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.

Pay attention to what you don’t see in our sports coverage

Gender bias in sports media is hiding in plain sight. Every day.

Chances are, however, that you don’t recognize it because you read, see and hear only what’s in front of you, and you fail to contemplate what’s not in front of you.

But pick up a newspaper (if people still do that), go to a mainstream media sports website, or tune your flatscreen to an all-jock TV channel, and if you look and listen closely enough (you won’t have to strain) you’ll notice what’s absent from the coverage.

That’s right, female sports.

Oh, sure, the jock outlets acknowledge activity on the distaff portion of the playground, but it’s extremely sparingly and often done begrudgingly, like a parent allowing a child to stay up an extra hour on a school night. Just don’t do it too often, if you know what’s good for you.

I mean, if an editor were to deliver an inordinate amount of female sports coverage, chances are readers/viewers would be lickety-split with a reminder that “nobody cares” about the girls and women who run, jump, throw, skate and bounce balls.

The only sports that seem to generate close to equitable content are tennis and, in Canada, curling. Oh, there’s also figure skating. For some reason, mainstream news snoops are rather smitten with female fancy skaters, most likely because they tend to be dainty and delicate creatures who smile a lot and perhaps remind them of their sisters or daughters. But that’s only 10 days every four years when the Olympic Games torch is aflame.

Otherwise, sports reporting remains a man’s world run (mostly) by men, talked about (mostly) by men, and written about (mostly) by men.

That was confirmed (once again) earlier this year by TIDES, The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, which studied, then graded 100 newspapers/websites with a big, fat F for their gender hiring practices. That F doesn’t stand for fantastic, fabulous or fine.

“While women saw slight improvements in 2021, the overall record of the sports media for having women in prominent positions remains terrible,” said Richard Lapchick, Director of the Institute.

Here’s the evidence:

  • 83.3 percent of sports editors were men.
  • 75.8 percent of assistant sports editors were men.
  • 82.2 percent of columnists were men.
  • 85.6 percent of reporters were men.
  • 75.3 percent of copy editors/designers were men.
  • 78.1 percent of web specialists were men.
  • 63.7 percent of upper management were men.

No surprise, therefore, that the huge majority of decision-makers assume the consumer wants (demands?) a steady diet of the big-ticket items, which is to say major men’s professional team sports. So why would they be inclined to force-feed readers/viewers a bag of unsalted peanuts and a glass of soda water when nachos, cheeseburgers, extra-large pizza with double cheese, and pints (tall boys, naturally) are available. Pig out, boys.

All of which explains the numerous studies that historically peg the amount of female-centric content in sports coverage anywhere from 3-to-5 percent. (See: USC/Purdue University.)

The gender bias is blatant and yet subtle.

For example, Cathal Kelly of the Globe and Mail recently wrote an essay on the Canadian men’s national soccer side giving Mexico the cold shoulder in a frost-bitten, World Cup qualifying skirmish in frigid Edmonton.

“For the first time in our sporting history,” he submitted, “Canada may have an enemy that isn’t Slavic or Scandinavian.”

Say again? I assume “our sporting history” includes women’s hockey, so what part of the Canada-U.S. rivalry in Ponytail Puck does Kelly not understand?

I mean, I realize Donald Trump did a few loopy things while in the White House, but I don’t recall him selling America―lock, stock and the right to bear arms―to a Slavic or Scandinavian nation. The good, ol’ U.S. and A. is still in North American, due south of our Frozen Tundra, and there’s no True North sporting thrust-and-parry that matches the bitterness and intensity of Canada vs. the Yankee Doodle Damsels on a sheet of ice.

But Kelly’s comment is typical of mainstream jock journalism. Unless someone has lit the Olympic Games torch, female sports is a tree falling in the forest and no one has been assigned to see or hear it.

Another example would be the debut of the Toronto Six, a member in good standing of the Premier Hockey Federation (nee National Women’s Hockey League). The Six dropped the puck on the first home assignment in franchise history on Saturday, and whupped the Connecticut Whale in front of a packed York Canlan Ice Arena. Here’s how mainstream media in the Republic of Tranna handled the event:

TSN: 0 coverage on 60-minute highlights show.
Sportsnet: 0 coverage on 60-minute highlights show.
Toronto Sun: 0 words in print edition; 0 words on website.
Toronto Star: 0 words in print edition; 135 words of CP copy on website.

The following day, the unbeaten and first-place Six doubled down with another victory over the Whale, which warranted a 55-word sports brief in the Star and no mention on the TV highlight packages or in the tabloid.

