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.

Hat tip to @PitholeCreek, @wheeler_josh and @buck65 on Twitter for helping me figure out who exactly was announcing the game.

Comments (74)

  1. Good take on the situation. These guys thought they were funny. They weren’t. They came off as out of touch cavemen.

  2. Thank you for pointing this out. I am a woman and was listening to the broadcast today. When this happened, I had a very negative, angry reaction to whoever responded (I’m also not sure if it was Simpson or Murphy, thought I’m leaning toward Simpson). As you pointed out, the fan’s comment was a very informed one and should not have been diminished by the broadcaster simply because she was a woman. I hope whichever broadcaster did this has it brought to his attention that his response was entirely inappropriate.

  3. You are overly sensitive. They made a sexist joke that wasn’t funny. I don’t have a problem with female sports writers, I have a problem with writers, analysts or talking heads who never played sports at a high level. When they talk about “codes” , “Culture” or just the intangibles about a sport I can’t listen because I know they don’t have a fucking clue about what they’re talking about. I’m not sexist in the least and I don’t mind women being involved with sports broadcasting. The reason I don’t think you see as many females reporting on sports is because the audience knows they never played at a high level and thus does not want to hear their opinion. I feel that way when I know an analyst of EITHER sex hasn’t played sports at a high level and I won’t listen to what they have to say. You can REPORT, but don’t try to analyze cause I know you couldn’t throw one from 60 ft 6 inches away without bouncing it.

    • You are sexist. You are an idiot. Shut your mouth.

      • I am sexist because I don’t like people (men or women) who never laced them up telling me about sports? And think that other people feel the same way? And if it was desired by the consuming population wouldn’t TV networks put more women on to boost ratings and make themselves more money? I didn’t say anything sexist, I just pointed out the audience might be.

    • I couldn’t disagree with you more…I mean that literally.

    • And it also has little (or rather nothing) to do with what I’m talking about here.

    • I don’t really see what being good at sports has to do with being good at reporting on sports.

      • Reporting it doesn’t. I was just talking about analysts. Being a good reporter makes you good at reporting on sports.

        • Wendy Thurm is one of the best “analysts” in the game. Christina Kahrl is one of the founding members of Baseball Prospectus. Got any more idiocy in your back pocket?

          • I was speaking strictly on in game stuff. That was not conveyed at all and my poor comments have been rightly schooled.

        • And oh yeah, women play sports too…remember?

          • They do, and if I’m watching womens sports I would think they would put a former player as colour analyst. Female not male.

        • Being a player doesn’t make you a good analyst though, not in the least. In fact, I can think of only one former player, David Cone, who has actual talent and insight into the game that isn’t “grit heart hustle.”

          It’s pretty apparent that you just dislike the idea of women knowing more than you about a sport, which – surprise! – makes you sexist!

          • Being a player or coach or former front office exec doesn’t make you a good in game on air analyst. There are countless guys on air that are brutal. But the best guys usually are. Name me some of the colour analysts on National TV who didn’t play or coach at an elite level the sport they are covering.

          • vin scully would be the obvious answer.

          • Vin Scully is play by play and just knows fucking everything about any player to ever play anywhere and has more stories than he could ever say so they don’t bother to put a colour man with him.

            Scully also played college baseball.

          • Sean O. – Just because he’s wrong about what makes an analyst qualified doesn’t make him sexist. But you know, gotta love purposefully inflammatory jumps in logic!

    • If you take your ideas to their logical conclusion, then no one on this planet should ever opine on something they haven’t personally been involved in “at a high level”. Thus, non-politicians can’t offer insightful commentary on the decisions and policies of politicians (clearly untrue – see Coyne, Andrew) nor should non-police officers criticize the actions of law enforcement at the G8/G20 two years ago (patently ridiculous) nor should we question the denizens of Wall Street if we haven’t dabbled in credit default swaps or subprime mortgages.

