The bashing of Leah Hextall and other females in jock journalism is tiresome

People began talking about Leah Hextall on Monday night.

They’re still talking about her today.

And they’ll be talking about her the next time she puts on a head set to describe the goings-on in a National Hockey League skirmish.

Why is that? Because she’s a she.

Leah’s critics, who seem to have multiplied this week like fish and loaves in a Bible story, are numerous and loud, and many among them couch their comments by pretending it isn’t about gender when they pull an arrow out of the quiver and sling it in her direction.

Some samples from Twitter:

“Nothing to do with her sex, but…”

Leah Hextall

“Nothing to do with the fact she’s female, but…”

“I’m all for gender equality when and where possible, but…”

“No man would get away with that PBP calibre in Junior A let alone NHL on national TV. It’s not cuz she’s a woman, she’s just not good at it.”

Yet it’s precisely because Leah Hextall is female that her play-by-play call on the Pittsburgh Penguins-Winnipeg Jets joust Monday on Sportsnet evoked an avalanche of gender-based naysaying, and it’s also the reason many have rallied behind her.

More samples:

“Thanks for bringing a female voice to NHL play-by-play.”

“Hope we soon will be able to hear more female voices doing play-by-play!”

“Sports need more women in media to encourage and inspire young girls to pick up the mic!”

So, you see, when so many comment about gender, it’s about gender.

If not, neither side of the discussion would be talking about the influence chromosomes have on one’s ability/inability to describe a hockey game. We wouldn’t read or hear the words “female” or “sex” or “girls” or “this lady” or (exaggerated eye roll) “really pretty.” It would be about performance. Period. Just like it is for Chris Cuthbert and Dave Randorf and Harnarayan Singh and Gord Miller and Dennis Beyak, not to mention the guys riding shotgun for them in the Blah-Blah-Blah Box.

Alas, what’s sauce for the goose isn’t necessarily sauce for the gander.

Don Cherry in his Boxo suit.

Male broadcasters are, of course, also dissected like a frog in a high school biology class, but it’s never about the XY chromosome and not often about appearance, unless the guy shows up on camera wearing a clown outfit (hello, Don Cherry) or looking like he’s been riding the rails with Box Car Willie and hasn’t dragged a brush through his hair in six months (hello, Elliotte Friedman). Fat, thin, tall, short, frumpy and unkempt or straight off the pages of GQ, it’s not an issue with the boys. And it’s assumed they know what they’re talking about until they say something stupid to convince us otherwise.

Not so fortunate are the women, who bear a different kind of cross.

It’s assumed they don’t know what they’re talking about before they begin flapping their lips, which better be painted, and all those lumps on bar stools and in man caves suffer severe ear bleeds at the first sound of a female voice word-painting their macho sport. Doesn’t matter if she’s spot-on with her play-by-play call. It just isn’t “right.”

There are exceptions, to be sure.

Cheryl Bernard, for example, works men’s curling on TSN and there’s nary a squawk about her female voice, her delivery, or her knowledge of Pebble People and the game. It shouldn’t matter, but it probably helps male viewers that the camera likes Cheryl and her cover-girl looks a whole lot, and that she sits between two guys, Vic Rauter and Russ Howard, who aren’t exactly GQ cover material.

Cheryl Bernard

Meanwhile, viewers have grown accustomed to, and are comfortable with, the sound of Dottie Pepper’s voice on PGA tournament coverage, and if the great Judy Rankin were to work next year’s Masters at Augusta, nary a discouraging word would be heard. The same applies to Mary Cirillo, who talks men’s tennis as well as anyone and won’t take a step back from John McEnroe in the Blurt Booth.

In the main, though, the women are seen as brazen interlopers busting into the frat house, and a more typical experience would be that of Suzyn Waldman, who went from the life of a singer/dancer on Broadway to the Bronx and the New York Yankees broadcast booth in the 1980s.

