Friday, July 26, 2013

Your Prostitutional Self

The two best things ESPN has ever done are 1) signing a deal with Princeton and 2) getting into the documentary business.

Okay, maybe that's a provincial view of the situation.

While a case could possibly be made that the Princeton/ESPN relationship isn't quite a game-changer, there can be no one who can even remotely say that the documentaries aren't fabulous.

The original "30 For 30"series started it. There have been shorter pieces on the web.

And now there are the "Nine For IX" documentaries, put out by ESPNw to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Title IX. They center around women's issues in sports, historically and contemporarily.

TigerBlog's favorite "30 For 30" movies were the ones about the Colombian drug lord and soccer player who shared the same last name (and as it turned out, same fate), the one about Marcus Dupree and the one about Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova.

Beyond those, the two that stood out the most were the one about Terry Fox and his attempt to run across Canada and the one with Vlade Divac that spoke about the Yugoslavian basketball players whose team and relationships were destroyed by politics.

The movies are amazing. All of them.

TB is looking forward to the upcoming "Nine For IX" ones about Katarina Witt and the one about the 1999 U.S. women's soccer team. He missed the one about Pat Summitt, though he assumes he'll see it at some point.

The only one he's seen to date is the one entitled "Let Them Wear Towels," which is about the history of women's sportswriters and the fight to gain access to the lockerroom.

TigerBlog has a picture somewhere of the press box at Palmer Stadium from the 1940s. It shows exactly what you think it would show, which is a bunch of older white men in suits and ties and those hats that they wore back then.

There was also a sign in the foreground. It read "no women allowed in press box."

The ESPNw movie traced the evolution that allowed women to gain access to the press box and ultimately the locker room, during a decade (the 1970s) that coincided with when women's athletics at Princeton first began to grow.

At one point during the movie, TigerBlog thought he recognized the chapel on the Princeton campus, which, it turned out, he did.

What followed was an introduction to Robin Herman, who started out her piece of the story by explaining that she was part of the first class of women at Princeton.

Herman went on to talk about how she went to work at the Daily Princetonian and how each writer was assigned a news beat and sports beat. When she saw that she was not given a sports beat, she immediately confronted the editor to find out why.

Had she backed away, her story would be much different. Instead, she had the courage or the determination to fight for what was right, even if it was unpopular or even unheard of at the time.

Or maybe she wasn't even thinking about the big picture back then. Maybe she just wanted to cover a sport.

She ended up with rugby - and that was the start of a lifetime in the business. She had to fight the standard prejudices of the time, and one of the best parts of the movie was when she read an old, handwritten letter that she received that was basically saying that women had no place in that man's world.

The letter called her a lesbian and also told her to get "your prostitutional self" out of the lockerroom.

It was not easy for the women writers of the time, who had to fight against every negative stereotype there was. They were either lesbians or whores. They were in there only to oogle the naked men. They didn't know anything about sports.

One of the women interviewed referred to how lonely it was, actually. The case of Lisa Olson, the Boston Globe writer who was harassed by the New England Patriots, was of course included.

The women all had stories about big-name, famous owners and athletes who were fighting them every step of the way. Others, like Steve Garvey and Tommy John, were much more willing to join their struggle.

They also talked about the sorority they formed and how they couldn't wait for the day when every woman writer wouldn't know every other woman writer.

Robin Herman's Twitter is @girlinthelocker, and today women in the profession are so common that it's not even an issue. Women have roles all over the world of athletics, and college athletic communications is a clear example of that.

If anything, the bigger issue now is in broadcasting, where women are still hired largely because of their looks. TB can't help but wonder what Robin Herman says and thinks about that.

But for TB, that's more of a celebrity issue than it is a gender issue.

Women's athletics and women in the field of athletics have come so far since the 1970s.

TB always refers to the women's athletic pioneers at Princeton who endured blatant inequality, something that would never happen today.

It was the same for women's sportswriters.

It was nice to see a Princetonian so involved in that struggle for equality.

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