Sunday, September 25, 2011

Are You Ready for Some Football?

The longest I paid attention to a football game was the one I played in, in 11th grade. 
The boys dressed in skirts and threw pom poms.  The girls dressed in tight pants and wore helmets and shoulder pads.  It was the Annual Powder Puff Football Game.

I scored two 90 yard touchdowns. 
I was told: when you get the ball, run. 
Since I'm good with simple instructions, and not play-by-play handbooks, I did as I was told.

My team didn't win.  And the Powder Puff tradition has been discontinued, due to coaches of the girls sports teams objecting to their soccer and field hockey players returning with jammed fingers and bruised tailbones. 
(But it was really fun while it lasted.)

I returned from a bike ride today with Miss C around 4:30.  The quiet street that we live on was filled with whoops and hollers and neighbors milling around on their front lawn, congratulating each other as if we had collectively won the lottery.  One woman was nearly verklempt, "We've been losing for so long, it would have been okay if we lost.  But it is so nice to win." 

I won't even curse the team they speak of by naming them, but it's not the Rochester Radicals. 
And they apparently have had a surprising season.  As evidenced by all the people pouring out of their homes at 4:30 each Sunday, gasping for air and looking shocked with disbelief. 

Sometimes, it is the fan that is in the arena, as much as it is the man that is in the arena.

Frank Deford is a writer and sports commentator. 
Last week he read this piece that he wrote about female sideline reporters,
No Respect for Women on the Sidelines.

If you need a one sentence synopsis, this quote is it
television wouldn't dare allow a female up into the booth to actually call the game.
So while we see what Deford calls highly overqualified and highly attractive women asking asinine questions down on the sidelines, there seems to be some unspoken law that keeps them there.
Despite qualifications.
Despite that women do the job of calling the game in many other sports.

just as football offensive linemen are supposed to be fat, football sideline reporters are supposed to be women –– attractive women.......And so the sideliners are delegated to freeze down on the tundra while the male play-by-play announcer and his hefty old gridiron warrior expert babble on comfortably up in the heated booth.
The most asinine task sideliners are required to carry out is to ask coaches, before the second half, what plans they have for the rest of the game. The coach who's ahead says he wants to keep up the intensity and avoid turnovers. The coach who's behind says he wants to get more physical and avoid turnovers. Back to the booth. And all the guys watching with their buddies laugh at the ditzy babes who ask such obvious stupid questions.
But the irony is that most sideline reporters –– whatever sport, whichever gender –– really have done their homework and really do know their stuff. Most of them are terribly overqualified for the assignment of being a human scroll. But, of course, whereas it has not been uncommon for years for newspapers to have women on the football beat, television wouldn't dare allow a female up into the booth to actually call the game.
The funny thing is –– as I was reminded when I heard Mary Carillo doing tennis commentary during the U.S. Open –– is that when you hear a female voice in tandem with a male voice, the contrast sets off both advantageously –– as TV stations always pair male and female anchors on the local news.
But in sports television, sideline reporters can only go side to side, never up. Their place is down on the field, with the cheerleaders.

Pam Oliver,  sideline reporter for Fox Sports, interviews head coach Mike Tomlin of  the Pittsburgh Steelers as he leads his team against the Denver Broncos.
Highly overqualified and highly attractive. 
And if in Western New York, highly cold.


  1. I disagree with "highly overqualified". A key element that keeps women out of the football booth is lack of first hand NFL experience. As it stands, commentators often give anecdotes of their playing days and how it relates to what is going on in the game. Also, I personally enjoy watching two announcers who were previous opponents on the field rib each other and give each other a hard time.
    I have no doubt that a women could call the plays and make excellent and insightful observations. But, without the experience of being a former player or coach, she would be lacking the camaraderie that football often promotes.
    Now, when it comes to tennis, golf, or any of the many sports that women do play professionally in, a female announcer makes the booth more well-rounded and enjoyable.

  2. It is valid that you enjoy the story-telling aspect that some commentators use.

    But, that is actually not "a key element" that keeps any prospect from the job.

    Dennis Miller (comedian) hosted Monday Night Football. He got the job after beating out Rush Limbaugh (not a former player/coach) and Tony Kornheiser (also not a former player/coach).
    Marv Albert called six super bowls. He's never played anything other than basketball.

    So, your preference is legit. My sister likes the story telling. My husband finds it annoying. It's a preference.

    But, it's not a key element of being qualified.

    Many a former football player would not a great commentator make.

    Some former players who call the games do not refer to their playing days at all.

    It's a style. And one can be qualified with or without that style.

  3. great post. I sometimes look at football (& I am a fan) and shudder. Now that my kids (boys & a girl) are getting older, they are noticing that the women stand on the sidelines & look pretty. I wish it weren't that way...

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Mary, I found you from one of the many news stories that highlighted your blog. The link in article was dead, so I had to search again for you, but I found you!

    This post is interesting because I too live in a football town and care not a thing for it. In fact, we gave away our only T.V. just 2 weeks ago, and not one of my household of 6 complained at all.

    I too think that Disney "awakens love before it's time," giving girls a romantic obsession of sorts, and as the mother of 4 girls (yes you read that right) we have received more than our families’ share of princess crap. (

    But it’s not so easy to manage input and behavior. Having seen the romantic and non-romantic responses to these influences on my girls has shown me that the issue is much more complex than just Disney movies. We as parents expose them to a wide variety of age appropriate books and movies, explaining things that need explained and dispelling things that need dispelled, but their influence is wider than us, both good and bad. For instance, my mother taught my oldest it was OK to lie. My husband’s brother taught her to untie an impossible knot with a fork.

    In the end, what we choose for our children will help mold them, but it is not the only thing, it’s not even the main thing. Their in-born personality accounts for so much of their behavior, thoughts and feelings.

    Fashion on the other hand, is an entirely different story. :)

  6. The gender of the reporter means nothing to me. The EXPERIENCE of the reporter does. I will never forget female reporter Charlsie Cantey, after the Belmont Stakes one year, reporting excitedly, (verbatim) "Well, that was a really looong race!" Facepalm. Yes. Yes, it is. It is in fact historically *well known* as one of the the longest-distance effing stakes races in America. I hated her, and cringed every time they put her on a track. And I'm a woman. I'm so glad when she no longer reported. I'd rather hear from an ex-jockey (of either gender) or trainer.