I've been thinking about Oklahoma State Coach Mike Grundy this week. This is probably the first time in ten years that I've given so much thought to football. And even now, I'm not really thinking about football. I'm thinking about the differences between male and female in 21st Century America. (That sounds more like me, doesn't it?)
Sometime last week, Coach Grundy unloaded both barrels on a female sports reporter after she wrote a somewhat snarky column about one of his players. I worked for a period of time as a newspaper columnist, too, and that experience taught me that snark is magnified in print. So, what I'm thinking about is not whether or not this reporter's column was appropriate. I don't think it was. I think it was unprofessional. (And that's my professional opinion, professionally. What do you think, C.J.?)
Coach Grundy's irritation was justified. But was his behavior? Here, I have to ask the million-dollar question. Would Coach Grundy have unloaded on a man that way? I don't think so, and here's why. (Bear with me, I'm going to be offensive.)
The field of sports writing is one of the last remaining Professionally Male Spaces. What I mean is that a woman cannot easily operate in the profession of sports writing unencumbered with some kind of secret weapon. And when we're talking about sports writing, that secret weapon is often startling good looks coupled with a projected (however so deceptive) sense of sexual availability. Have you seen the women reporting from the sidelines on ESPN? Yeah, me too. While I wouldn't say they are stupid, I certainly wouldn't say they are ugly. (Not that the two are mutually exclusive. They most certainly aren't.) And what happens to a woman who dares transgress the P.M.S. (AWESOME!) of sports writing without her secret weapon? Well, Coach Grundy eats her lunch on national television. I'll just go ahead and ask the question you are. Would it have been different if the reporter somehow projected sexual availability? Yes. It would have. And you can figure out why.
One of the first things Coach Grundy says to the reporter is "you obviously don't have children." That's a curious statement. I've often heard it uttered from one female to another or from a male to a female, but never from a male to a male. And what am I to take away from that? Well, at it's core it's an offensive statement. Whether the speaker realizes it or not, it calls into question the gender identity of the person spoken to. "You must not have any children" could just as easily be "You aren't a real woman (or man)." And I don't know that I would have recognized how loaded that statement is if I wasn't vulnerable to it. So, is that my bias interpreting that statement, or did my bias open my eyes to what it actually means? I don't know. What I do know is that I've never heard it said when the speaker wasn't already angry. And that means something. So why isn't that statement used between men? Because it's tantamount to saying "You don't have any balls." And that statement could easily erupt into violence, especially in a testosterone-fueled P.M.S.
Coach Grundy did what he did because he didn't have to worry about a violent retribution. And that's cowardly.
But this gives rise to another question. (Which I'll answer more succinctly.) Would the reporter have written a column like that if she were a man operating in a P.M.S.? I don't think so. He article is emasculating to the player she writes about. In it, she's basically making the same gender-questioning statement that Grundy is. And if she were a male, she'd have to be concerned with a violent retribution. But, because she's a female, she can avoid violence so she doesn't censor herself. And that, too, is cowardly.
See how much better the world would be if we could just beat each other up? Sometimes, violence is the answer.