No Respect For The Women On The Sidelines

Play associated audio

Football season has hardly started and fans are already grousing about sideline reporters. To be sure, sideliners now exist in most all sports, and a handful of them –– notably Craig Sager of Turner, who was apparently in town the day the clown died, and thus got all his clothes –– are downright famous. While Sager is best known for basketball, it is football sideline reporters who are most identified with the sport.

That is because, just as football offensive linemen are supposed to be fat, football sideline reporters are supposed to be women –– attractive women. Who can ever forget a drunken Joe Namath mumbling to one of the poor sideliners that he wanted to kiss her? But, evidently, it is the television version of the laws of the Medes and the Persians that football sideline reporters must be female. There's even a website: sidelinehotties.com. Presumably, TV believes that a touch of pulchritude at the mic improves ratings –– affirmative attraction action.

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 sideline reporter is sort of like the scroll at the bottom of the screen, which, especially on ESPN, rolls on endlessly, even when it doesn't have anything of consequence to say. Likewise, the sideliner. If you've got the technology for a scroll or a live body on the field, use it.

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.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Credibility Concerns Overshadow Release Of Gay Talese's New Book

NPR's Kelly McEvers speaks with Paul Farhi of the Washington Post about Gay Talese's new book, The Voyeur's Hotel. The credibility of the book, which follows a self-proclaimed sex researcher who bought a hotel to spy on his guests through ventilator windows, has been called into question after Farhi uncovered problems with Talese's story.
NPR

Amid Craft Brewery Boom, Some Worry About A Bubble — But Most Just Fear Foam

Fueled by customers' unquenchable thirst for the next great flavor note, the craft beer industry has exploded like a poorly fermented bottle of home brew.
NPR

White House Documents Number Of Civilians Killed In U.S. Drone Strikes

The Obama administration issued a long awaited report Friday, documenting the number on civilians who have been accidentally killed by U.S. drone strikes. Human rights activists welcome the administration's newfound transparency, though some question whether the report goes far enough.
NPR

Tesla 'Autopilot' Crash Raises Concerns About Self-Driving Cars

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating a fatal crash involving a Tesla car using the "autopilot" feature. NPR's Robert Siegel talks to Alex Davies of Wired about the crash and what it means for self-driving car technology.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.