Thursday, July 29, 2010

Grading ESPN's Coverage of the Women's NCAA Tourney, 2010

From True/Slant on April 9, 2010:

Women’s NCAA Final Four Production Grades

Watch Maya Moore spin out of her regular clothes and into her UConn Huskies uniform! See with amazement Nnemkadi Ogwumike turn from a heel shod, skirt wearing femme fatale into the PAC-10 player of the year!

That was how ESPN chose to introduce us to the starting five players on each of the Final Four teams.

During these intros, each player would say something about herself, something unrelated to basketball, of course. Then she’d spin and bam, she’s a hoopster too!


“I’m Tina Charles and I’m a daddy’s girl.” Spin and voila, she is the dominant post player for undefeated UConn.

Brittney Griner introduced all 6′ 8″ of herself to America by declaring that she likes bacon. (Maybe it was babies that she likes. I couldn’t hear clearly, so I like to think it was bacon. Everybody likes bacon, right?) Spin, spin and she is the shot-blocking freshman phenom for Baylor.

Somebody else liked to shop.

Another one had 300 shades of nail polish.

One player told us she was a Christian (not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I don’t care what church you go to, how frequently you get a mani-pedi, or if you dislike pork products.)

I was watching with several other women, some of whom were football players. We all joked and hooted derisively; we hollered “bacon!” and “christian!” at appropriate moments throughout the games. But really, we were appalled. At least they allowed Jayne Appel to introduce herself by saying that she was the heart of her Stanford team. True dat, Jayne.

Not to mention that the spinning-clothes-changing special effect was laughable. Were they seriously trying to reference the 1970’s TV version of Wonder Woman with Lynda Carter?

If they were, they should have just gone whole hog and used that same snappy theme music.

But I wonder, why is it so hard to package women’s sports? And why does ESPN (or any other venue for that matter) feel like they have to package it differently?

My buddy Sully, starting tight end for the Pittsburgh Passion, pointed out that they can never just let women be athletes. It’s important that women are athletes AND …

Women always have to be something, something off the court, off the ice or away from the field, preferably something in stark contrast to the stereotypes for athletes. It’s never enough just to be a good athlete.

Unless a male athlete actually, you know, DOES something extraordinary off the court, it’s like his life outside of athletics doesn’t exist. Mostly, we just hear about who ran the fastest 40, or who can bench press the most; who has an unbelievable vertical leap and whose team won the state championship in high school.

But that other life, the “real” life, if you will, is necessary for women.

“Oh my god, she’s a hockey player, but really, she’s a classical violinist!”

“She runs track, but she excels at accounting!”

“She’s a point guard, but really, she’s going to take over her parents horse farm when she graduates. How wonderful!”

She’s Diana Prince, government secretary, but she’s also Wonder Woman. Hard to believe we’re still here. I wonder what Lynda Carter thinks …

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