“I went through years of terrible things,” she once said. “I had people spit at me. I got used condoms in the mail. I had my own police force at the Yankee Stadium in 1989 for a solid year because I was getting death threats. I did Broadway for years. There’s nothing worse than that except this.”

Suzyn Waldman

Female broadcasters are still receiving used Trojans in the mail, only they now arrive in the form of disgusting, toxic commentary on social media, most notably Twitter, where mean tweets include the B-word and the C-word and are cruel enough to make men fidget uncomfortably in shame and women weep. So don’t try to tell me it isn’t about gender.

I’m sure Leah Hextall knows all about this. She must, because she’s a she. Every woman in jock journalism—hell, every female who’s had the (apparent) bad manners to bust down the door to an ol’ boys club—knows it’s part of the gig, and many have moved on to other pursuits because of it. It’s so very tiresome.

I just hope the paddywhacking Leah has taken this week won’t make her one of the casualties.

Ol’ Maggie Court’s crazy ramblings a reminder that the LGBT collective still has plenty of work to do

Margaret Court says tennis “is full of lesbians.” As if that’s a bad thing.

patti dawn swansson

Moreover, ol’ Maggie informs us that there were a couple of devil lesbians on the professional tennis circuit back in her day and, get this, they would take young players to parties. Imagine that. Young women partying. With lesbians. The horrors.

Ol’ Maggie has been saying a whole lot of oddball things lately and, if we are to believe the preacher lady from the Land of Oz, civilization is caught in the grip of a global plot orchestrated by the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender collective. Those pesky gays are stealing the minds of our children, don’t you know?

“That’s what Hitler did, that’s what communism did—got the mind of children,” she advises us. “And it’s a whole plot in our nation and in the nations of the world to get the minds of the children.”

Hmmm. Kind of reminds me of what the Roman Catholic Church tried to do to me when I was a sprig.

The nuns, when not whacking us on the knuckles with a yardstick, would regale us with far-out tales of fantasy gardens, poisonous fruit, hell fires, voodoo antics like turning the rib of a man into a woman and, best of all, talking snakes in a magical tree. Their stories were better than anything we watched on The Wonderful World of Disney. But apparently Margaret Court believes all the Bible-based, brainwashing blarney that my receptive mind was force-fed, and it’s quite clear that the great Australian tennis champion is convinced that gay and (especially) transgender people are the spawn of Satan.

“That’s all the devil,” she says of transgender kids.

Ol’ Maggie Court

Poor, ol’ Maggie. There’s just no escaping conniving gay men and (especially) lesbians. We’re always shoving ourselves in her face, so to speak. Why, it’s gotten so bad that she can’t even travel hither and yon on Qantas anymore because the airline’s CEO, Alan Joyce, is a gay man who, not surprisingly, promotes same-sex marriage, which is, in the world according to Maggie, “alternative, unhealthy, unnatural.” The right to wed is “not theirs to take.”

“I believe marriage as a union between a man and a woman as stated in the Bible,” she harrumphs.

Well, it’s about your Bible, Maggie: One person’s truth is another’s fiction.

The prune-faced preacher lady has been battered fore and aft for her Bible-thumping bleatings, which included a disapproving and extremely tacky tsk-tsking of Aussie tennis pro Casey Dellacqua and her partner Amanda Judd following the birth of the lesbian couple’s second child, a joyous event that Court greeted with “sadness” because the newborn has two mamas and zero papas.

I’d rather not join the Maggie-bashing chorus, though, because I think she’s unwittingly done the gay community a small favor.

The hell, you say. How can that be so?

Well, to be clear, I find her drawing a parallel between the LGBT collective and a mass murderer, Adolph Hitler, repugnant. It is not only offensive in the extreme, it shows she clearly has lost both the plot and the argument. She appears to be totally off her nut. But…I also think ol’ Maggie has provided us with a reminder, albeit appalling—at the top of Pride Month, no less—that we still have work to do. The fight for acceptance and equality continues. It has not been won. We must keep society’s feet to the fire.

