Professional sports are a male-dominated domain, like most things. Because of this, the views, participation and acceptance of women into this domain can often be suppressed or omitted. That’s not to say we haven’t come a long way in the past few decades, but generally speaking this is still the case.
Part of the positive progress has been the influx of female journalists and analysts in the game of baseball (and I’m sure in other sports as well, although I can’t speak to that). Some of the best baseball writers around are women. Amy K. Nelson, Susan Slusser, Cee Angi and Wendy Thurm are but a few examples of exceptionally qualified and intelligent women covering the game. There should be more, but at least it’s slowly changing.
Yet, from time to time, the old-guard peeks its ugly head into the room and reminds us that we still have so far to go.
Today, during the Braves-Blue Jays broadcast on FOX SportSouth, Braves’ colour commentator and former All-Star outfielder Dale Murphy (or it could have been Joe Simpson, who was also doing colour) made a comment that quite frankly should have no place in the popular discourse.
During said broadcast, the crew threw to a correspondent who had apparently asked a question on the station’s Facebook page about Braves starting pitcher Brandon Beachy. The correspondent (herself a woman) remarked at the high number of female respondents to the question and decided to read one aloud from a woman named Erica Johnson:
“He kinda sneaks up on ya. You don’t expect him to be as good as he is. I think he could be a good number 2 or a great number 3!”
When the correspondent threw back to the play-by-play crew, Murphy or Simpson said the following:
“Is she talking about boyfriend or pitcher?”
*Snickers in the background*
“He kind of sneaks up on you, you know, he’s…available. That sortuh thing.”
Because, you know, we can’t have women saying intelligent things about something that is usually the domain of males! We must remind the viewership that although the words are intelligent, they ultimately mean less coming from a woman and they must somehow be tied to her need of a heterosexual relationship with a man.
UPDATE: I have now confirmed it was Simpson who made the comment, but both Murphy and Caray snickered at it and neither called him on it. Complicity is just as problematic as execution.
I don’t so much blame the Braves’ broadcast crew as I do the passive acceptance of this type of thing by the wider public. Those who occupy broadcast booths are probably not given helpful and necessary diversity training that may aide them in overcoming their reliance on such stale and often hurtful stereotypes. No one will call the offender into their office and tell him he needs to more closely monitor the things that come out of his mouth, because very few people will even see it as a problem.
This speaks to the importance of a diversity of voices in sports commentary; and in everything, really. Sexist, homophobic and racist language still permeates the sports landscape and more women, ethnic minorities and people from the LGBT community in positions of power will help eradicate the problem.
You may think I’m being overly sensitive and politically correct in bringing up such a relatively minor offense executed in passing, but it is this type of subtle discourse that propagates the problem. I’m not necessarily saying that Murphy or Simpson (or whoever) is personally sexist, but that they operate in a paradigm that is sexist, where it becomes okay to say things like this and get away with it, without so much as a talking to.
Cultural theorist Stuart Hall regards the formation and use of language as the central vehicle for the deliverance of power to one group over another. In other words, oppression and subsequent liberation occurs first in the language we use. If this is true, even delicately sexist language like this is exactly the type of thing that should be of paramount concern to all of us; whether or not we’re affected by it directly.