Friday, October 14, 2011

Bloggolalia: Is it the "Favre Penis Story" or "Favre Sexual Harassment Story"?

During Blogs with Balls, there was an amusing exchange about Deadspin's predilection for publishing penis photos. I laughed as much as anyone and enjoyed watching some editorial squirming. But in retrospect, there's something not so funny about the entire exchange.

We certainly have some sports blogs that thrive on getting scoops to stories that mainstream media won't print. Like many of you, I question why it matters that a 23 year-old athlete went on a date with a 17 year-old, or that a no-name Division III volleyball player may or may not be the girl in some risque photos. There's certainly plenty of room for criticism.

However, at times sports blogs that publish such stories get too much criticism. Is the Brett Favre-Jenn Sterger story really about publishing photos? Is this really a right-to-privacy story? Or is this more accurately a sexual harassment story that involved abuse of power, attempted adultery, and an age gap that might even make a Hollywood actor think twice? A story where few would take any notice or believe it was true until transcripts and photos were provided?

There seems in some circles to be a steadfast refusal to give sports blogs any credit for publishing such stories. But don't such stories help protect women who work in close contact with athletes? Don't sports blogs, as puny as their power may be, give harassed workers and minor athletes a rare outlet against their often powerful harassers? Especially in situations where local media has been all but bought and paid for by the harassers themselves, such as in smaller college towns or Boston (nice Red Sox coverage lately)?

Yes, I don't expect to see Brooks to be sharing the Nobel Peace Prize in five years, or Daulerio to be receiving certificates of appreciation from NOW. But to balance out some past criticism they've received, the existence of their blogs provides some sort of opportunity for quirky justice. Sometimes sports blogs have gotten it wrong (widespread mistrust of Big Ben's first accuser comes to mind), but other times their existence has helped balance power, just a little bit. It is possible to combine mega-hit blogs with doing the right thing, and I do appreciate the times it has happened. I hope it happens even more often.

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