Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Poker in the sports section: Still a gamble

In a recent Baltimore Sun column announcing that poker will take a regular spot on its sports pages, Bill Ordine writes that "the debate as to whether poker belongs on the sports pages mostly has been resolved."
Not so fast. Although it's true that ESPN has aired poker tournaments and some newspapers do run poker columns, to say that poker is a sport is still highly debatable. (My students over the past few years have overwhelmingly given poker-as-sports status the thumbs down.)
There are plenty of leisure activities that have, over the decades, ultimately failed the "is it a sport?" test in the U.S. Think Roller Derby and the XFL. Really, it's still too early to say the debate is over, and it'll be interesting to see how long poker will last as a sports section staple.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Hard court for Title IX

With the confirmation of Justice Samuel Alito on its way to confirmation in the U.S. Senate (likely to happen this week), the balance in the U.S. Supreme Court will likely set the stage for erosion of Title IX protections for female athletes. Title IX, made law in 1973, has never been safe from attack. In recent years, though, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor provided the critical swing vote on key Title IX cases. With the addition of conservative justices Roberts and Alito to the court, expect renewed legal challenges to the law as opponents continue to frame as unfair and unnecessary. Keep track of Title IX developments here. Meanwhile, our analysis of media coverage of Title IX shows that it isn't helping clarify misunderstandings about the law. More about that in a future post.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

More female faces on the sidelines

I received an e-mail last week from an Newsweek reporter who had noticed more female sports commentators on the sidelines at network football games. She wondered whether the higher visibility of women on NFL and NCAA football game broadcasts was an indicator that women are making more inroads into sports broadcasting.
The answer: Not necessarily. Research released by the RTNDA/F indicates that among local broadcast news operations, women still make up a small percentage of sports broadcasters and sports reporters. Just 7% of sports anchors are women, and about 11% of sports reporters are women. That's a very small pipeline for higher-profile broadcast jobs.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Spillover from Title IX playing fields?

For the first time, enrollment in my Sports, Media and Society class comprises mostly women. Until this semester, this course (which takes a close look at the interplay between sports, journalists and U.S. culture and politics) was dominated by male students.
Most of the women in my class this semester tell me that they grew up playing sports and that they are avid sports fans. Could the explosive participation in sports by young women, spurred by Title IX, finally start making strong inroads into sports departments? From female enrollment in our Center for Sports Journalism, I think the answer could be yes.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Sports and politics: The year in review

Dave Zirin, author of "What's My Name, Fool!" (about sports, politics and media) and the weekly "Edge of Sports" column, was interviewed on the Dec. 31 NPR show, "Only a Game," about what he sees as the ongoing corruption of the "athletic industrial complex." Zirin's argument is worth a read, and he weaves in stories of the rare athletes who've dared to become politically activist (a modern example: Etan Thomas of the Washington Wizards). Zirin's latest column is an interesting look back at the intersection of sports and politics in 2005 -- from "steroid-mania" to gender relations as played out in sports.