I suppose we really shouldn’t care what comes out of this nutter’s mouth, but Court is a legendary sportswoman. No one has matched her two dozen tennis Grand Slam singles titles. One of the playing venues at the Australian Open in Melbourne is named in her honor (for now). And she is a pastor (the argument could be made that she’s more of a cult leader given that she created her own church, the Victory Life Centre in Perth). Thus, her voice carries some degree of heft. If not, the pushback from gay, transgender and, indeed, straight people against her homo/transphobic tripe wouldn’t be so robust.

I’ll just say this about that: Freedom of speech is a beautiful thing, but so is the freedom to shut the hell up. Ol’ Maggie might want to give that a try.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m stepping out to party with some lesbian tennis players.

Oh, for Christ’s sake, it’s the most wonderful time of the year no matter whose face is on your green coffee cup

I sent out 15 Christmas cards on Monday with greetings of “Joyeux Noel et bonne annee.”

At no point during either the design or delivery of the cards did I devote a second of ponder to the possibility that they might put some noses out of joint. I mean, it’s a card. It’s a greeting. It’s my way of telling someone that they’re dear to me and I’m thinking of them. Can’t get more harmless than that, right?

Except it has come to my attention that card-sending can be a risky bit of business.

United States President Barack Obama, for example, is again under heavy fire from conservative extremists because, in keeping with the tradition of his eight years of residency at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW in Washington, D.C., this year’s official White House Christmas card is not a Christmas card. It is a “Happy Holidays” card that makes no mention of a messianic birth in a Bethlehem barn some 2,000-plus years ago.

This omission, apparently, qualifies him as President Bah Humbug and aligns him in league with the Devil.

“Merry Christmas…er…scratch that. We are the Obamas and it’s Some Random Holiday,” was a sarcastic, snotty, how-dare-he tweet from that noted still-wheezing Alaskan gasbag Sarah Palin, a self-described “Bible-believing Christian” who, along with her hard-core conservative ilk, ignore the reality that the winter holiday/festival season is not the sole province of Christians.

There are approximately two dozen celebrations between Nov. 1 and mid-January that involve Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and other religious or secular groups. Yet President Obama must, must, must give Christmas top billing, otherwise he has launched a scud missile at the very heart of America.

“Protecting the heart of Christmas will lead to protecting the heart of our nation,” is how Palin puts it.

Yes, by all means, in his quest to “make America great again,” surely president-elect Donald Trump’s first order of business once he’s hunkered down on Pennsylvania Avenue NW must be to put the words “Merry Christmas” back on White House stationary. ISIS, terrorism and building border walls can wait. The war on Christmas must be won first.

But is there really a war on Christmas? Well, there must be. I mean, this year’s Starbucks holiday cup is green. Yes, green! With a bunch of squiggly faces on it—and not one of those faces belongs to Jesus Christ. The devil, you say! Must be the work of that Obama fella. After all, he sent out all of those non-Christmas Christmas cards.

Look, although raised Roman Catholic, I confess that I have difficulty with the Christian nativity narrative.

A virgin birth? In a barn or cave or stable? Three wise men following the brightest star in the sky and travelling many miles on camelback to pay homage to a messiah in a manger? Angels whispering in Joseph’s ear (or the virgin Mary’s ear, depending on whether you choose to believe Matthew or Luke)? Quite the flight of fancy, I dare say.

Having said that, however, if I’m walking the streets and notice a nativity scene displayed in a neighborhood yard or in a store-front window, I take no offence.

I don’t look at religion-themed Christmas displays or a brightly lit evergreen tree as sales pitches to lure me inside a church for the first time in decades, and it matters not if I believe the Christian nativity narrative to be historically accurate, or if I believe it to be as bogus as most of the Trumpster’s outrageous claims during the U.S. presidential election campaign. To me, a Christmas tree is no more a religious symbol than Santa Claus is an Olympic hockey champion. It’s a symbol of the holiday season.

