The Truth? The world can’t handle the truth about female sports journalists

September 17, 2010 | Nestor Aparicio

You saw the headlines earlier in the week – yet another women given a hard time in a professional sports locker room. I’ll write her name once – Ines Sainz of TV Azteca in Mexico – and for the most part move on from her name because she’s just a symbol at this point for a whole bunch of incongruent messages and a changing world of media and access that creates a talking point for the mass media.

This story had it all: Sex. Football. Politics. Etiquette. Professionalism. Journalism. Oh, and harassment by well-paid, high profile athletes in the capital of the media world, New York City.

But forget her, personally or what her clothing was that day or even how insulting or out-of-line I’m sure Rex Ryan and, more specifically, Dennis Thurman almost certainly were to her on the field.

She’s just the latest example of “female sports journalist has problem in the workplace that happens to be a locker room full of naked, high-profile, well-paid athletes.”

She’s the Lisa Olson of the week or the latest woman in a predominantly male world who was singled out and harassed unfairly in the workplace. Or, in many folks’ view from what I’ve read on the internet and heard on WNST-AM 1570 all week, she’s the one who was selling sex as an angle and fetched what she was looking for in the “harassment,” which is attention.

But in most cases, those who only judge this situation and this sports media topicality from afar have a rather stilted and inaccurate portrayal of what goes on in professional sports locker rooms.

I come from a different angle than the millions of people who have all had an opinion on this topic over the last 72 hours and the talking heads in the “real” media who have made it a trending topic on Twitter and on TV networks and corporate sports radio entities who employ the very tactics and strategies that they are so roundly criticizing as a whole in most cases.

Millions of people opine, but I’ve lived it every day of my life for nearly 27 years. This is all I’ve ever done for a living, go into locker rooms and talk to athletes. I’ve worked alongside women in every locker room I’ve ever entered day in and day out for more than a quarter of a century. This is all I’ve ever done since I was 15 years old, cover Baltimore sports and national sports with authority, credibility and now I sit in the ultimate seat of having the ability to decide, as an employer, who actually GETS press passes and goes into a locker room wearing a WNST badge and who is “credible” and who is not.

I’ve seen it all. I’ve heard it all. I’ve endured the good, the bad and the ugly. I’ve had a few incidents of my own where I’ve felt disrespected or mildly threatened and had to hold my ground on professionalism.

I’ve heard women called whores, tramps and worse. “Wool” being shouted or coughed was routinely the “clubhouse sign” that a women was invading the space under Camden Yards in the Orioles clubhouse during the 1990s.

Why “wool”? Well, why don’t you guess?

I was around for Lisa Olson and worked in locker rooms with her and it was a hot topic 20 years ago. Her attire in the stoic, stodgy, arrogant all-too-male and all-too-white media in Boston led to me having to buy a pair of pants off Yawkey Way because they didn’t allow jeans or shorts in the press box at Fenway Park back in the 1990s after the “Olson incident” in Foxboro.

I was in Cleveland in 1995 and witnessed Albert Belle going after Hannah Storm in the Jacobs Field dugout from 10 feet away.

The Erin Andrews saga was a criminal act that was borne out of the network putting her beauty in front of zillions of zany, crazed college students with signs that say all sorts of things for the camera that profess anything but love for her professional credibility or work ethic or journalistic skills.

I’ll let you in on a little secret: lots of women these days have no business being in sports locker rooms because they’re not qualified and it’s not because their skirt is too high or their blouse is too low.

It’s because they don’t belong there because they haven’t earned the right to be there and they’re not qualified and because they got the job because of their looks and not their intellect or expertise.

Earlier this week, when the Jets were accused of harassing Sainz, the other local women who are on the beat were quite frankly shocked that it happened because they’re in there every day and don’t get cat-called or hooted at because they’re actually there WORKING and are RESPECTED.

And they should be. I don’t really want to “name names” in this blog because I’m scared to death I’d leave out the many, many really cool females I’ve met in this business who DO take it seriously and are among MY heroes and friends.

Here’s a very short list (and I know I’ve left out many others) and rest assured these aren’t people I “see on TV.” These are people I know, socialize with, converse sports and life with and respect immensely.

Bonnie Bernstein knows sports. I saw her Monday night at the Meadowlands. She hosts real sports radio in New York and she is as legit a sports “expert” as I’ve ever known. Linda Cohn is a sports savant. Suzy Kolber is as well-versed in every aspect of sports as anyone I’ve ever met. Andrea Kramer is a football junkie in every sense of the word. I see Judy Battista several times a year and she’s among the most respected NFL writers in the world. Look, I could go on and on about Leslie Visser and Hannah Storm and many others but the point is “good is good” – male or female, in any color or shape or size.

