In a 2007 New York Times article, Chuck Klosterman wrote one of the simplest, most dead-on (and one of my favorite) descriptions of professional sports locker rooms.
“It’s an uncomfortable situation; people are tired, people are naked and people are tall,” Klosterman explained.
The last part may be appropriate only in NBA locker rooms (Klosterman was, in fact, writing on Glibert Arenas) or those of NHL teams that employ 6’9” Slovak defensemen, but the sentiment is the same in locker rooms everywhere.
While most people see sports reporting as a pretty sweet gig – and, OK, it is – it’s still a job. It still has its good, bad and downright awkward moments, the most awkward of which involves a smelly locker room, a crowd of cameras, microphones and notebooks, and a group of professional athletes in various states of undress with attitudes ranging (often depending on the outcome of the game they just played) from happy and friendly to pissed off and bitter. And that doesn’t even get in to their underlying personalities – everything from the team leader type, to the chill, personable guy who will strike up a casual conversation after the real interview’s over, to the brooding one in the corner trying to avoid your incessant line of questioning and just get out of there.
One of the tokens of wisdom my boss bestowed to me, on the first day of my college internship with a professional sports team, was “Get in, ask your questions and get out. Keep your eyes up, and don’t just stand around.” Soon added to the list was “Don’t step on the team logo in the center of the room” and “Go do the interview! Quick, before he takes his pants off!”
Ah, yes, the ways we make this odd relationship work. And maybe I was just lucky, or maybe the players I worked with (I hope, like most) had class and respect, but I never had an incident, so to speak.
That’s why this whole Ines Sainz spectacle really bugs me. Other female journalists reported the incident, other players are sounding out about it, and the peanut gallery keeps saying Sainz “deserved it” because she was dressed (pardon me) like a whore. That’s about as logical as saying someone “deserves” to be a victim of rape.
Clinton Portis’s inane comment about “put[ting] a woman [in a locker room] and giv[ing] her a choice of 53 athletes” is, thank you very much, the stupidest effing thing I’ve ever heard. Players and reporters alike are professionals. It doesn’t matter if you think someone’s attractive – go gush to your friends about it after – because you are doing your job when you are in the locker room.
Did I think certain players were cute? Never! (*cough*Yes!*cough*) But I never used that position in the locker room to voice that opinion because if such a situation were the other way around – if Sainz, or any female reporter any reporter, period, made a sexist remark – the offending party would have been thrown out of that locker room sofast. Why shouldn’t such a player face such punishment?
The funny thing is, despite all of this, I can’t quite figure out what side I’m on.
As an (aspiring) sports journalist, and with a sports internship that I miss (a lot) under my belt, I feel for Sainz and every other female reporter in that male-dominated world. But that makes me sound antiquated because it’s the sort of crap people spew when they want to complain about inequality.
The truth is, there are plenty of excellent female reporters out there, many of whom are well-respected by players and fellow reporters, haven’t been the center of media attention (good and bad), and have the job they do because they’re good at what they do, not partially because they’re “hot.” They understand the rules, dress appropriately, and “get in and get out.”
So maybe Sainz, who isn’t usually a guest in the Jets locker room, didn’t quite get it. But being a TV personality herself, she probably “got” what she was doing when she went on a zillion talk shows to talk about the incident. Maybe TV Azteca reporters usually wear outfits many of us would deem inappropriate for work. But, again, that doesn’t give anyone the right to make comments, unless it’s someone helpfully suggesting she change.
Sally Jenkins, a Washington Post sports columnist, more or less sums up how I feel. This is 2010 – why is this even a problem?