Sunday, March 23, 2008

The war's boon to adapted sports coverage

The Washington Post Friday ran a front-page article about U.S. war vets who are trying out for the Paralympic team. As the article points out, more than a dozen vets are vying for a spot on the U.S. team.
Traditionally, the Paralympics have been ignored by the U.S. press, and a quick check on Google News shows that most coverage this year has been in overseas media. But the fact that U.S. military members will represent the U.S. in a new way -- in an international sporting competition -- could help bring the Paralympics the media attention it deserves.

Friday, March 21, 2008

A fresh (not!) look for the black athlete

When I found out that LeBron James was to be on the cover of Vogue, I was hoping for a different type of image than one that would fall into one of two typical categories for black athlets: 1. athlete in menacing pose (dangerous); or 2. athlete with shirt off (sexualized).
It turned out to be #1. I was disappointed -- as was ESPN's Jemele Hill, who writes about the image. Hill takes James to task for it, but certainly, that image is one of many for which he posed. I'm sorry the magazine editors opted for such a tired, stereotypical depiction.
p.s.-- To Jemele: Please, when appropriate, take ESPN's magazine to task for these same types of images.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Sports journalists: OK without athletes

In a Q & A with The Big Lead, SI's Selena Roberts says that despite the increasing difficulty in access to teams, events and athletes, "the industrious writer will be fine." Columnists will survive, she says, because athletes want their voice heard when opinion about their performance is proffered. And reporters will survive, she says, because they don't need athletes to write a story. "Sometimes, all a reporter needs is relatives, ex-friends and court records to paint a picture."
Sometimes, yes. But the subsequent story is almost always incomplete without the athlete. And relatives, ex-friends and bloggers can go straight to sports fans without the filter of a sports journalist -- another challenge entirely.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Media "was played"

Steroids expert Charles Yesalis, on a panel at Penn State tonight with journalists Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams (Game of Shadows), said the idea that steroid or HGH use exists among only "a few bad apples" is a myth that many journalists bought for years. The truth, he contends, is that "there are only a few good apples in the barrel." He estimates, for instance, that upwards of 95% of NFL players have used HGH and that use of HGH or steroids among NCAA Division I football players is another story that's gone uncovered.
Fainaru-Wada and Williams acknowledged that the NFL has generally gone unscrutinized, but said a big reason is the NFL's sophisticated PR operations, in which the NFL moves swiftly to keep a story from taking off.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Widening the boundaries?

The New York Times sports section today ran a story on competing figure skaters Johnny Weir and Evan Lysacek, contrasting their images and skating styles against the backdrop of normative masculinity. Weir, whom sportswriters routinely describe as "flamboyant" in thinly veiled speculation about his sexuality, is described as antithesis to Lysacek, who is described in ways that match mainstream ideas about men in sports (complete with the declaration that he is dating "ESPN's Hottest Female Athlete"). The article, which ultimately frames Weir negatively, does suggest that acceptable masculinities in sports could -- perhaps -- become more accommodating.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The way for disabled athletes into coverage

The April issue of Runner's World devotes several pages (including the Editor's Letter) to the case of Oscar Pistorius, a South African amputee whose 400 m. time is faster than of many able-bodied athletes. This isn't the first time that Runner's World has dedicated ink to runners with a disability, nor will it be the last. Another runner, Tatyana McFadden, has also made news lately with her bid to join her high school's track team.
It is interesting to note that disabled athletes who compete in individual, participatory-type sports (those that do not require the levels of organization of basketball or softball, for instance) generally receive more coverage than those competing in other sports. I think that these kinds of sports are more open to diversity in coverage, and I believe that disability-sports advocates who are looking for better media coverage should start with participatory sports (running, triathloning, swimming, biking). This kind of coverage could help open the door to better all-around coverage of adapted-sport (disabled) athletes.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

ESPN the Mag at 10: A dressy occasion

ESPN the Magazine's anniversary double issue features 10 covers -- most of male athletes, of course, and all posed in street clothes. Apparently, athletes will appear more often in stylish street clothes in the magazine, as it has hired a fashion director and will being running fashion credits. The images of style-conscious men in the mag certainly provides food for thought about the ways images of masculinity in sports are evolving. But the evolution will more likely serve the economic interests of the magazine by attracting apparel advertisers than advance gender roles.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

'Where have all the women gone?'

NYT writer Karen Crouse, in an interview with The Big Lead posted today, was asked about the hurdles facing women in sports journalism. Although she speculated that "the pool of Superwomen is not that deep" (this is the comment that garnered attention from Romenesko), the more important comment is this one: "there are some papers -- including a few I've worked for -- where if they have one woman on the writing staff, they feel no need to hire another."
Another interesting comment comes in the back-and-forth of feedback on the The Big Lead blog (some of it cruel) about Crouse. Finally, one post speculates that a reason women might not be eager to pursue and retain careers in sports journalism "could have something to do with the way that we male fans treat women on things like...sports blogs?"