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WFAN’s Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts’ Commentary on Santonio Holmes, Bully Logic, and Women in Sports Journalism
Professional sports may be played in magnificent stadiums and arenas, but they are essentially taking place in one big schoolyard. The athletes are playing on the field while the press will hoot and holler from the playground several feet away. And, just as on any playground, some of the kids are downright bullies, starved to pounce on the loser as he walks off the field, the sounds of booming laughter from those relieved they aren’t the victim. The only difference is in the media playground, the victim really can’t fight back. All he can do is perform on the field and act exactly the way media bullies want when off it.
There is no finer time for the sports media to pounce than when a losing athlete or takes some personal liberties. And so, it should come as no surprise that after wide receiver Santonio Holmes was penalized fifteen yards on an excessive celebration call for what was at worst an overly enthusiastic mockery of the opposing team mascot Philadelphia Eagle during the Jets loss on Sunday, the bullies took out their spit shooters and took aim.
WFAN radio personality Beningo Roberts was on the playground’s front line. As per the bully way, Roberts’ expression wasn’t particularly unique. Roberts clamored on about how Holmes’ celebration was untimely, given the Jets were still down by eighteen in the second quarter. Roberts also scolded Jets Coach Rex Ryan for not removing Holmes from the game to teach Holmes a lesson. Moreover, Roberts claimed that because Ryan failed to take this measure because he didn’t have the guts to do so, and that perhaps Ryan simply can’t control his team’s unseemly behavior.
Of course, this is all bully-logic. Flinch, and you are going get punched in the arm, don’t, and you’re gonna get punched in the arm anyway. If Ryan took Holmes out of the game, there would be a whole other brand of media censure: oh, how dare you Rex Ryan for disciplining one of your top offensive weapons for what was already controversial excessive celebration penalty in the first place! Rex Ryan, know-it-all dummy, throwing his weight around, who does he think he is, a head coach or a gestapo!
Of course, picking on athletes is not a detention-worthy offense. Still, doesn’t the sports media-bully ethos go deeper than some loud-mouth radio diatribe against athletes who lose sports contests? For what does a bully do best in the playground than pick on the odd ducks, which hate to say it, can sometimes be “girls.” You know, because they have “cooties”? Because they just don’t belong?
For instance, it’s almost without fail that anytime a female reporter shows up on WFAN’s “Boomer and Carton in the morning,” good ol’ popular playground kid Craig Carton is going to spend two minutes making boldly flirtatious gestures at her, and then may proceed to throw in a few interruptive flirtations during the interview. Technically, what Carton routinely does isn’t sexual harassment, and some would say his tone is friendly and good natured. Still, whatever the case, is this not bullying? Isn’t it fair to say that many professional female reporters who have put in at least four years of college education to reach her position, and, whose gender is represented as only 10% of the sports media industry, will feel bullied by the playground kings when their bodies are the center of attention (on talk radio, even!) as opposed to the ideas they want to express?
One way to temper a bully’s heart is through the presence of intelligent, thoughtful women. Perhaps, then, it’s time that a few more female journalists be put at the forefront of sports media commentary and reportage. Then again, that’s kind of a scary thought! They may actually wind up taking some of the boys out of the playground. And then what would happen?