      • You are talking about huge issues that are complex. I’m talking about sports radio or a sporting event on TV.
        Who wouldn’t put more stock into what a former MLB player says about what goes through your head as a pinch hitter in the 13th inning of a tie game than someone who never made the high school baseball team.

        • That’s not necessarily analysis though is it? While interesting no doubt I’d generally rather hear from the guy who might have an idea if that pinch hitter was the right guy to use in that spot in the first place. Many former players can’t and that’s why we tire of listening to guys like Buck Martinez.

          • I’d agree with that. That was just one example. I like the analysts that can do both. Buck is fucking terrible anyways. The radio guys break the game down both ways. They’re both former big leaguers as well. Some are good, some suck.

          • They’re “both” former big leaguers? Maybe you ought to take another look at that.

        • Almost every former player I listen to gives me useless platitudes, and cliche speak. On the Jays broadcast all I get from Tabler is telling me that certain players look “Strong” out there, and how they just have to “get the bat head out there”, and “he’ll provide the power”.

          Most players were so talented, they never had to think the game nearly as much as the “average” fan does.

  4. Subtle? This is one of the more blatant examples – and to list others would keep us here all day.

    The worst are the actual subtle ones because they’re picked up on and talked about even less, and I think the best example was talked about by you yourself months ago on twitter: some of Sportsnet’s new commercials are the epitome of subtle sexism, exclusively using the pronoun “he” when describing a dedicated ‘fan’ in their commercials. That’s the culture of sports, at least the public face of it.

    You’re right in saying though that when it’s more subtle it’s just….accepted, and that’s the problem. Nobody’s taken to task, and nothing changes. It’s easy to stop somebody from saying “X Reporter is a stupid bitch, I wish they would keep females off the sidelines” because that gets backlash, it’s harder to stop them from saying “of course Jane Doe fan wants to keep JP Arencibia and trade Travis D’Arnaud, he has a pretty face” – which, while not equally offensive, is still pretty damn offensive.

    To paraphrase a reporter I can criticize for his journalistic views more than anything else “I guess we just have to ask the question”. And, heh, even me who cares to the nth degree doesn’t enough. I hit mute, I change the channel, and I might tweet about it or talk with whoever’s around me, but that’s not feedback that gets back to the broadcast booth.

    Kudos on putting the post up. Generally it’s not a topic touched on publically unless somebody is calling Amy Nelson an unprintable name’. Bringing attention to it is the only way it’s going to change. I don’t think it will get the backlash you expect though because of the very reason it’s being posted – people don’t care enough.

  5. Amy K. Nelson as an example of an excellent reporter? That hurts your case a lot. Also, the tone of this comes off as an attempt to ingratiate yourself to a specific part of your audience and undermines your point. To be fair, I’m not sure you could have prevented that.

  6. I’m still trying to figure out why you would need the commentators to be the same sex as the sport.

    • Has nothing to do with sex. Networks like to use former players/coaches. If there were women who played/coached in the MLB, NBA, NHL, NFL you would see them move into the broadcast booth after their career.

      • What about the other commentator? You would need that person to be the same sex as the players?

        • The play by play? I wouldn’t have a problem if a woman did it. I’ve never heard or seen that except when Cassie Campbell did HNIC on short notice. Kinda surprising when you think about it that in 25 + years of watching sports I’ve only seen that once. I must be sexist cause I haven’t seen it more often.

          But that has to be by design. Networks would have to have some data on having a female play by play broadcaster doing a major male sport and if it effects their ratings.

          • So you think having a female doing play by play would hurt ratings?

          • I have no evidence to suggest that it would. People are still gonna want to watch the game regardless. Maybe some people will switch to different broadcast, but they do that now if there is a brutal broadcast team on one network and lets say Vin Scully on another.
            I do remember last college bowl season watching like the pinstripe bowl and there was a female on the play by play for espn. Just sounded weird at first because it is unusual but I still watched the game cause I wanted to see it.
            But networks will do anything to boost ratings so I’m positive they have tested it out amongst focus groups and they would have to have some data on it.

          • “Networks would have to have some data on having a female play by play broadcaster doing a major male sport and if it effects their ratings.”

