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MSNBC now stands for “Mr. Sportswriter: Nice, But Condescending”

June 11, 2011

Look who sent me an e-mail: Rick Chandler, author of MSNBC Sports’ Off the Bench blog, in response to the comment I left at his site yesterday (reproduced in the update at the end of this post, if you’re joining us late). I appreciate that Rick took the time to reply, and I trust he won’t mind if I address his note here, a bit at  a time.

First of all, I enjoyed your post on MSNBC blogs. But I notice you left this off of your laundry list of my recent posts; perhaps because it didn’t fit your narrative?

Well, no. The blurb about the girl making the great catch at the Phillies’ game is terrific, but the “narrative”—namely, that vanishingly few posts on MSNBC.com’s sports blogs involve women at all, and that the majority of those that do are laced with Dibble-grade sexism—remains entirely accurate: I noted that the last 40 posts on Off the Bench included 15 about girls or women, and I listed the 11 of those that were chiefly about sex or sexiness. (Okay, 10 were about sex or sexiness, and one was about Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez.)

But beyond that, I think you’re selling us short.

Rick goes on to list ten more OTB items about women, dating back to last July, and many of them are legitimately cool:

  • I like this story about a men’s soccer game refereed for the first time by an all-women’s crew; too bad Rick couldn’t resist throwing in a “Why shouldn’t soccer be different than anything else in life, am I right, men? (Is hit with shoe).” [punctuation and extra negative sic]
  • I’m happy to see our old friend Marti Sementelli in two articles, here and here. Points on for Rick’s stand against sexism in the former; points off for the hackneyed “throw like a girl” headline in the latter.
  • This is a great piece about a 13-year-old girl who’s tearing up Little League with her knuckleball. Bummer about the revolting comments on the post.

Some of them, on the other hand, miss the point by as much as the Cardinals were missing Chris Narveson’s slider last night—for example, Hot tennis babe alert: Why was I not informed sooner of the existence of Arantxa Rus? See, Rick, a post like this doesn’t really help matters, because—sweet suffering Sharapova, do I really have to explain this? I don’t really have to explain this, right?

Even if we move the walls in and let that one count as a blow for gender equality, that’s still ten stories over the last eleven months, on a blog that generates a dozen posts per day. They’re the exceptions that prove the rule.

Not to mention Off the Bench is responsible for bringing one of the greatest female columnists ever, Jelisa Castrodale, to the NBC Sports main section.

On this we agree: Jelisa Castrodale rocks! She is also, alas, only one person unless her powers extend past sportswriting to somatic cloning, and she doesn’t write for MSNBC’s sports blogs anymore.

Blogs such as mine depend heavily on tips from readers … readers such as you. So if you spot a good sports story involving women, send it along! I’d love to include it. And thanks for participating!

No problem, Rick! I’ll dig up some material for you, and in exchange, you can grade some of these music-history finals for me…..I kid, I kid. Truth is, it’s just not that hard to find interesting sports and sports-ish stories in which women play roles other than “vamp.” Why, look what’s been in the news just in the past week or so:

  • Badminton players fight back against new international rules that require women to wear skirts in an effort to make them “look feminine and have a nice presentation.”
  • Check out the Golden Girls, a senior-citizens’ competitive softball league in North Carolina! “Thank you for bein’ a fan….”
  • Don’t miss this fantastic first-person essay about FIFA’s rules prohibiting female soccer players from wearing headscarves in competition.
  • Along the same lines, meet Kulsoom Abdullah, a Muslim weightlifter from Atlanta who’s challenging the rules that would prevent her from competing in hijab.
  • Roller derby. Army style. Starring women with warrior nicknames like Ivana Tripabitch and Grilled Cheesus. Uh-huh.
  • Women play tackle football? Heck yes they do.
  • The country’s top female wrestlers are already vying for spots in the 2012 Olympics! Extra credit for covering this story without using the phrase “lesbian Turkish oil wrestling.”
  • A female Vancouver Canucks fan gives an Aaron Rome-style beatdown to the Vancouver Sun columnist who unwisely penned a patronizing article about female Vancouver Canucks fans.
  • Johann Olav Koss, kickass Norwegian speed skater and president of the outstanding organization Right to Play, gives a speech to encourage Pakistani girls and women to break down barriers and play sports.
  • None of this is conventionally sexy enough, you say? All right, fine: how about this profile of Ali Dee, who manages to be a curvy blonde country-western singer/reality-show star and hold down a real, pompom-free job with the Dallas Mavericks?
  • Finally, in Australia, the government is introducing a new grant program to encourage—guess what?—increased gender equity in the media’s coverage of sports.

That’s eleven to get you started, or, you know, a year’s worth. Actually, it turns out that Rick didn’t even need my help; an hour after his first e-mail, I got a second one, which contained only an ominous message:

be careful what you wish for.

….and a link to a new post called E-evil Woman: Watch this adult steal a foul ball from a little girl, complete with ELO “Evil Woman” video and shout-outs to Cruella de Vil and the Wicked Witch of the West.

Well, you got me there, Rick. Had I known that women were capable of lousy behavior, I’d never have encouraged you to feature more of them on your blog! Thank goodness you followed up with that piece about the international pole-dancing championships to restore my faith in the fairer sex.

In all seriousness, Rick seems like a decent and well-meaning guy, and I appreciate the fact that he contacted me; I’d always rather be engaged than ignored. To be continued….?

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