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.

About Vietnam and Las Vegas…a president in Puerto Rico…Tom Petty and the Traveling Wilburys…rude noise on The Voice…learning about Will & Grace…October baseball…and shining in 2019

Random thoughts before the candle goes out and the sun comes up…

I spent the entirety of my Sunday watching the final six installments of the Lynn Novick/Ken Burns documentary The Vietnam War and went to bed emotionally spent and softly weeping.

Such atrocities. Such carnage. Such an unnecessary waste of human life.

I awoke 5 1/2 hours later, at 1:30 a.m. Monday, and clicked on my TV. I began weeping again. Another atrocity. More carnage. More unnecessary waste of human life, this time on our side of the world, in Las Vegas.

You wake up in the morning knowing the world will have changed overnight, but you don’t expect this kind of change. Fifty-eight people taken to the morgue. Approximately 500 whisked away to the ER at five different Vegas hospitals. That’s almost 600 people killed or cut down. By a man who, due to silent voices in his head and a disturbing, horrific sense of right and wrong, took a piece of pure Americana—a country music festival—and buried it in pure evil.

The physical toll is shocking, the worst human slaughter in modern-time United States. The emotional fallout is much greater.

Approximately 22,000 innocent, happy concert-goers are victims. Their friends and loved ones are victims. First responders are victims. Doctors and nurses are victims. Jason Aldean, on stage closing the Route 91 Harvest Festival when bullets from high-powered weapons began to rain down from a 32nd-floor room in the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, and other performers are victims.

So the country to the south has been crippled. Again.

The Olympic Mountains

When I look out the main window of my humble home on a clear day, I can see the United States of America. Literally. The Olympic Mountains are off in the distance, standing tall and firm across the Juan de Fuca Strait in Washington state. It’s a peaceful, picture-postcard setting, totally at odds with the chaos, confusion and killings that occur far too often behind them.

It’s easy for us on the north side of those Olympic Mountains to feel smug and say these types of mass murders are “an American thing,” but do we really want to go there? Americans are our neighbors. Our friends. Even if we find them a tad loud and obnoxious when they visit, they’re North American kin.

Besides, it’s not like we’re immune to the depravity of minds that either snap or plot evil in Canada.

It was only nine months ago, remember, when a young man strolled into a Quebec City mosque and opening fired. By the time he walked out of the Islamic Cultural Centre, six people lay slain and another 19 were wounded.

It’s all so sad.

One of four students dead in Ohio.

The Vietnam War documentary, which aired on PBS, is a superb, enlightening and gripping work from Novick and Burns. It is a harsh reminder of the violence that prevailed during the 1960s and early ’70s—it definitely wasn’t all flower power, groovin’ and great rock ‘n’ roll like some Baby Boomers would have you believe—and I’m sure it opened eyes to the shameful deceit, cunning and flat-out criminal activity of people in the White House. The most heart-tugging and tear-inducing segment for me was the sight of students lying on the ground, dead, at Kent State after the Ohio National Guard had gunned them down. Innocent kids, killed by their own government. I can still hear the haunting refrain “four dead in Ohio” in Neil Young’s classic protest song Ohio. Sigh.

Speaking of government, did U.S. President Donald Trump actually tell people in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico to “have a good time” and toss them paper towels? Well, yes, he did. Oh my.

Okay, it’s about Tom Petty. My favorite Tom Petty stuff was the stuff he did with Nelson, Otis, Lefty and Lucky, aka the Traveling Wilburys. Now, with Petty’s passing this week, there are only two of the Wilburys left—Lucky (Bob Dylan) and Otis (Jeff Lynne). George Harrison and Roy Orbison had preceded Petty to the big rock concert in the sky. Petty (Charlie T. Wilbury Jr.), Dylan, Lynne, Harrison and Orbison only recorded one album together —Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1—and it’s brilliant. Those boys could really get after it. There’s a second album (I have the both on vinyl), but Orbison had already left us.

The Traveling Wilburys: Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, George Harrison, Roy Orbison.

My favorite Traveling Wilburys tunes…

  1. Handle with Care
  2. End of the Line
  3. Rattled
  4. Not Alone Any More
  5. Poor House

Gave The Voice a try last week, but, sorry, I cannot watch if Miley Cyrus and Jennifer Hudson are sitting in two of the four judges’ chairs. They both seem to be of the misguided notion that the show is about them, not the contestants. The hokey Adam Levine-Blake Shelton bromance wore thin about six years ago, but Cyrus and Hudson make the show unbearable. Click.

I’m told Will & Grace are back on TV. Hmmm. I didn’t know they had left. So, because I missed them during their first go-round on the small screen, I thought I’d give the new season’s first episode a look-see. I must say, that was a funny show. And imagine my surprise. There are gay characters. Who knew? Must check it out again. (Sidebar: Debra Messing has gorgeous hair. Love the color, which also happens to be my color.)

I love October baseball, even if I don’t have a cheering interest. Actually, I found myself root, root, rooting for the New York Yankees in their wild-card skirmish with the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday night. I’m not sure what that means. I mean, I’ve always been an ABTY ball fan—anybody but the Yankees. So why was I cheering for them? I think I need to book some time on Dr. Phil’s couch.

If I was still in River City, working in mainstream jock journalism at the Winnipeg Sun, I’d be required to attend a hockey match this very night between the hometown Jets and the Tranna Maple Leafs and pretend it’s important. I’m glad I’m no longer in River City working in mainstream journalism.

According to my October horoscope, “2019 will be your time to shine.” Excuse me? 2019? What the hell am I supposed to do until then?

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