Friday, April 6, 2007

Bloggolalia: Why do we need Female and Minority Bloggers?

TBL had an interesting article about how most of the ESPN Insiders were white guys; something like 34 of 37. here As mentioned by Captain Caveman (appreciate your honesty on that, CC),and others, the same is true of the most popular sports blogs. The problem is, we have no excuse of having been hired by the same company, so it's even more embarrassing.

Look at the supposed listing of the top 20 sports bloggers: here . Are we really any better? Here, let's play Where's Waldo: want to find the minorities and women in this picture? Even trying to find a decent tan is fruitless.

Now, for some reason I have a blogging death wish today, so I decided to tell you why we need more female and minority sports bloggers. Most sports media are white males, whether its ESPN or the big sports blogs; is that fair to say? I think so. We need female and minority sports bloggers, not because we need to fill some magic quota, but because I feel that white male sportswriting in general suffers from two critical flaws in perspective. And only females and minority members of American culture can fix those.

Flaw 1: Lack of Emotional and Personal Depth
The first flaw is a terrible inability to convey emotion and motives in sports stories. Men in general are less in touch with their emotions than women, fair to say? What I hate is how often sportswriters turn to weak, freshman psychology class type analysis of players and teams. These sportswriters often have never played professional sports, so their analysis is even worse because of it. So we get this one-dimensional view of most athletes, or ridiculous platitudes about working hard and overcoming adversities.
Female sports bloggers, on the other hand, tend to present a more well-rounded view of a human being. I often find that they bring up angles to a story that I hadn't thought of. It amuses me that even when it's a blog created mainly to express crushes on male athletes here , the women still continually veer from the script to present the athlete as a person, not just a hot body. We learn that so-and-so is crushworthy not only because he's handsome, but because he volunteers to help kids, because he and his family appear so close in some picture, etc.
My concern about some female sports blogs is that sometimes, I feel they don't get to the point. The article starts great, it's witty, it's interesting...and then I reach the end and go "huh?" So I wouldn't want to live in a world of all-female sports bloggers, either. And that is why we need both male and female sports bloggers.

Flaw 2: Rush to Judgment
The more offensive flaw of many of today's sportswriters and bloggers is a rush to judgment any time they don't understand something or that an athlete doesn't match their cultural background.
I saw a lack of understanding just today. Garrett Anderson doesn't want to wear Jackie Robinson's number like everyone else. here for example Ok, so what? I don't want to wear a Live Strong bracelet like everyone else; does that mean that I want Lance Armstrong to die of cancer?!

But no, let's rush to judge him, right? How dare the black man not enjoy the Jackie Robinson holiday! We have set this up for you to make us, err, you, feel good about black players! Never mind that there are only 8% black players in the league, 50 years after Jackie! Enjoy it, black man! Follow the leader! Conform! Sigh. You get my point.

Or, take OJ Mayo. Let's suppose OJ Mayo was a white boy with a 30 ACT score, and that his father was the one who wouldn't give out his cell phone number. Nope, nothing wrong about that! We'd praise his family for having taken control of the crazy recruiting process. But because he's black and seems to be cocky, no such thing. Look, Bill Simmons, Kevin Love is 5X cockier than OJ Mayo. Reader, google his name on the web; Kevin's dad tried to get his coach fired. Read Slam's High School Diary articles with him. The editor there deserves a Pulitzer for all the filtering he does of what Kevin Love really says. Kevin is no better.

Even more mind-boggling is Gilbert Arenas being treated like such a curiosity. Let me run this by you, slowly. Gilbert Arenas has admitted to playing video games non-stop, being rather OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive), having intimacy issues with women (not wanting to sleep next to them), and doing odd thing to improve his performance (like a hyperbaric chamber in his house). Now, if this was a white center from Stanford, what would those characteristics mean? NOTHING! He's a nerd, or if you will, geek. We can recognize that type. Gilbert Arenas is a nerd or geek, is all.

