Growing up loving sports can be a confusing thing for young girls. You are labeled right out of the blocks as a ‘tomboy’ if you prefer balls to Barbies. Even more perplexing is those of us who enjoy both. They really don’t have a tag for that one.
However, as you age the stamps become more annoying. In most professional sports, women who are fond of them are marked as ‘jersey chasers’ as if the only reason for attending a sporting event is the hope of somehow scoring off the playing field with one of the participants with the eventual goal of becoming a WAG. For those not in the know, WAG is an acronym for wives and girlfriends of pro jocks. By the way, there isn’t an acronym or even a label for guys who are fans of women teams.
Double standard aside, in your twenties you are a ‘puck bunny’ if you love the NHL, but once you hit your late thirties or the dreaded forties, you are a ‘hockey mom.’ Not sure which one is more offensive.
Making it a Career
For those ladies who dream of taking their fandom into a career, the lines become even more blurry. Let’s face it, the field of sports reporting whether online, in print or on television is dominated by testosterone.
Good luck trying to find a female byline in your local newspaper. While you will see women on sports telecasts, they are generally relegated to the between period interviews and recaps or doing the sideline pieces; think weather girls way back in the day.
This does not mean though that ladies are not extremely knowledgeable as far as sports go and yes, there are those of us who know what icing means and not because we are trying to impress the cute guy down the hall who is a New York Ranger fanatic.
Women in the locker rooms have come a long way baby, but there are still strides to make as well as prejudices to overcome.
Last season, Susannah Collins was fired by Comcast SportsNet Chicago after making a slip of the tongue during a report on the Chicago Blackhawks. Collins had meant to say that the team has a ‘tremendous amount of success during the regular season,” but said “sex” by mistake. Embarrassed, but professional, she corrected herself immediately and continued her report undaunted.
The video, of course, went viral and even got some play on “The Jay Leno Show.” However, two days later the reporter was fired. Officials claimed the decision had to do with other “non-related issues.” Yet, the circumstances seem suspicious and beg the obvious question. Would the same thing have happened if Collins was a man? Probably not, it would have been laughed off and he would still be reporting on Patrick Kane and company.
What ladies need to remember is we offer a somewhat unique perspective to the world of sports and there are editors out there who recognize and appreciate that fact. When an opportunity does present itself, you need to run with it, if you will pardon the rather overused sports cliché, and take it as far as you can. It’s the same as being the only girl on an all-boys team, you need to be a cut above the rest to get noticed and stay on the team. It is vital to have the necessary perseverance and be true to your voice.
Don’t make the mistake of trying to mimic the mainstream male point of view. There are enough of those already, especially online. Being unique is your ace in the hole.
Currently, I am the only female writer on the sports side of the site that I write for. My editor appreciates the fact that I am a woman and likes the different slant that I bring to the team. It was that unique voice that got me noticed by him when I was writing for a different site, a site that didn’t exactly relish that creative side of my posts.
As a former ‘tomboy’ and ‘hockey mom’, I love a challenge and stretching my writing wings, but I am also aware of my limitations. While I have the chops for feature pieces in any sport, if I tried to write an op ed piece on why the New York Giants have lost their first four games, I would be laughed off of the site.
Recognizing your strengths and weaknesses is paramount when trying to gain a foothold in the sports writing field.