Monday, July 08, 2013

It's just not a major sporting event until...

...a male commentator makes a sexist remark.
Someone needs to start a blog or Tumblr or something entitled "Commentators Say the Darnedest Things"--and by darnedest I meant racist, homophobic, sexist.
Last winter the BCS Championship was marred by a one-sided game and the comments of broadcaster Brent Musburger who spent some of the game's downtime talking about the quarterback's pageant girlfriend.
At this year's Wimbledon, the comments focused on an actual participant in the event. BBC commentator John Inverdale noted, before the women's final on Saturday, that soon-to-be champion Marion Bartoli was not pretty. He surmised that Bartoli's father, who--like his daughter--has been considered somewhat of an oddity in the tennis world because of his style, told his daughter that she would have to work harder because she was never going to be a looker like Maria Sharapova.
The comments caused discord immediately and Inverdale apologized before the broadcast was over, issued a written apology to the new Wimbledon champ, and re-apologized on the air before the men's final yesterday.
His comments were not especially surprising. Commentators make note of women's appearances all the time. Usually it is within a fit/fitness discourse, i.e., "Serena spent the off-season getting fit" means that she lost weight. Men "get fit" too. But this is usually presented in terms of endurance, i.e. James Blake has really worked on his fitness this past year" means that he trained harder in order to not fizzle out in five-set matches and is no longer a "wuss"--a word I detest but which gets bandied about in such conversations.
But all the conversations about women's outfits are also comments on women's appearances. And as rude as Inverdale's comments were, I found the whole Serena/Maria feud discussions that opened this year's Wimbledon far more distasteful.
Also, Inverdale's comments implied that pretty girls--apparently as defined by being blond and tall--don't work hard. (Not sure where a muscular, Black woman falls in this pretty/unpretty spectrum.) When Sharapova came on the scene she had to prove that she was not another Anna Kournikova who, it was implied, relied on her looks to the detriment of her tennis career and thus was not a hard worker. I guess there really is no winning, even when you win.

On another commentators-say-the-darnedest-things note, there is John McEnroe. This should probably be a separate post but I am sticking it on here. McEnroe, when talking about the re-emergence of a former top player who spend some time on the Challenger circuit, imagined that his opponents would see it as a really good opportunity to gain some confidence. This is how he phrased the hypothetical player's inner monologue: "that will be a really good scalp if I beat this guy." And once again racism against Native Americans in sports goes unnoticed.
While scalping was indeed a practice some Native American tribes engaged in, it has been negatively associated with all tribes and furthers the stereotypes used to justify the extermination of many individuals and tribes, while also ignoring that colonizers too would scalp their enemies. Use a metaphor not steeped in a racist, colonialist  history next time, John McEnroe.

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