As a female sports reporter, even in 2020, we get a lot of flak.
During this time of year, I feel especially vulnerable to my male counterparts who are more ingrained in athletic culture (or so they think). Although I can cover any sport from wrestling to softball to basketball, football is NOT for me.
I love the idea of any sport, yes. Sadly, no matter how hard I may try to focus and learn the game, I fall short. In high school I had my first brush with football – powderpuff.
In my school, as gender role specific as it was, girls would play football and the boys would be cheerleaders. As a softball player, I thought it might be a good idea to play quarterback, and the entire time I only knew to throw the ball and run away from everyone so that no one could take my flag. Oh. I forgot to mention, this was FLAG football, not even tackle.
Either way, I love sports. I may not know every professional athlete, but the strategy entices me. In every sport, you learn more and more about the game the more you watch.
As a woman in sports writing, it is very difficult to attain the respect needed to cohesively do your job. In my case, I am only 20 years old and am still an undergraduate student, so most coaches think I am from the high school paper or maybe the stat girl from the other team.
Specifically, I struggle with being taken seriously. I was an NCAA athlete at Hunter College before transferring to SUNY New Paltz, and I do miss the hype of being a part of an athletics program. When I was a student athlete, we would argue with non-student athletes who took our gym time, felt superior to other students who didn’t have the Hunter Hawks backpack and basically felt as though we ran the school.
Now, as a NARP (non-athletic regular person, as we used to call them), I feel out of place in my own athletics department.
Being the head sports editor of the newspaper made me understand what it felt like being on the outside looking in. I never understood what my friends meant when they said it was hard to be a part of conversations when they only revolve around sports they don’t understand.
This is EXACTLY how I felt this past weekend during the Super Bowl. Family members were confused as to why I didn’t understand the sport, and why halftime was basically my favorite part, or rather the only part I actually watched.
I was told I “should look into a different profession” if I wasn’t understanding the basis of America’s second pastime, aside from baseball. But this begs the question: Why must my credibility be questioned based on ONE sport?
At the end of the day, however, misunderstanding this sport does force my section to lack in football articles. Although I do have copy editors that understand the sport better than I do, I seem to push toward articles that ignore football.
That is my mistake. In writing this column, I have learned that in order to have a fully diverse sports section, I must look to sports I normally wouldn’t ever watch because that is my job as a journalist.
One of the elements of journalism is that “journalism must keep the significant interesting and relevant.” This means, in short, is to tell a story about what people want to read, whilst giving information and insight on things they may need.
The basic difficulty of being a sports reporter, not even specifically as a woman, is speaking to people during tough circumstances. While I was a varsity athlete, I will never forget my coach holdin2g a parents meeting, where she explained that she “needs a 24-hour grace period before receiving any phone calls or emails from family members.”
I have held this with me into my current freelance work and on The Oracle, but it causes difficulty as a journalist. In order to cover sports, you must talk to players and coaches right after the games in order to fully document their emotions into the story. Without the sad quotes given after a lost championship game, the story shows the recovery athletes have after losses, rather than the initial sadness after.
Lately, I have realized I feel guilty going up to coaches after a tough loss, and asking what they wished to get out of the game and why it didn’t go their way. However, I was pleasantly surprised.
Behind every coach is someone who cares more than meets the eye, as they yell and are frustrated with players. This is only because they CARE, and if they didn’t care, the yelling would stop, but it wouldn’t make a good team, right?
In saying this, I realized that after heavy losses, most coaches may say the team needs to work on certain things, but I often hear “I am not innocent in this, and must work harder too.”
This is what makes sports writing so amazing. The love and compassion players and coaches feel is like no other. A sports team is a family. Their fans are their family.
To tie this into the Super Bowl, I saw this as a sport that I technically didn’t enjoy, thus didn’t want to cover. I was wrong. From now on in my career, I will look at football with this lens of understanding. Understanding the hardships, the sleepless nights, the losses, the wins and the family gained.
Congratulations to the Kansas City Chiefs on their Super Bowl LIV win. Thanks to you, I will now give football a try, and hopefully better my sports knowledge for my future endeavors.