Female sports announcers on the sidelines rarely invited to the Commentators' Box

After Game 7 of the NBA finals ended in a Lakers win last night, a woman approached Kobe Bryant with a microphone, and I was pleasantly surprised to see her.  It also got me to thinking, how many women are actually sportscasters? Are women ever sports commentators?  The answer is that less than a handful of women have been play by play commentators for big ticket male sporting events (which are the marker here, since women's sports got a whopping 1.6% of televised sports airtime last year according to a USC study of News and Highlights shows from 1989-2009).

Men alone fill the commentator box for every past Superbowl, the leading roles announcing the NCAA basketball Final Four, the Masters golf championship, the World Series, the NBA championships, and NASCAR races. During the Olympics last summer, NBC had only one female play-by-play announcer (Andrea Joyce), and she covered rhythmic gymnastics, a sport in which men do not compete.

Less than a handful of women have made their way into the booth for play by play commentary of men's sports:
  1. In 2000, Pam Ward announced three college games for ESPN and now announces Big Ten games.
  2. Doris Burke has announced men's and women's basketball games for ESPN.
  3. Beth Mowins has announced women's basketball games for ESPN.
  4. Gayle Sierens called a Chiefs-Seahawks game for NBC at the end of the 1987 season, but declined NBC's offers to announce others.  No other women have been made such offers since.
    Upsetting enough, these women sportscasters, while opening doors for women in the field, have been largely relegated to sideline reporting, leaving the play by play reporting for the men.  The box for commentators is largely reserved for men - because men know more about sports, women are annoying, women's vocal inflection make them inadequate ...  These all sound like they apply to a number of male commentators as well, besides the "women's voices are annoying" argument, which doesn't even warrant a response.

    I can say that at least one of the commentators for Game 7 of the NBA finals last night fit into some of those categories.  I can't tell who was talking (only commentator I would recognize is the late Chick Hearn), but the commentators were Mike Breen, Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy.  And the commentary was of about this general quality:
    "That wasn't a foul . . . was that a foul?"  
    The other two commentators continue to talk, we see the replay, the referee calls the foul, and the guy is back to say "It was a foul..." in a confused tone of voice.
    It was not very deep commentary, beyond announcing and confirming his own confusion on what it is to play basketball.  Also, early in the game he discussed how this was shaping up to be one of the most poorly played games, then later said this was the "best we'd ever see the Lakers play".  While the Lakers defense may have been up to par, Bryant, Gasol and Artest had some pretty low shooting percentages (somewhere around 25%) - hardly "the best" any of us have ever seen the team play.  

    If the content of the comments are potentially awful regardless of the commentator's gender - I'd love to watch more of these games with a woman's voice commenting in the background!  

    While women are invisible on the commentating stage, women make up a large number of sports fans and viewers, a large enough number that corporations are targeting at least some of their advertisements directly at women.  Last years numbers from She-conomy:
    • 47.2 % of major league soccer fans are women, 
    • 46.5% of MLB fans are women
    • 43.2% of NFL fans are women
    • 40.8% of fans at NHL games are women
    • 37% of NBA fans are women
    • Women comprise about one-third (34%) of the adult audience for ESPN sport event programs

    As such a large portion of the audience, we should hear about the sports from a woman's mouth and perspective, and as such a large percentage of viewers we should be able to exert pressure on the networks to make it happen!  If you hear a female commentator you like, write your network and thank them!  Better yet, even if you don't, write the networks and request more female commentators!

    A few of the female sportscasters, commentators and analysts who've forged a path in sports journalism:
    1. Gayle Gardner - ESPN 
    2. Andrea Kremer - ESPN
    3. Robin Roberts - ESPN, ABC
    4. Leslie Visser - CBS, ESPN, ABC
    5. Hannah Storm - NBC, CNN
    6. Linda Cohn - ESPN
    7. Helene Elliot
    8. Nancy Lieberman, ESPN
    9. Lisa Salters, ESPN, ABC
    10. Pam Oliver, ESPN, Fox, TNT
    11. Suzy Kolber, ESPN, Fox Sports
    12. Lisa Leslie, ESPN, ABC7
    13. Michele Tafoya, CBS, ESPN, ABC
    14. Lindsay Czarniak, NBC, TNT
    15. Amy Taylor, Australian Broadcasting Corporation
    16. Jacki Oatley, BBC Sport
    17. Clare Balding, BBC Sport
    18. Sue Barker, BBC Sport
    19. Gabby Logan, Sky Sports, BBC Sport, BBC Radio
    20. Tracy Austin, USA Network, BBC
    21. Mary Carillo, USA Network, ESPN, PBS, CBS, HBO, NBC, Bravo 

    Wikipedia Page on Women Sports Announcers (109 women): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Women_sports_announcers

    Comment (1)

    Women's voices are definitely annoying and their bitchiness always comes across, despite how hard they try to fake it. Otherwise, they just aren't as natural acting and easy-going and cool as men. Besides, men really don't want to listen to a woman give do his play-by-play sports. Men want a mate, a buddy whom they can feel comfortable with and relax around and men make up the majority of the sports target market, so we deserve our say!

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