Let’s Respect the Women on the Sidelines

I usually enjoy Frank Deford’s commentary on NPR’s Morning Edition. He discusses current issues related to sports and/or language. One of his “columns” on football, which aired on September 21, 2011, under the headline, “No Respect for the Women on the Sidelines” evoked a mixed response from me. Deford examines the role of and the public response towards female football reporters. He describes them as “attractive,” “ditsy,” and references the website sidelinehotties.com.

To his credit, Deford points out that these women who understand the nuances of the game, are not able to demonstrate their expertise through their interviews. He explains that these women are pigeon-holed in the role of “scrolls,” asking the same questions every game.

I suppose the issue that irks me about this particular story is that Deford bounces back and forth between defending these reporters and further marginalizing them. He acknowledges that women’s voices provide a nice balance against male voices, and he acknowledges that these reporters are smart yet disadvantaged. However, Deford fails to leave room for change.

There is no explanation or critique of why women have to stay on the sidelines. Women have “no respect” at the beginning of the story, and at the end, they remain “down on the field with the cheerleaders.” I might enjoy watching football a little more myself, if the female reporters could demonstrate they are more than just “sideline hotties.” Why not reach out to the female demographic by proving women have a respectable role to play in the arena?

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