't two women call a mens game, it just doesn't seem right. And I am still waiting for a woman to do MNF. Any guesses on when that will happen. I usually prefer female reporters in the box, they don't try to out talk each other or prove how much they know about the sport, and they're always familiar with the game.

Apryl DeLancey said...

Thanks Doret! It does not take me very long to find a video, I guess I get lucky! I wish women would be commentators in all mainstream sports myself. Someday, we'll have Carolyn's label-free world!