Thursday, June 12, 2008

When Do You Let Things Go?

In this morning's recap, I linked to Derek Zumsteg's takedown of Rick Sutcliffe for his comments about Erin Andrews. If you missed it, the short version is that Sutcliffe, on live TV, went on a horny rant about how Andrews is pretty, that she looks good in a skirt, and that she's a distraction to the ballplayers she covers. In the Bradley post, I noted how it was unfair for for Ryan Lefebvre to slam Milton's character in the way he did.

There's a common thread here, and it's about when you finally have to let something go.

Some of the more contrary discussion about the Andrews thing on the message boards this morning has centered around the notion that, while Sutcliffe was out of line, both ESPN and Andrews know that despite her obvious talents as a reporter, she probably got the job in the first place as a result of her pretty face and her nice figure, so she has to expect that sort of thing. My own comments on Bradley started off with an acknowledgment that he's got a history of being a hothead, so he has to expect the kinds of things he's getting too. There's some truth to both of those statements.

But at some point don't you have to let it go? Don't you have to look past the networks' cynical calculation about what a sideline reporter should look like and appreciate that Andrews is really damn good at her job and obviously works hard? Don't you have to look past Bradley's past behavior and note just how nice -- and nice and quiet until last night -- a season he's having? Prettier faces have flamed out of the reporting business because they simply don't have the chops. Hotter heads have raged their way out of the game because they couldn't mature or couldn't produce.

I understand how human nature works. We don't all have time to spend hours considering the merits of a given person, so we retreat to shorthand. Bradley has an attitude problem. Andrews is a hottie. Chipper is a butcher with the glove. A-Rod isn't clutch. Manny Ramirez is unfocused. Greg Maddux is an intellectual. All of those things either continue to have a core of truth or were true at one time, but these kinds of thumbnail sketches have a shelf life. Chipper's defense is actually a lot better than it used to be and probably wasn't as bad as we thought. A-Rod doesn't hit all of his home runs in blowouts. We've come to learn that Manny is actually a pretty hard worker. Maddux is kind of immature and obnoxious sometimes.

Using such shorthand is understandable. I do it myself sometimes. But it's lazy and, even if a given characterization is true at some specific point in time, it doesn't remain so forever. For that reason, it's probably a good idea to avoid repeating the cliches, even if they are based in truth. Does that mean that we should avoid saying bad things about people altogether? Gosh no. I don't want to sanitize discussion like that because that would be no fun at all. I just want writers and commenters and fans to talk about sports in useful, accurate ways. To think about the people we cover and discuss in a more active fashion and frequently reassess who they are and what they stand for in the world.

This could very well lead to people saying worse things about Milton Bradley and Erin Andrews depending on how they do their jobs and conduct themselves as time goes on. But at least it would be relevant and accurate, and that's what we should be shooting for, right?


Jason said...

Sorry, wasn't paying attention. Just staring at pictures of Erin. you were saying...?

Anonymous said...

Indeed. We should let it go.

Craig Calcaterra said...

Like I said: "I do it myself sometimes." I think you'll find, though, that my mentions of Erin Andrews are pretty rare.

Osmodious said...

One point, though...if you go to google images and put in "Erin Andrews", there are lots of screen caps from her coverage. Actually, I might say lack of coverage...she tends to like putting her assets out there on display.

Now, don't get me wrong, here. I'm just saying that a woman who shows lots of cleavage, wears tight pants with no pantyline or an obvious thong-line, or whatever is leveraging her assets for a certain kind of attention. Nobody has accused Kim Jones on YES of being quite as much of a 'hottie' as Andrews, but she is quite attractive and has a nice figure yet manages to wear a professional looking wardrobe.

So, it's a question of advertise what you want the people to buy. In the case of Erin Andrews, the advertisement bears a striking resemblance to a Hooters billboard, so that's the way a lot of people think of her.

Puquerda said...

I am a pretty liberal guy. Erin Andrews is pretty attractive on most levels. So is Jeter, and his handsomeness gets mentioned with alarming frequency as well.