In another daily on another patch of the Frozen Tundra, the Winnipeg Free Press boasts of a robust record on the female sports file, yet the numbers scream, “That’s bogus!”

September 2021
Men’s articles/briefs: 409
Women’s articles/briefs: 29
Editions that included local female sports coverage: 7 of 30.

October 2021
Men’s articles/briefs: 456
Women’s articles/briefs: 32
Editions that included local female sports coverage: 11 of 31.

The Freep toy department is governed by men and its stable of scribes is devoid of females, although that isn’t unusual given that, across the vast land, Jills who write about jocks are as scarce as smiles and belly laughs at a gravesite.

That isn’t apt to change any time soon because, based on the latest TIDES study, change to gender bias on the sports media landscape is moving slower than the globe’s glaciers, and the women don’t have a Greta Thunberg prepared to stand up and raise a big stink about it.

Thus the bias, both blatant and subtle, shall continue unchecked, and the men who make the decisions don’t need to care.

The Toronto Maple Leafs have become a country song and we don’t have to eat our Brussels sprouts anymore

So I’m flipping through the pages of the Toronto Star this morning, and I come across a short essay by Richie Assaly, who, like so many in the Republic of Tranna, feels like he’s living a country song.

Except his dog didn’t die and mama wasn’t run over by a damned ol’ train the day she got out of prison.

No, the long face and world of hurt is the product of another Toronto Maple Leafs’ pratfall, an annual spring ritual observed from one flank of the tundra to the other and points north.

You’d think the citizenry in the Republic of Tranna would be used to it by now, but this latest Leafs loss—to the dreaded Montreal Canadiens in Game 7 of their Stanley Cup skirmish on Monday night—seems to have brought with it a different and deeper level of grieving.

“A monumental collapse. A tragedy on ice. Rock bottom,” went the Assaly lament. “There’s a distinct chance that the last day of May in 2021 will find its way into the history books as one of the lowest points in Toronto sports history.”

Personally, I think Humpty Harold Ballard asking his coach, Roger Neilson, to wear a paper bag on his head behind the bench ranks lowest on the lame-o-meter, but I guess Assaly uses a different measuring stick.

At any rate, it’s official. The Maple Leafs have become a country song. Three chords and the truth about kicking a tin can up the road for 54 years.

Assaly didn’t stop there, though.

It isn’t just the Leafs’ latest face plant that’s got up his nose. It’s us. You know, those of us who live in The Colonies.

“As a dark cloud of misery descended upon Leaf Nation, hockey fans outside of the GTA were taking part in a joyous display of pettiness—a schadenfreude soirée,” he wrote.

Oh my. Pettiness? Naw. Going “na, na, na, na, na” would be petty.

But we don’t do petty. Oh, sure, some of us snicker behind our hands, the way kids bust a gut when the schoolyard bully falls in a mud puddle, while others cackle in glee with gusts up to rude laughter.

The thing is, that’s part of our DNA.

Humpty Harold Ballard

Assaly doesn’t understand that most of us who work and play in The Colonies need the Leafs to cough up a giant hairball every year for comic relief, otherwise we’d have nothing to do but watch curling ice melt or, in my case on the Wet Coast, watch the rain fall.

Would he deny us our giddiness?

Besides, when you drill to the nub of the matter, it’s not so much the Leafs that we poke fun at. The issue is the ram-it-down-our-throats, 24/7 hype from TSN/Sportsnet, who believe the National Hockey League in Canada consists of the Leafs and six red-headed, freckle-faced step-children they acknowledge only when Auston Matthews isn’t grooming his cheesy upper lip whiskers.

After the Leafs stubbed their toes on Monday night, one of the talking heads on TSN, Glenn Schiiler, informed the nation that, with Matthews and Mitch Marner taking their leave, all the “best players” had been removed from the Stanley Cup tournament, as if the rosters of les Canadiens, the Winnipeg Jets and the six U.S. outfits still chasing the shinny grail are stocked with a bunch of beer-leaguers who still need mom and dad to tie their skate laces.

The Globe and Mail, meanwhile, is supposed to be a national newspaper, but its sports columnist, Cathal Kelly, has written three essays on the Leafs losing in the past week and zero on the Montreal Canadiens, who play on while the Leafs play golf.

It’s one thing for the Toronto Star and Toronto Sun to place their focus on the Leafs and declare them “Kings of the North” before the puck is dropped on the annual spring runoff, but the sports columnist at our national sheet? Wrong.