            This is insane. First, because it justifies sexism with an appeal to “data” which, if it even exists, would be no more than evidence of sexism. Second, because you’ve never heard it, or heard it rarely, you assume that women can’t do it or wouldn’t be as successful? That really doesn’t make any sense at all. Isn’t that like saying in 1938 that because you’ve never seen a black person playing in the MLB that they must not be as good?

          • Buddy I never said that women can’t do anything. I bet there is a lot of women who are better at calling a game than some of the male hacks we have on the air now.

            I can tell you for a fact if the hockey night in Canada had a female do the play by play for the game next saturday they would get flooded with calls from people complaining. Thats a FACT. Doesn’t make it right, but it would happen.

            The world is sexist. I was just pointing out that people would complain if there was a female play by play announcer. Like your argument about african americans playing baseball before the 40′s, doesn’t make it right, but people fear the unknown.

  7. make me a sandwhich

  8. There are many, many women in sports media whose work I respect. I read and admire the work of many female sportswriters with regularity. Amy K. Nelson is absolutely not one, though.

  9. White knight detected.

  10. Travis–Kudos to you for stepping up to the plate and offering us something more important than maple-boners to chew on. Kudos as well to those who responded responsibly–the dreaded knuckle-draggers must all be out drinking green beer.

  11. It is tiresome for women to be fans of a team, and constantly be put down because they are “women”. It is assumed that women don’t know enough, never played so can’t possibly have an opinion. It is assumed that women aren’t in the booth because they don’t know anything. When in actuality, it is because they have to fight the “good old boys network” to even get near a job. I have been a baseball fan for more than 50 years, have probably seen more games than most on this board. Did I ever play? Of course not, women weren’t allowed to play. Has it improved? Of course, but it still has a long way to go, and articles like this help to move things along. To the men that stepped up, and read the riot act to the neanderthals, keep up the good work.

  12. I found this pretty offensive as well to be honest. It’s not that I have a problem with off-colour humour in general, but I bet these guys wouldn’t, for example, make a racist joke. The fact that one type of humour that stereotypes a group is not allowed and another is makes it offensive. It’s as if the people concerned are saying “This group of peoples’ feelings matter, but yours do not” to women. Really unfair.

  13. Christina Kahrl, Amanda Rykoff, and Jane McManus – just to name a few more – should have been included in your list.

  14. I think the issue here is that broadcasters have a certain responsibility to their audience to provide informative views, opinions and commentary on the sport, which I do understand is in part an opinion and therefore will cause some disagreements and discussions. However, baseball, like any other sport, reaches a wide audience — men, women and children. I am certainly not one to be easily offended by off-colour comments, but to make such a comment during the broadcast of a baseball game was a poor decision. People are not tuning in or buying tickets to listen or watch a “shock comic”. If they were, then it would be expected that some off-colour jokes would be made. If you become offended by that, then you’re at the wrong show. Baseball fans however are tuning in to watch a game that they love. They listen to the colour commentary in order to gain some added perspective and perhaps an opinion that differs from theirs in order to broaden their scope and understanding of the game.
    This comment added nothing of substance to the broadcast. It was an outright ignorant comment.
    And dumping on Travis for posting his take on the issue is just ridiculous. Why would he want to try and gain more female fans if we don’t know anything about baseball anyway? Or maybe he’s just looking for a girlfriend.

    • You laugh, but someone on Facebook told me I was just looking for a girlfriend. Someone else said I must be gay. I’ve come to expect the least from some people on the internet.

      • Sadly, I am not at all surprised by either of those comments. Apparently the sexism goes both ways. You’re a guy so you must just want to get laid. Such insight people. Sheesh.

