So a few days have passed since the whole Erin Andrews nude video flare-up, which is good. Because I’ve been trying, trying, trying, trying to decide what I think about the whole thing.
First and foremost, I’m disgusted. There is nothing funny, sexy, goofy, wacky, fun about taping a naked woman as she changes clothes through a peephole in a hotel. I hope they find the guy, I hope they coat his body in cheese and I hope they dangle him before a gaggle of over-sized rats.
There is, however, a greater issue here. Greater issues, actually. With rare exception, over the past decade ESPN (as well as other networks) has decided upon a rather unscientific (but not entirely universal) system for hiring its female sideline reporters and studio personalities.
A. They must have a working knowledge of sports.
B. They must speak English.
C. They must be “hot.”
For the record, I loathe the word “hot” as a description of attractive women. It’s a pathetic, fourth-grade sort of term. Once upon a time I thought Corrine Lee was “hot.” We were, however, both in sixth grade at Lakeview Elementary, and she was probably wearing braces, leg warmers and Sassons. In the world of male-dominated sports media, however , “hot” remains the adjective of choiceâ€”2009 style. It comes with a very explicit, definitive meaningâ€”blonde, large breasts, long legs. Over the course of my career I’ve heard countless female peers tagged as “hot” by looming, foaming, sloppily dressed men, and I’m always mortified to be a part of the conversation. (My lowest moment, easily: Being in a spring training press box with Warren Cromartie, the one-time Expos star who was working for some local radio station. When a female radio reporter, no older than 23, walked away, he turned to a young colleague and uttered something along the lines of, “I bet you’d like to tap that ass, eh?”).
Hence, we have been presented with “talents” (the in-house ESPN word to describe its relatively talent-less employees) like Erin Andrews, Melissa Stark, Lisa Guerrero, Jill Arrington and Jillian Barberie-Reynolds. This is not meant to insult those women, per se, but to suggest that, across America, there are, without question, hundreds … probably thousands of more capable females who possess greater doses of depth, insight, intelligenceâ€”but who are too physically __________ (FILL IN THE BLANK WITH ‘FAT, SHORT, FLAT-CHESTED, DEEP-VOICED, HAIRY, PIMPLED, SCARRED, ETC’ …) to be considered. Truth is, ESPN knows the two (pathetic) realities of hiring women to work the sidelines and clubhouses: 1. Male athletes will always ignore male reporters in favor of the scent of perfume and a pair of long legs; 2. Male viewers will always ignore male reporters in favor of the sight of perky breasts and a pair of long legs.
When it comes to her job, whichâ€”if a reminder is neededâ€”is as an on-air sports reporter, Andrews is OK. Not amazing. Not terrible. Just OK. Yet during her time with ESPN, she has been branded as anything but a journalistâ€”by viewers, as well as the network itself. Countless magazines and websites have deemed her “hottest” reporter or sports personality. If you Google her name (which results in more than 10 million sites), two of the first four pictures that pop up are close-ups of her breasts and rear end. Yet I have neverâ€”neverâ€”heard anyone from ESPN’s offices criticize the response to Andrews, or insist that she deserves credit, first and foremost, as a reporter, or that the days of treating her as an object should end. The truth is, every time someone Googles “Erin Andrews” and “ass,” ESPN is getting attention. And, as we all know, ESPN loves attentionâ€”good, bad or indifferent.
Once again, the person who taped Erin Andrews should be asked to star in a new VH1 reality show, LOCKED IN A ROOM WITH FLAVOR FLAV AND 20 STARVED ALLIGATORS. But as everyone in the mediaâ€”and everyone at ESPNâ€”feigns disgust over the way Andrews has been treated, some people need to look in the mirror.
There are, after all, consequences to creating a sex symbol.