How About Them Lady Sports Announcers?

I have a friend who, in most other ways doesn’t strike me as someone you would classify as “sexist,” likes to remind me of an embarrassing incident that occurred the year Derek Jeter announced his intended retirement as Yankee shortstop.

A local woman news anchor announced the fact by noting that, upon his retirement, Jeter was all but guaranteed to join other Yankee immortals in baseball’s Hall of Fame. She alluded to Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and “Whitney” Ford. Alas, because she had never heard of Whitey Ford, she misread the teleprompter as “Whitney.” Oops.

To my friend this egregious error represented not only tragedy and farce, but undeniable evidence that those attractive, photogenic women we see on TV have no business being either sports reporters or analysts, and that the only reason the networks hired them in the first place was to avoid gender-discrimination lawsuits.

In his saturnine opinion, women are no more “qualified” to report on sports than weather girls are qualified to report on meteorology, or the models who walk around the boxing ring carrying cards indicating what round it is are qualified to write about the subtleties of Mayweather-Pacquiao. Okay, maybe this guy does have a lingering “sexist” view or two.

In any event, I totally disagree with him. I long ago reached the unhappy conclusion that when it comes to TV “news” in the post-millennium, virtually anyone who is poised, articulate, and has good hair and teeth can do the job. All they have to do is be able to read what somebody else wrote for them on the teleprompter.

Consider: Anchor people who reported on the Higgs boson discovery weren’t required to know quantum physics, and those who reported on the recent trouble in Eastern Ukraine didn’t need to know about geo-politics. All they had to be able to do was read. Which is what the caused the “Whitney” Ford fiasco. It wasn’t the woman’s lack of baseball knowledge that did her in; it was her inability to read the damn teleprompter.

As for sports “analysis” (as opposed to mere reporting), I cling to the same view. Unless you’re a former athlete–and is going to know infinitely more about the game than any informed “talking head,” no matter which gender–a woman can be just as knowledgeable about sports as any man. Just look at Hannah Storm, Robin Roberts or Linda Cohn.

Does anyone honestly believe the reason Chris Berman is an effective football commentator and analyst is because he’s a man, and therefore is going to know more about the game than a woman? I doubt that Berman was a football stud as a high school kid or student at Brown University. It’s far more likely he was a nerdy sports aficionado, and therefore no more “qualified” than a woman would be.

And lest we forget, the reason the networks insist on pairing up their silver-tongued announcers with someone who actually played the game–Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth, Joe Buck and Tim McCarver, Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden, et al–is because they realize they need an expert, someone with genuine football knowledge to transcend the talk-talk of the announcer.

And when it comes to talk-talk, surely you could match up a woman with a former player, just as effectively as you can match up a man. In fact, if they’re looking for a great pairing, they should consider putting together a woman announcer with former player Brent Favre. (Wait….did I say “Brent”?)

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