      • Agree that Kahrl is outstanding–her opinions are original and her research is thorough. However, I don’t understand the sudden eruption of praise in analytic circles for Wendy Thurm. I have heard her on several podcasts and have read her writing with Sports Blog Nation and Fangraphs and generally find that she is self-indulgent and generally in love with herself (she loves talking about how she made a lot of money as a lawyer.) Also, her recent Fangraphs positional power rankings piece reflected a lack of close research–failing to acknowledge Colby Rasmus’s upside or Adam Jones’s platoon splits, for example. It seems to me that the fact that she was an attorney in her previous career gave her clout and reverence that she really doesn’t deserve.

  15. Really appreciated this article. It was an intelligent and appropriate response to the incident. Thanks TR.

  16. Thanks for writing this…….As a female baseball fan, one who considers herself very knowledgeable and informed, I find it incredibly frustrating that in pretty much every conversation I have ever had with men about baseball, I’m automatically assumed to know less than they do about the game. I know it’s not usually something that’s done on purpose, but it’s exactly what you’ve said – it’s part of the society and paradigm we live in. Keep up your great writing and hopefully we’ll see things change!!

  17. At the Braves Caravan this winter, my cousin asked MattE and Beachy if Kris Medlen got married that day (as was hinted on Twitter). They confirmed he did, and I was standing in front of Joe Simpson who said, “Why, are you heartbroken? Is this devastating news?”

    Now Meds is one of my favorite Braves, but I’m no delusional schoolgirl. I have no dreams of dating / marrying a ballplayer, knowing what their families go through. I wouldn’t even make eye contact with Simpson when I said, “No, he’s just a funny guy,” but I’m sure my face showed my annoyance at his questions.

    I love my Braves but comments like this make me very careful about how I word things. I’m a fan, I know the game, I can even play a little. Just because I’m missing a Y chromosome doesn’t mean I can’t keep up in my own way.

  18. I think Joe Simpson may be of the “women should know their place and not speak of sports because it’s a man’s world out there” mindset. I’m truly disappointed that he made these comments because I’ve been a fan of the Braves for 22 years and he’s been my favorite broadcaster since Skip passed. I have to say, this is not the case anymore. I feel like I may never comment on sports again because I’m just going to be labeled as a women who is only trolling for a boyfriend. I don’t even know what to say because I’m so angry!

    • That’s the thing. We’re allowed to watch and enjoy sports without being gay or with the hopes that we’ll land one of the guys. I can enjoy a TV show without hoping I’ll end up with one of the actors — what’s the difference?

      Don’t stop commenting. Rude people are everywhere.

  19. Thank you for writing this, Travis. I will give a far better response to this incident when I’m no longer angry that my comment was misconstrued by narrow-minded individuals such as those in the booth. As it is, I’m too angry to think straight. Also, thank you, Lauren for bringing this to my attention as I was at a baby shower and unable to watch the game.

    Does being at a baby shower (the girliest thing imagineable) diminish my fandom because I didn’t cancel it because the game was on? Something I guess I will wonder about now, in which I never did before.

  20. You people that can agree with this are 99% brain dead, humourless twats that are stuck in first year social sciences bullshit. Shouldn’t you be flipping burgers to pay off those student loans? Give me a fucking break, I was watching this with my wife and we thought it was a joke about Facebook. No wonder Canadians are a joke, let’s all sit around and bitch about perceived sexism because we have the inalienable right to not even get pretend offended. What a bunch of grandiosse pissing, any woman that falls for this is likely bipolar. Society man that’s the cause of our problems, not enough pc spineless ninnies around. Go Canada go!

  21. Great post man, as a male who is currently studying feminism in university I am very happy to see an article of this degree and too any chauvinistic or misogynistic male out there; get with the fuckin times already

    • Sweet baby Jesus, a man studying feminism, I hope the feminists at the student loans office ruining your life smartens you the fuxk up

    • The comment by Spark was stupid… But I am actually curious about what motivated you to study feminism. I mean this genuinely even if since I’m asking over the internet it’s probably going to seem like I’m baiting you in some way. Hopefully you believe me when I say that I’m not and I actually want to hear your answer.

  22. Jesus Christ. This posing-as-politically-correct-from-high bullshit has to stop.

  23. Um, I did speak for myself. I have no problem with him giving his opinion on the matter

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