My real hero was Molly Dunham-Glassman, who was my boss at The Evening Sun. She was by far the most qualified, sports-savvy and educated “expert” I’ve ever known. (I’ve been looking for the next Molly for 12 years. If you’re an aspiring sports journalist/expert I want to hear from you no matter what your gender might be! Send all resumes to nasty@wnst.net).

But these aforementioned people are true sports experts and journalists. Like me and others I respect in this business, they’ve dedicated their lives since birth to knowing sports and honing their craft and internal database of information.

None of these women got their jobs or have ever directly traded on looks, sexuality, innuendo, bimbo-ness or anything other than “expert information.”

But this is where the world has changed in locker rooms over the past two decades. So many female sports journalists of late have gotten their jobs based on their looks and what their looks will do to attract the attention of male athletes who will give them time, access or interviews that no one with a penis could ever “penetrate.”

Here’s a simple frame of reference. I attended 15 MLB All-Star Games before the Orioles revoked my press pass four years ago for writing and speaking the truth about their lousiness and the decay of the downtown business community on summer nights.

Two years ago when the All-Star Game was at the “old” Yankee Stadium, I took the train up and covered the event because strangely enough, MLB recognizes me as a legitimate journalist:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ZEBz6YAVeA[/youtube]

I was blown away by how much the world of MLB sports “journalism” had changed during the pre-game interview period. The field was littered with a bevy of beautiful women holding microphone sticks with a lot of hair spray  and these women probably have never heard of Tommy John let alone could explain what “Tommy John surgery” was for Stephen Strasburg. But they did know that “chicks dig the long ball.” And they had a press pass. And when I got home to Baltimore I wasn’t going to have one.

So much for “journalism,” right?

I suppose if I were a little prettier the Orioles would allow me to have my press pass back, huh?

But these women are primarily on the field because they’re pretty and they’re female and they look good and smell nice. And all of the old, ugly white guys like Peter Gammons, who roamed that turf for years with expertise, insight and true respect for the game and its rich history and heritage have been replaced by pretty girls doing pre- and post-game interviews. And the players are far more apt to say “yes” to an interview with a runway model than with a crotchety, chunky sportswriter.

And I suppose you as the public are far more apt to watch it if you don’t really care how much the person asking the questions really knows.

The Orioles have a female covering the team for their MLB website. I’m not sure she knows who Luis Aparicio is let alone Willie Miranda. So, for me, if I’m not learning anything it’s a short attention span. But that’s just me. Why would I read the coverage of someone who I clearly know more than on the internet? Seeing her Twitter coverage is almost laughable with its lack of insight. Taking shots at her, as it is in most cases when you’re pointing out the obvious, is like shooting fish in a barrel.

And when I write pieces like this speaking the truth it almost comes off as “mean.” I’m not being “mean.” I’m simply stating the obvious.

Our competitors over at CBS Radio have now made two consecutive hires of women based primarily (if not solely) on their looks. They’re from out of town. They have flown the flags of Miami and New York sports to an all-Baltimore audience. They have no clue what’s really happening (or what’s happened) in Baltimore sports on or off the field or the business and politics of local sports. They just look nice. And they “like” sports. But the boss who hires them also has no clue what’s happening in Baltimore sports, which is why you’re reading this blog now.

Look, people like what they like. If you like uninformed, pretty girls bringing you your sports insights and observations and softball questions, good for you. Enjoy them! That’s why they’re there. For you to enjoy them!

And that’s really no different than any of Glenn Clark’s posts, which are part-Maxim, part Tucker Max and part John Steadman – a bizarre concoction our WNST lad-on-the-scene prepares each day in Crabs and Beer! Some people dig it, some are amused and some are appalled.

Welcome to the world of freedom of choice.

I’ve also seen others in this market and others bring scantily clad women into locker rooms who in any other line of work would be referred to as bimbos because they had no clue why they were there.

Clinton Portis is NOT far from wrong on many counts. There ARE women who get into sports journalism at this point to be around naked athletes. And they are there to attract those “exclusive interviews” that men can’t get with their charm, nice perfume and long legs.

For the most part – and I mean 99.9% of the cases of the thousands of hours I’ve spent in professional sports locker rooms and clubhouses – it’s been by far quite professional and dignified.

Quite frankly, I hear more swearing and “guys being guys” and nasty, vulgar lyrics in rap songs played at ear-splitting volume that might be considered offensive by any gender than I do of actual personal harassment.