Richie Assaly and others in The ROT need to know this is why we get giddy when the Leafs soil the sheets every spring.

It’s not that we hate the Leafs. Heck, many among us in The Colonies root, root, root for them and attend games adorned in blue-and-white Leafs livery, with the names Matthews and Marner stitched on the back.

But it’s like Brussels sprouts for most of us. Our parents repeatedly told us “they’re good for you,” except we didn’t want to hear it anymore. We just wanted those little green things to disappear.

Same thing with the Leafs.

They’re gone now, so once the talking heads and our national sports columnist have gone through a suitable mourning period and remove the black armbands, we won’t be fed Brussels sprouts anymore. At least not until autumn, when we’ll be reminded once again that Matthews and Marner are the best thing since Canadian bacon, even as they forever fail to bring home the bacon.

In the meantime, the brown paper bag is once again the official gear of Maple Leafs fans/media, who are singing that same old hurtin’ song, only with a fresh twist.

It’s crunch time for Ponytail Puck

They’re talking. Or so they say.

And they’re telling us that the olive branch has been extended, giving rise to the notion that détente has arrived in women’s hockey.

If true, this would qualify as glad tidings, at least for those among us who want the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association and the National Women’s Hockey League to find middle ground and make Ponytail Puck work.

For the past two years—which is to say since the PWHPA came into existence—the distaff side of the rink has been a fractious bit of business, even if Jayna Hefford begs to differ.

Jayna Hefford

“Despite what often gets reported in the media it’s never been ‘we won’t talk to you,’” the PWHPA operations consultant tells Donna Spencer of Canadian Press.

Well, Hefford’s nose is growing and her pants are a bonfire.

It has been contentious. I mean, when someone from one side (hello, Hilary Knight) describes the other side (NWHL) as a “glorified beer league,” it leaves little room for interpretation. It isn’t meant to be a compliment.

Most, if not all, of the sniping has originated from PWHPA membership, or its allies in the media, because they view the NWHL as a nuisance and a hindrance in their quest to curry the favor and big bucks of National Hockey League billionaire owners.

They had hoped the NWHL would have vanished by now, like a prop in a David Copperfield illusion, but the six-club circuit that dropped the puck in 2015 refuses to play along. It has more investors, more sponsors, more teams on the way, more media partners, and more coin for the players (the salary cap has been bumped to $300,000 per team next season). It has expressed no inclination toward disappearing.

And what has the PWHPA to show for its two years of existence?

Well, it also has backers, most notably the people at Secret Deodorant who tossed $1 million into the kitty for this year’s Dream Gap Tour, and they’ve also found a best friend in Sportsnet, which has fully bought into PWHPA propaganda and shamelessly panders to the boycotters, refusing to ask the tough questions.

Members of the PWHPA also hit the ice on occasion (a total of six Dream Gap games to date this year), but there is no league, just slapped-together groupings called Team Women’s Sports Foundation, Team adidas, Team Sonnet, Team Scotiabank and Team Bauer (move to the head of the class if you can name the home base of those outfits), and the results of their glorified scrimmages are of such little consequence that the PWHPA doesn’t post them on its website. Even Billie Jean King has stopped showing up for photo-ops.

Part of the PWHPA mission statement tells us the group exists “to promote, advance, and support a single, viable professional women’s ice hockey league in North America that showcases the greatest product of women’s professional ice hockey in the world.”

Toward that end, they are failing miserably with their boycott of the NWHL. They’re no nearer a viable, one-sustainable-league operation than they were at the get-go, May 20, 2019.

Tyler Tumminia

Which is why news that Hefford and NWHL commissioner Tyler Tumminia have been in natter is a positive development.

“I think we continue to talk to keep that door open,” Hefford tells CP’s Spencer. “As long as I’ve been a part of the PWHPA, we’ve communicated what we believe needs to be a part of the next version of a professional women’s hockey.”

Make no mistake, this is crunch time for Ponytail Puck. Once the world tournament has been played later this year, the Olympic Games will be the next point of focus. Then what? More of the same old, same old? Two groups sparring instead of linking arms and skating in lockstep toward a common goal?

I certainly don’t see the paying public or the NHL buying into that on any significant level.

Like every other business, the NHL has gone through the COVID-19 pandemic with greatly reduced revenue, and I doubt the billionaire owners’ initial instinct once on the other side will be to create a foster home for female hockey-playing orphans.

I’d say the PWHPA and NWHL have about a year to put the Ponytail Puck house in order. If they fail, they’ll have themselves to blame.