Similarly, my knickers are not twisted into a knot if someone wishes me a “Merry Christmas” or I’m given a “Happy holidays” greeting. I’m good with it all.

You want to celebrate Christmas because you believe it to be Jesus’s birthday? Go for it. You want to dance and argue around the Festivus pole with George, Frank and Estelle Costanza? Grab your partner. Just enjoy it. It really is the most wonderful time of the year. No matter whose face is or isn’t on your green coffee cup.


God is a lesbian, so why should I care what Jesus said or didn’t say about homosexuality?

The love between two human beings who have arrived at an age of reasoning and common sense is not a misdeed. It is love. And to act on that love is not a misdeed. It is an act of love. If your god tells you these things are sinful, then shame on your god.

I have not read the Bible.

Reading the Bible has never been on my things-to-do list. It isn’t on my bucket list, either.

Yes, I have a bucket list. You know, things I wish to do or see before I cease taking in oxygen and move forward to discover what is on the other side of this lifetime.

The bucket list, understand, is a product of aging. It is not something to which we grant substantial thought during our youth because, until we arrive at a station in life whereby we recognize our mortality, we seldom give credence to the notion that none of us gets out of here alive. I have arrived at that station in life. Thus I have a bucket list. Included are items such as singing the song Summertime with a live band. I would like to write a song that is recorded, not in search of fame and fortune but to just say I did it. I would like to watch a daytime ball game at Wrigley Field in Chicago. I would like to write something that will change another’s life forever. I would like to find a life partner, just to see if I can finally get love right. But reading the Bible? Not going there.

It’s not that I am uninterested in what people were saying and thinking 2,000-plus years ago. Quite the contrary. I subscribe to many of Jesus’s life offerings. More to the point, I recently drew the Stephen Mitchell tome The Gospel According to Jesus from my bookshelf and began re-reading it for perhaps the sixth time. Fifteen years after I initially opened it, I am still rendered dewey-eyed when reading the teachings of Jesus. Some of them are truly beautiful. So, my reluctance to read the Bible is not the child of a distaste for things biblical.

My difficulty with the Bible rests in the interpretation. It seems to me that people pick and choose passages simply to prop up their agenda while, at the same time, pooh-poohing the notions of another. It’s as if they are at the market shopping for groceries. I like this tomato so I shall place it in my bag, but I don’t like the look of that other tomato so I shall reject it.

For example, it has come to my attention that there exists a debate with respect to Jesus’s teaching on homosexuality. This to-and-fro has been heightened due to 21st century matters such as the legality of same-sex marriage, now the law of the land in Canada and gathering momentum in the United States. The gospel sharks tell us Jesus made it abundantly clear that the act of homosexuality is a sin. They quote scripture to support their belief. Many in the gay community, however, insist that Jesus never once spoke for or against homosexuality. They insist his silence on the issue indicates it is, in fact, a non-issue. Therefore, it cannot be a sin.

I ask this of you (and I know it will sound blasphemous): Why do we care what Jesus said or didn’t say about homosexuality? Must we rely on someone from 2,000 years ago to tell us what to think about, and how to act toward, our gay brothers and sisters in the 21st century? Can we not think for ourselves?

This is not a rebuke of Jesus. As I have written, I’m a big fan. I do not, however, care if Jesus viewed acts of homosexuality as a sin or not. In this area, I don’t need him to tell me what to think.

Here’s what the Buddha taught about matters such as this:

“Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.”

There are bigots among us not because they were born bigots. Bigotry is the offspring of the words and actions of others. When we are children in the playground, we care not if our playmates are black, white, Christian, Muslim, gay or straight. We are just happy to have playmates. It is not until we observe and listen to our parents and other adults long enough that we developed notions and concepts. Eventually, however, we are old enough to process what we have learned and make decisions, as the Buddha suggests, with our own reason and our own common sense.

That is why I say I don’t need Jesus to tell me anything about homosexuality.