However, heaven forbid that sportswriters and bloggers ever met a black athlete (or black man; they're different, you know) who was a nerd or geek. Nope, not at all. Instead, we have all this weird Gilbert cult talk, because we don't have enough minorites who can understand someone who doesn't quite match popular athlete culture.

Sorry, enough ranting. What I love about minority bloggers is that they don't rush to judge someone who doesn't match the cultural norm. They look for explanations for that behavior, and sometimes those explanations do exist in a cultural context. They personally are used to not fitting into the cultural norm, and so minority bloggers are more insightful in analyzing athlete behavior. My only concern is that sometimes, minority bloggers are unwilling to call "FOUL" when it should be called. They get trapped into an odd corner where they're the go-to person on their particular minority when it comes to sports personalities. So they're afraid to say anything bad about their boys (or girls), or anyone else's boys or girls. Big mistake; it lessens their integrity with the general population of readers. We need some judgment in sportswriting, some winners and losers; we just have to be careful that we don't filter everything through our own cultural biases.

All right, I know, I've generalized and typefied and done all those things we aren't supposed to do in our society, and that is always risky. If I really did mess something up, though, I'll own it. Comment away.

Next week, we'll discuss about how to make blog-land even more diverse and creative. For starters, a favorite complaint of mine; where are the small-town bloggers? Why aren't they making it big? Why is it just NYC, DC, and LA, with a little Detroit for flavor?


  1. Like anything else, I agree that sports blogging could use more diversity. That said, the photo you use to illustrate your point is an awfully small sample.

    Looking at our FanHouse roster of 60 or so of the best (my opinion) sports bloggers on the web, there are at least 10 female/minority bloggers. I think that's more indicative of the true make-up of our little corner of the blogosphere.

    Regardless, good post. I enjoyed it.

  2. Thanks for the comment, and fair point about the picture, Jamie. It was a bit of a cheap shot for me to use that picture. I want to stress that I meant nothing against the people being pictured. I know that most of you in the picture realized that you were a demographically undiverse bunch, and several said so after the gathering. And the last thing we want is a quota approach to what was supposed to be a fun gathering of bloggers.

    However, I would politely note that in most businesses or orgs, the sweetest deals are made on the golf course or at the bar. Thus, if there are no minorites in small gatherings, over time they will be left out of other interesting things. Just a general thought, no condemnation implied of anyone in that picture.

    As long as the sports bloggers with the biggest audiences recognize and promote talent on the basis of merit, any inequity problems will sort themselves out over time. Sounds like you're doing that at the FanHouse; good to hear that.

  3. That's an interesting point you made about our blog, MCB, and looking around, it's absolutely true. How odd.

    Also, I know you hate this shit, but it's four days after posting, so what the hell: Your profile pic is inexplicably attractive.

  4. Way after the fact, but I agree with you in this regard. I haven't put enough of a Latino slant on my writing, beyond just point out double-standards (such as the OJ Mayo and Josh Hamilton posts on my site). But there is lots of work that needs to be done out there, otherwise the "alternative" sports coverage will look a lot like the "mainstream" sports coverage....

    That post is what The Starting Five is about....

  5. Can't believe i missed this. Interesting perspective.

  6. Hey, I remembered this post and ran across something that made me think of it.

    This is the "Gender Genie":

    If you give it some of your writing, it can tell you based on an algorhythm if you write more like a male or a female.

    I fed a bunch of my blog entries into it, and it said I write like a dude. The only time it said I wrote like a female was when I wrote about a female-oriented subject:

    One of my entries where I say I am a female within my writing, ended up being scored strongly male:

    Thought you might be interested in this. You should try it with some of your posts.

    In any event, it made me wonder if the subject matter (sports) influences the way I write, or if there are other factors involved, such as my educational background (male-dominated disciplines).

    BTW, I really enjoy your blog.