Nothing but fake news in shrinking sports sections

No one can see the finish line, no one knows where the finish line is, and we are left to wonder what the wide, wide world of sports will look like once squints and medics around the world force COVID-19 to tap out.

That includes the sports sections of our daily news sheets.

Back on the Ides of March, I gave a worrisome nod to the girls and boys on the jock beat, suggesting they’d be running on fumes by now, with little or nothing to write about other than the coronavirus ransacking the playground.

“Truthfully, I’m concerned about today’s jock journos, print division,” I wrote. “They had no desire to quit sports, but sports has quit them. And now they’ll begin to run on fumes. I mean, they’ve already exhausted their main talking point—shutting down was ‘the right thing do do; life is bigger than sports’—so there’s nothing left for them to wax on about until the squints (scientists) have their say, and that might be many, many months from now. Their only hope is for the Olympic Games to proceed, which is a faint and delusional expectation, and I’m sure it’s a shuddering reality for some. I really wonder how many of them will still be there when sports breaks through to the other side (of the coronavirus).”

So here we are, 11 days later, and how is it working out for them so far?

Three words: Running on fumes.

Oh, they’re fighting the good fight, to be sure. Every morning, I call up the two dailies in Good Ol’ Hometown to get an update on the coronavirus scourge, and I also note that the Winnipeg Sun still has a sports section while the Drab Slab continues to make room, albeit limited, for the games people no longer play due to COVID-19.

Today, for example, there are 11 pages of sports in the Sun, and we’ll have to overlook the reality that six of those pages, including an ode to Vince Carter cover, are devoted to athletes and teams from the Republic of Tranna, which makes it the Winnironto Sun more than the Winnipeg Sun. The Free Press, meanwhile, has eliminated its sports section Monday-Friday, and today tucked its four pages of jock jottings (mostly local) in with the funnies, the TV listings, the crossword puzzles and other word games.

Is any of it worth reading? Well, that’s a matter of opinion, of course, but I’m guessing that most among the rabble in Good Ol’ Hometown could get through their day without “reliving the Bautista bat flip” or reliving “the VINSANITY” and taking a “look back at the Vince Carter era with the Raptors.”

That’s what the Sun served up. Like I said, running on fumes.

There wasn’t anything quite so outrageous in the Drab Slab, but last weekend the Freep ran its jock version of War and Peace—a 3,000-plus-word article with thumbnails on every man who laced up a skate and played professional hockey in North America this past winter. Like I said, running on fumes.

It seems to me, though, that the Freep is going about it the right way by shrinking its sports coverage.

I mean, we keep hearing that life is bigger than sports, yet the people at Postmedia apparently didn’t receive the memo. Indeed, one of the chain’s main jock journos, Steve Simmons of the Tranna Sun, delivered this shockingly tone-deaf tweet the other day:

“If you still want to read about sports, you need to keep reading the Toronton Sun. 20 pages today. 14 bylines. Stories about Olympics, NBA, NHL, Leafs, NFL, CFL, horse racing. Our rival today: two pages of sports, two bylines.”

Apparently, Simmons and Donald Trump share a brain.

Seriously, he believes this is about page counts, not body counts? Perhaps the country’s top doc, Dr. Theresa Tam, can include the Toronto Sun-Toronto Star page counts in her next address to the nation. You know, before she bores us with updates on the death toll and tells us how many doctors, nurses and other health-care workers have been ordered into quarantine. (Yes, kids, that’s sarcasm.)

You don’t shame the Toronto Star or the Winnipeg Free Press or the Montreal Gazette because they choose to focus on COVID-19 instead of running installment No. 54,793 in the Tom Brady Saga. You applaud them for it.

Sports isn’t important right now. Ninety-nine per cent of what’s being put on the sports pages these days is fake news that we don’t need, and it isn’t just in the rag trade. TSN, Sportsnet and The Athletic are also faking it. Here are some headlines I read in the past 10 days:

  • “How a shortened MLB season could impact Blue Jays?”

  • “Can Toronto survive with so much cap space devoted to four players?”

  • “Top 11 (purely hypothetical) NHL compliance buyout candidates.”

  • “Inside the ’92 ALCS that redefined the Toronto Blue Jays.”

  • “Down Goes Brown: Ranking all 67 hat tricks from the 2019-20 season.”

  • And my personal favorite: “Why did it take so long to postpone Olympics?”

Good grief. Does it really matter that the International Olympic Committee took its sweet time before snuffing out the flame for the Tokyo Games? No. It only matters that they did the right thing.