The majority of my dear ones are gay. I love them. If they are sinners, it is only in the sense that each of us is a sinner because each of us has performed misdeeds. But the love between two human beings who have arrived at an age of reasoning and common sense is not a misdeed. It is love. And to act on that love is not a misdeed. It is an act of love.

If your god tells you these things are sinful, then shame on your god.

I prefer the interpretation of God as submitted by my favorite teacher, the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh. At a Dharma talk in Plum Village, France, in 1998, Thay was asked what Buddhism says about homosexuality.

“Sometimes those discriminating against us act in the name of God, of the truth. We may belong to the third world, or we may belong to a particular race, we may be people of color, we may be gay or lesbian, and we have been discriminated against for thousands of years. So how to work on it, how to liberate ourselves from the suffering of being a victim of discrimination and oppression? In Christianity it is said that God created everything, including man, and there is a distinction made between the creator and the creature. The creature is something created by God. When I look at a rose, a tulip, or a chrysanthemum, I know, I see, I think, that this flower is a creation of God. Because I have been practising as a Buddhist, I know that between the creator and the created there must be some kind of link, otherwise creation would not be possible. So the chrysanthemum can say that God is a flower, and I agree, because there must be the element ‘flower’ in God so that the flower could become a reality. So the flower has the right to say that God is a flower.

“The white person has the right to say that God is white, and the black person also has the right to say that God is black. In fact, if you go to Africa, you’ll see that the Virgin Mary is black. If you don’t make the statue of the Virgin Mary black, it does not inspire people. Because to us the black people, ‘black is beautiful,’ so a black person has the right to say that God is black, and in fact I also believe that God is black, but God is not only black, God is also white, God is also a flower. So when a lesbian thinks of her relationship with God, if she practises deeply, she can find out that God is also a lesbian. Otherwise how could you be there? God is a lesbian, that is what I think, and God is gay also. God is no less. God is a lesbian, but also a gay, a black a white, a chrysanthemum. It is because you don’t understand that, that you discriminate.

“When you discriminate against the black or the white, or the flower, or the lesbian, you discriminate against God, which is the basic goodness in you. You create suffering all around you, and you create suffering within yourself, and it is delusion, ignorance, that is the basis of your action, your attitude of discrimination. If the people who are victims of discrimination practice looking deeply, they will say that I share the same wonderful relationship with God, I have no complex. Those who discriminate against me, do so because of their ignorance. ‘God, please forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing.’ If you reach that kind of insight, you will no longer get angry at that person who discriminates against you, and you might have compassion toward him or her. You will say: ‘He does not know what he is doing. He is creating a lot of suffering around him and within him. I will try to help him.’ So your heart opens like a flower and suffering is no longer there, you have no complex at all, and you turn to be a bodhisattva in helping the people who have been discriminating against you. That is the way I see it, out of my practice of looking deeply, so one day I made the statement that God is a lesbian, and this is my insight.”

I like to think Jesus would agree with Thay.

At least one Christian zealot says there’s ‘no hope’ for me

I am not Jesus’s enemy. I find my identity in Jesus. But I also find my identity in the flowers, the sky, the trees, the wheat field, the child, the sparrow and the Buddha, Siddhārtha Gautama. I find my identity in my next-door neighbour. I find my identity in those who care not for me and those who share my life. I find my identity in all beings because I am all beings and all beings are me.

patti dawn swansson
patti dawn swansson

Let me begin by saying I think Jesus was probably a cool dude.

I mean, that water-into-wine thing…classic. Feeding thousands of people with a few fish and a couple loaves of bread…if only our local food banks could do that. Walking on H2O…brilliant. Calming the storm…we could use a bit of that magic once the November rains arrive where I live. Rising from the dead…the best.

Little wonder throngs numbering in the thousands would gather whenever Jesus came to town with his gang of 12 and a few other hangers-on dogging his tracks as he trundled throughout the Middle East countryside performing his holy hocus pocus. I’d want a front-row seat to that kind of sorcery, too, because it sure beats any of the smoke-and-mirrors illusionism David Copperfield has ever conjured up on a Las Vegas stage.

