As a sportswriter, I focus mostly on covering golf because by trade, that is my beat. I played professionally for four years and competed on a Division I golf team. I understand golf, but not only that, it’s part of my being.
I’ve immersed myself in golf history and could know who a player is by just the description of their swing. I know and understand the rules. I’m fully aware of the tradition that takes place at men’s and women’s majors, and more importantly, I’m passionate about the sport.
Despite this, I’ve had men question my ability to write about men’s golf because I’m a woman. Some men sadly believe the caveman myth that men are better than women at just about anything.
(Photo Credit: USA Today)
Last night, Jessica Mendoza, who is a baseball analyst for ESPN, became the center of an attack by Houston Astros prospect Brooks Marlow, when he tweeted, “No lady needs to be on ESPN talking during a baseball game specially Mendoza sorry.”
He quickly deleted the tweet, but screenshots are a wonderful thing.
Mendoza is a two-time Olympian who competed on the U.S. softball team. She also played professionally in the National Pro Fastpitch.
Last year, she became the first woman to broadcast in the booth for ESPN's College World Series. She then became the first female analyst for a Major League Baseball game in the history of ESPN. In January of 2016, Mendoza joined ESPN full-time for their Sunday Night Baseball broadcast.
Her climb in the world of baseball reporting did not come without scorn. Atlanta radio jock Mike Bell tossed a hurl of personal insults, and at one point referred to Mendoza as “Tits Mcgee.”
Mendoza has learned to deal with the reality that some men believe a woman cannot commentate on sports simply because she’s a woman. Recently, in an interview with Rolling Stone Magazine, Mendoza said, “I want to talk to them and be like, 'Why do you hate me so much?' I want to sit down with them and I want them to look me in the face and tell me that."
While Mendoza is not the first woman to commentate on men’s sports, Brooks Marlow’s tweet highlights the inherent sexism that is pervasive in the world of sports.
Currently, women make up less than 20% of sports reporters. This is due to the fact that, for decades, people believed women weren’t interested in sports, including playing in them. This myth has been debunked, and more and more women are coming out with their own sports blogs, sports podcasts, and enthusiastically covering sports.
(Photo Credit: USA Today)
In fact, more than ever are participating in sports, and companies are taking notice.
Women make up half of the population, and while we may not watch spots in as large numbers as men, that is changing. And with that change, it only makes sense for sports networks to hire women as analysts and reporters.
Believe it or not, women, just like men, want to be represented and want to have a voice in this world, and that includes sports.
When I watched the Ryder Cup last week, I was appalled that not a single reporter on the course was female. I had hoped to see the likes of golf great Annika Sorenstam provide insight or add to the discussion of one the greatest tournaments in golf, as male reporters often do for women’s golf tournaments.
When I mentioned this on twitter, someone responded, “I get it [why I was upset]. I just don’t believe in taking head counts to make sure everybody is included. Where does it stop?”
To which I responded, “I know?! When does inclusion stop? I guess when all people begin to feel included.”
Do I believe networks should just hire female sports reporters to meet a quota? Absolutely not.
Like any candidate for a job, they should meet certain qualifications, which Mendoza certainly does. In fact, one could argue that there are several men that do not belong in sports booths if we’re going off of whether one played in the big leagues or not.
Tom Abbott, Golf Channel reporter has never played golf professionally. NBA play-by-play announcer Marv Albert has never played pro basketball. Joe Buck, NFL and MLB play-by-play announcer has never played in on any given Sunday or in the big leagues. Has it stopped them from being good at their craft? Absolutely not.
Over time, a woman doing something men have been doing for centuries won’t be big news. There will come a time when it won’t cause a twitter frenzy to hear a woman’s voice on a sports channel and where a woman won’t receive death or rape threats simply for providing insight into a sport.
My greatest piece of advice I can give to men who still shrivel at the thought of a woman giving play-by-play and commenting on the games that we love with passion and a knowledge born through hard work, research and a unique perspective that adds something to the discussion is...get used to it.