Also, I don't think Sutcliffe crossed the line. He mentioned someone wearing a skirt in the "Windy City" and how it could become a distraction during batting practice. BFD.

That being said, men can be real a-holes sometimes, especially when they make women feel uncomfortable.

dubbschism said...

how many times during a lull in a televised game (like during warm-up pitches in the top of the 8th in a blowout) does the image feed constantly zoom in on hot chick after hot chick in the crowd? there's usually never any commentary at times like these, but it's just understood...the camera men are scopin' the place out for babes. once in a while a girl will be so drop dead gorgeous that Jerry Remy just says "wow." nothing else. i think it's hilarious. although, maybe this only happens on NESN.

regardless, i think Sutcliffe was a little out of line. i love gawking at Erin Andrews, but to do it public to an audience that presumably has children in it? a little tactless. that's all - tactless. not offensive.

Craig Calcaterra said...

It's been beaten to death over at BTF today, but my view on it comes down to this:

As far as pure sexist bafoonary goes, it's mild. Guys say worse things to women all the time. BUT:

As far as workplace decorum goes -- and it is Sutcliffe and Andrews' workplace -- it's pretty awful. Ask yourself: if you were in the copy room at work and said the exact same thing to a secretary that Sutcliffe said to Andrews ("I like your dress; it's my new favorite color; the boys in the mail room can't concentrate with you looking like that") what would happen to you? Discipline, that's what. And it would be deserved.

It's worse in a different way here, though. Partially because millions of people were watching it, but mostly because of just how hard it is for a woman reporter to be taken seriously in that business. Everyone knows the score here -- the networks and everyone have cynically decided to hire eye candy for those jobs -- but that doesn't mean Andrews has or should accept that as her role and place. You can tell she has tried hard to gain the respect that male reporters are afforded. She works like crazy (hundreds of events a year) and in my view does a good job.

Yes, millions of men still only like her because she's eye candy, but her own coworkers have to be be better than that. Each time one of her coworkers treats her like that on the air, they are undermining her efforts at being respected in her field. It will take a long time for male sports fans to come around, but they NEVER will if the networks themselves give them tacit license not to.

Andy said...

Context is important. The workplace was a baseball broadcast, not a copy room. Her dress was already a topic of conversation among Sutcliffe, O'Brien and Andrews, so the comment wasn't completely random. Also, it seems like Sutcliffe was trying to deflect the talk away from his cancer. Even for a workplace, I think this is pretty mild.

I do disagree that Andrews dresses like Hooters billboard. She's young and attractive, and wears the type of clothes that young and attractive people wear. Its not a business suit, but I think its appropriate.

melodyjbf said...

Really good points, Craig, about the workplace factor. In looking at the pictures of Andrews online, her clothing doesn't look at all outrageous to me. It looks attractive but professional. And it's certainly true that women face obstacles that are difficult for men to perceive-- how could you, not being in the same position?

I used to do seminars about sexual assault and domestic violence for college students, and I was often amazed by the things the men would say. Some of them were gracious and wonderful, but so many men just have no clue how their words or actions will be interpreted, and then get angry when the issue is addressed.

When I hint politely about what I'd like a guy to do (like stop bothering you in a bar so you can go back to your conversation with a friend), guys tend to ignore it or not get it. When I then up the ante by asking them to leave me alone, they call me some choice names.

Pete Ridges said...

"We're going to say goodbye to you for a little while, you've got your upcoming cancer surgery."

"I'm more worried about Erin than I was about me, wearing that skirt, in the Windy City. You think all eyes weren't on her during BP?"

Seems like the responses to Sutcliffe depend entirely on whether the respondent chooses to overlook the context, or to regard it as totally relevant.

It would certainly have been more appropriate for Sutcliffe to say "Thanks...I'm not stupid, I know that this might just be the last live game I ever see, and I never expected it to come so soon". But he didn't, because we all say stupid things when we're scared.

Of course, in some liberal circles (this isn't you, Craig), they've got as far as opposing sexism, but haven't got as far as sympathising with the disabled or the seriously ill.