Do I sound flippant? To the gospel sharks, I suppose I do. I can hear them tsk-tsking me already. After all, writing off Jesus as a sleight-of-hand street busker is a blasphemous bit of business.

Well, don’t get your holy rosaries in a knot. Like I said, I think Jesus was cool. I’m a big fan. I would loved to have been one of his gal pals. Mary Magdalene and I could have taken turns washing his feet. Or she could have washed one foot and I could have washed the other. You know, a menage-a-pied.

At any rate, there’s nothing to be achieved in launching a fire-and-brimstone volley in my direction. It’s already been established that there’s “no hope” for me. I’ve already booked my ticket to hell.

I say that because of a comment that visited my ears during a channel-surfing session I undertook the other day. I landed upon something called the Life Today show which, on this particular morning, featured the Bible-thumping brayings of a young lass named Christine Caine.

“You have to find your identity in Christ,” she told me and the other five or six people who might have stumbled upon this show at 5 o’clock in the a.m. “There’s no hope without Jesus. None.”

She neglected to explain exactly what there is “no hope” for, but I took it to mean there is “no hope” for eternal salvation for those of us who struggle with the notion that Jesus is our lord, our saviour and our master. Thus I am a no-hoper. I am destined for the burning coals of hell that my many ruler-wielding Sisters of St. Mary teachers at St. Alphonsus School cautioned me about.

But wait. Who is this Christine Caine and who is she to tell me I have “no hope” if I don’t do what she tells me to do?

Well, a Google search took me to her website, whereupon I discovered she is a pastor from Down Under, the director of Equip and Empower Ministries, and she trots the globe to spread the word through speaking engagements and promoting the many books she has written in an effort to convince us no-hopers that the only way to salvation is through a gate called Jesus. Her site includes daily musings, one of which I found quite interesting.

“We cannot just talk about the need, cry about the need, sing about the need; we must BE the hands and feet of Jesus.”

I read that and thought, “Terrific. She wants to wash Jesus’s feet, too. Now what are Mary Magdalene and I supposed to do? I mean, the guy’s only got two feet. Mary Magdalene and I don’t need another set of hands to wash the feet that walk on water. I sense a cat fight brewing. Three girls fighting…won’t that be exciting for the apostles?”

Oh, there I go being flippant and irreverent again. Little wonder there’s “no hope” for me.

Anyway, I have no desire to squabble with Christine Caine. I just wish she would stop telling myself and others who have yet to embrace Jesus and our lord, saviour and master that we have “no hope” and we are the “enemy.”

I am not Jesus’s enemy. I find my identity in Jesus. But I also find my identity in the flowers, the sky, the trees, the wheat field, the child, the sparrow and the Buddha, Siddhārtha Gautama. I find my identity in my next-door neighbour. I find my identity in those who care not for me and those who share my life. I find my identity in all beings because I am all beings and all beings are me.

I accept that Jesus was flesh, blood and bones. He was born (not to a virgin) and he was crucified. Most scholars are in agreement on those two points. I accept that he was a remarkable person, a gifted, profound teacher, a storyteller, a sorcerer and a bit of a bad-ass rebel (a depictive that some churches have used to woo young people to the flock) whose non-conventional notions got him nailed to a wooden cross at the behest of Pontius Pilatus, Prefect of Judaea. Most everything else I have been told, read or heard about Jesus is iffy. It comes across as pure fiction.

Yet, unlike Christian zealots such as Christine Caine who debunk those unwilling to share her unbending belief that Jesus is the only way, I cast no stones of ridicule or condemnation at those who accept the gospels as fact. I only wonder why they must use fear tactics to promote their dogma.

She says there’s “no hope” for me. “None.” I disagree. There are many fires and each fire grants warmth to all in the room, not just he who fetched the wood and she who lit the match.

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