And even the male reporters have had incidents of “boys being boys” and micro-hazing that’ve been borderline “uncool,” if not completely inappropriate. Adalius Thomas singled me out every Wednesday to see the color of my shirt and to get approval from his teammates. If I were a woman, that would’ve been harassment. In general, it was all in pretty good fun as long as it didn’t include Tony Siragusa.

I’ve never had a problem, except for perhaps when something I said or wrote bothered someone, and I’m extremely accountable and professional, and I took care of it with a conversation and an understanding or clarification.

Clearly, with the New York Jets case, part of the story are that the rules of Mexican television are different and certainly the dress code was more like that of most football players’ wives at a club on Saturday night and less like a conservative, corporate TV sideline reporter on ESPN. Even in California and Florida, local TV news directors routinely hire weather girls with cleavage to spice up the eyeballs and Mexican TV has taken those rules beyond where any American journalist would go. That’s a cultural thing.

That’s the business they’re in – ratings, not journalism or “professionalism” or even proprietary information.

The locker room in a sports environment is quite different from reading the weather on a TV set but the people doing the hiring have never worked in a sports locker room as a beat reporter on a daily basis so they’re clueless as to what really goes on from day to day in an NFL clubhouse.

No doubt I’ve seen a few guys do and say inappropriate things in my 27 years in locker rooms. But ultimately, for this to happen as reported in 2010, the Jets should be ashamed of themselves. Dennis Thurman and Rex Ryan should know better and whatever punishment Roger Goodell deems appropriate is just fine by me. And I have no doubt something bad and unwarranted happened.

All four major sports have worked hard at making the locker room a professional workplace – a business “office” so to speak after games. But you’re always going to have these issues. It’s genuinely awkward — women staring at mostly naked men with notebooks and recorders out asking questions. It just a bizarre, other-worldly kind of experience that doesn’t happen anywhere else in the world.

But back to my larger point, which is professionalism and expertise on the subject matter and what some of these women are doing in the locker room to begin with when their main qualification is their looks, not their intelligence or expertise regarding sports or football.

As an “expert” myself and someone who has dedicated my life to being a sports journalist, I’m not sure what’s more offensive – the guys who try to come to me at WNST proclaiming to be sports experts or the women who say they know sports and can’t tell me the difference between a nickel and dime package.

(And, certainly, next summer when the NFL owners go to war with the NFL players, where are you going to turn to find out what the hell is really happening? We cover local sports and the Ravens better than anyone at WNST.net and next year will prove beyond the shadow of a doubt why you come to our website for insight and information.)

But, as an employer, I’ve made it a personal and unabashed quest to find a female sports reporter and EXPERT who really DOES know this stuff.

So, where is the next Molly Dunham?

I Facebooked and Tweeted up that I was writing this blog yesterday and I already started getting the barrage of: “I am a woman and I know more about football than most men!”

Really? Do you? Really?

Be careful of what you boast.

I would invite you over to the studio anytime – or better yet LOVE to give you a written forum or column in our blogosphere to feature your work. I’d LOVE to have a female presence at WNST.net that isn’t about T&A, the color of your hair or the size of your breasts or the white of your smile or the length of your legs.

Not only do I have no interest in patronizing pretty girls to work for WNST in a content capacity, I won’t EVER do it.

I won’t ask you to “send a picture” first (this isn’t Hooters!) but as you know it wouldn’t hurt you if you’re sending it elsewhere in the marketplace in search of a radio, television or web gig as a sports media personality.

And if you think that is a “sexist” statement, well then, you will find my lengthy argument today compelling and confusing all at once.

If you’re a women and you REALLY know enough about sports to be a sports journalist, simply PROVE IT with the depth and quality of your work. But don’t get your feelings hurt if I go Simon Cowell on you and tell you that you don’t know enough. And don’t hold it against me if I embarrass you with how little you might really know.

It’s kinda like American Idol when the poor sap rolls into Simon, Paula, Randy and company and sings grossly off key and everybody in the universe knows but them.

Paula would say something nice to not hurt the girl’s feelings. Randy would politely say “That’s rough, dawg!” And Simon would say “It’s rubbish. It was awwww-ful!”

Honestly, 99% of what I’ve heard from women sports “journalists” over my 27 years has been rubbish. So much so that when I see “the real thing” I’m so freaking impressed and smitten that it’s ridiculous. Of course, I’d say that about 92% of what I’ve heard from the men as well has been rubbish.

I put my money where my mouth is: I’ve hosted these open competitions three times, most recently won by Chris Vinson last Friday.