None of us knows what’s on the other side of COVID-19, but it surely won’t look the same as it did going in. Newspapers are slashing salaries. Shutting down. Those that haven’t are laying off staff. Sports scribes are being shuffled to newsside to write about germs.

Will Postmedia still be printing a broadsheet and a tabloid in Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton by the time it’s all over? Frankly, I fear the worst. I just hope I’m wrong.

Canadian Newspapers: Where are the strong female voices?

As I gaze across the sports writing landscape in Canada, I am troubled. Not so much for what I see and hear as what I don’t see and hear.

A female presence. A female voice.

It is as rare a species as a virgin at the Playboy Mansion. As scarce a sighting as Brian Burke and Donald S. Cherry sharing a cozy corner table for two in a French cafe.

And that’s sad.

No, I don’t mean it’s sad that Burke and Cherry, Canada’s two most noted blowhards (non-political division), don’t make nice and break bread anymore. After all, those of us who live out in the colonies get our jollies listening to hockey’s version of those two grumpy, old gasbags on The Muppet Show, Waldorf and Statler. So let them have at it. May the most leathery lung win.

What I am saying, however, is that here we are, comfortably into the 21st century when women do everything from raising families to arresting bad guys to traveling into outer space, yet there is a grand total of zero females scribbling a sports column for one of the major English daily newspapers in the Great White North.

Nada. Zip. Zero.

Talk about the loneliest number.

Is this by accident? Coincidence. By design?

Surely, in a vast land that accommodates 34 million souls and takes pride in a Charter that pooh-poohs gender-based barriers, there must be at least one female who has enough writing talent, reporting skill and subject knowledge to pen a daily sports column at one of the main sheets in Canada.

Perhaps she wouldn’t be able to do it as well as, say, Bruce Arthur or Cam Cole, but, then again, perhaps she would be every bit as good. If not better.

I mean, for example, you don’t literally need a set of balls to have the balls to take the aforementioned Burke out to the woodshed for assembling such a rag-tag shinny side in the centre of the hockey universe. A figurative pair of balls will do just fine, thank you.

And, trust me, a girl can get just as down a dirty as a guy.

You think girls don’t have opinions on Burke, the Maple Leafs general manager?

You think girls don’t have a take on those incredibly disappearing Sedin twins, who apparently have gone into a witness protection program in Vancouver?

Or how about Jonathan Hefney, the Twitter-challenged Winnipeg Blue Bombers defender who likes to post raunchy pics of women in the throes of wardrobe malfunctions?

Peyton Manning…a head coach in Montreal who doesn’t parlez vous en Francais…an anti-homophobic campaign featuring NHL players…Sidney Crosby’s head…Sheriff Shanny’s heavy hand…the Blue Jays starting rotation…you think girls can’t write about these, and other, issues?

Once upon a time, Christie Blatchford did that very thing, in the Globe and Mail and Toronto Sun sports sections. Today, Christie writes about the real world, leaving Rosie DiManno of the Toronto Star as the closest thing we have to a female sports columnist. Trouble is, Rosie flits between the toy department and the real world at the Star, so she makes cameo appearances at best.

And I just don’t get it.

I realize that the upper echelon of the sports writing community in Canada remains very much like the large majority of jock enterprises that they cover—a good, ol’ boys club. The Fraternal Order of Ink-Stained Males, if you will. They’re like the neighborhood boys and their treehouse with the No Girls Allowed sign nailed to the door.

But seriously. Not one fulltime female sports columnist? Out of 34 million people?

And this apparent discrimination extends to the country’s two sports networks, as well. TSN has a stable of 25 columnists/bloggers. Sportsnet has 16. None of them wears a bra (unless he’s got a secret, Victoria).

I see the same drab, unsmiling faces on The Reporters with Dave Hodge every Sunday morning on TSN. All men.

I see the same drab, unsmiling faces on The Hot Stove on Hockey Night In Canada every Saturday. All men.

I see all sorts of pretty, blonde heads reading sports every day on the telly, but no female faces, pretty or otherwise, in the sports column flags of daily journals or the websites.

Or on TV sports chin-wags, for that matter.

Is the establishment telling us that the pretty, blonde heads can only read a teleprompter? That they have no thoughts? No opinions? No knowledge? That they can’t string three sentences together, in print or during a TV panel discussion?

Of course they have/can.

So, I am left to ask this question: What are you afraid of, boys?

It’s time to let the girls play in the treehouse.

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