With full knowledge aforethought I’m about to reveal … well, that’s just the thing: I don’t know what I might reveal. I just decided to take the risk. To start typing and see what happens.
See, I don’t think us mere mortals can always know the difference between reasoned conclusions and reflexive, not-quite-conscious prejudice. Between incisive critical thinking and projected ignorance that sounds like critical thinking. When I have a pervasively positive feeling about someone, it could be I am experiencing something deserving to be admired or lauded. When I have a pervasively negative feeling about someone, it could be I am noticing something deserving, even begging for critical commentary.
How do you tell the difference? Well, in this case, I’m going to talk about it and see what kind of feedback I get.
My tipping point occurred a few days ago when I visited packers.com, a site I visit more often than a day trader checks stock prices. I’m fond of staff writer/reporter Vic Ketchman and his sidekick Mike Spofford. They love the Packers. They love football. They “get” tradition. They know the game.
And, suddenly … there she was. Olivia. Doe-eyed. Beautiful. I put her at somewhere between 19 and 25, max. I remember my first zany, unbidden thought was that she was Vic’s daughter. Or niece. Then I wondered if she was some kind of summer intern. Whatever the case, Vic was asking her about her “top three takeaways” from the first day of the Packers’ full-pads practice.
And, as Olivia opined, I could not deny my felt reaction: a strained, effortful empathy. Like, well, isn’t she adorable. Cute. I hated myself for patronizing her, but I couldn’t help myself. Like, I’m required to embrace Olivia in this role with all aplomb. To really be interested in what she has to say, simply because she’s been inserted in the role of Green Bay Packer commentator. But I’m not actually interested. I’m more distracted by how out-of-place she seems. And then I’m irritated, because it feels like I’m being manipulated. Like someone with a social agenda just inserted her (or someone like her, could have been anyone) into this milieu because it was time to do so.
I thought, “Olivia, I’m sure you’re a lovely human being. But why don’t I see you as credible?”
Now, before you conclude the easy answer (Steven, you are shameless, sexist swine), not so fast. Let me introduce you to my longtime friend, Pam. Pam is from Wisconsin. Pam is the sort of woman who looks as natural on a Harley as she does in high heels. The only reason I’ve ever been to a NASCAR race is because Pam took me. Pam is one of the 12 “owners” who make up that fantasy football league in which I participate. Pam knows football. She bleeds football. Any guy who thinks otherwise will be quickly run over, chewed up and spit out. I’ve seen it happen.
I’m saying I DO think I have some capacity to recognize sports credibility regardless of gender.
As I said, Olivia was merely the tipping point. In the past two years, there has been a sudden, noticeable surge of leggy, fashion model types suddenly appearing on the NFL network. These women were quite suddenly sitting and standing next to Marshall Faulk, Michael Irvin, Brian Billick, Brian Baldinger, et al., talking football. And I’ve been feeling manipulated by the whole thing. It just seems really unlikely that the only women in America who love football and pursue media broadcasting are really tall, not hardly 30-year-old, long-haired, buxom-yet-skinny, short/tight-skirted women with striking cheek bones and perfect teeth. Maybe I’d feel better if just ONE of those new female football commentators was mid-40s or 50-ish. Wore severe eyeglass frames like Michael Irvin. Or who had ridiculously big ears like Andrew Siciliano. Or an irritating voice like Dave Dameshek. Or was round and endomorphic like Warren Sapp.
I’d love to hear from female readers especially here. Is this surge of women football sportscasters a step forward in a world of justice and equanimity? And is my ambivalence a mere stirring of long-held bias on my part?
Or is the NFL Network trivializing women and making caricatures of their male viewers?
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Steven Kalas is a behavioral health consultant and counselor at Las Vegas Psychiatry and the author of “Human Matters: Wise and Witty Counsel on Relationships, Parenting, Grief and Doing the Right Thing” (Stephens Press). Contact him at skalas@ reviewjournal.com.