I don’t want the next Anita Marks or Laura Vecsey or Inez! I want a Baltimore rock star. I’m tired of the phonies. I want the real thing! Someone I want listen to, drink with and converse with who knows as much as I do about the facts and history and most certainly is a Baltimore sports “expert.”

I want information. I want analysis. I want insight. I want experts. I want journalism.

I want to respect what this person – male or female – knows about Baltimore sports. Or I won’t give them my time.

I think most of the men who cover sports locally are a joke so you can only guess how high my bar is on the female side – it’s exactly the same. You either know Baltimore sports or you don’t. If you don’t, you won’t work in an official content capacity at WNST.net.

If they gave doctorates in Baltimore sports journalism at this point, I’d have one. At every level – from newspaper to television to radio (locally and syndicated) and social media and the web – I’ve done every job in this business over the last 27 years.

Hearing, seeing or reading unqualified amateurs parade into clubhouses – that means women AND men – is unbecoming and I won’t hire incompetents, no matter their breast size or their hairstyle or fashion.

I’ve successfully run my own media business for 18 years (against all odds) and I own the fastest-growing local media entity in the market. We’re a sports media company. You’re here reading this because we’re VERY GOOD at what we do and very good at promoting what we do.

I know because you’ve told me. More than 94% of the nearly 2,000 who took our Febuary 2010 survey said they’d recommend WNST.net to a friend who loves Baltimore sports.

We’re very proud of that!

We’re the fastest-growing brand on Twitter because we don’t suck. If you’re a girl – or a guy – who loves sports, that’s awesome. I love sports, too. If you’re a fan who wants to call in, write a barstool blog, have an opinion, etc. – male or female – that’s cool, too. I’ve made my living hearing what fans have to say about Baltimore sports. That’ll be on my tombstone at some point. I’ve dedicated my LIFE to it.

But the difference between being a bartender or an educated caller or sports fan and someone who’s dedicated their lives to it as an “expert” is the same as some drunk PSL holder calling in and really believing they know more about football than John Harbaugh or more about drafting NFL players than Ozzie Newsome.

This might piss some of you off but this is 100% true and you should accept it: you DO NOT know more about football than Harbaugh or Newsome.

And if you go on the radio and take phone calls in live, real time and don’t know what you’re talking about it only takes anyone who DOES know anything about Baltimore sports about 10 minutes to ferret you out as a phony and a fraud.

Does this remind you of anyone you’ve seen in Baltimore? At one of our competitors, maybe? Maybe recently?

The above is my educated “expert” opinion.

Funny, but I like my “experts” to actually BE experts with credentials and information and a track record that supports their claims.

If you like pretty girls then you and I have something in common. If you like sports, then we have another thing in common.

But mixing the two is like saying good doctors make good lawyers. They’re two different skill sets and two different expectations.

I’m waiting to meet the Baltimore female who knows as much about sports as me or anyone on my staff.

If you follow anyone on Twitter based on their looks and take their barstool opinions and thimble-like knowledge of the depth and breadth of sports as “gospel” or “insight” than you’re not really in the market to be educated.

You’re in the market to be “entertained.” (And that’s being kind …)

I watch Entertainment Tonight. I like Access Hollywood.

But those female reporters aren’t hosting sports radio or pretending to be “experts” on the subject matter.

And to think that I’ve been unprofessionally banished from the Orioles clubhouse after reporting on them for 21 years because of my views while women half my age who’ve never heard of Jim Gentile are holding a mic flag in front of them on the field is a disgrace to Baltimore sports journalism.

But then again, the owner is a public disgrace so profound that a sentence should do the trick. Either you’re appalled by the last 13 years of this civic disease or, if you’re a local female journalist, you take a job, get a mic and defend it while your paychecks are signed by Peter G. Angelos every two weeks.

And that’s not a FEMALE thing, that’s MUCH more of a “male” thing. My feelings aren’t based on gender but on straight-up competence.

And this is my opinion after watching this and doing this for a living for past 27 years. And you know how I know my opinion and expertise is significant enough to you?

Because you made it this far. You respect me and you read my work here at WNST.net because at some level, you respect what I’ve done and my knowledge and opinions and integrity regarding Baltimore sports.

Again, one more time: if you are the next Molly Dunham, my email address is nasty@wnst.net.

But be forewarned. I am the Simon Cowell on the Baltimore sports journalism panel of judges.

And if you think I’m hard on you, wait’ll you see how hard the public will be and what they’ll say about you if you do have success!

Or worse yet, wait’ll you see what they write and say when you DON’T know what you’re talking about.

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