THOSE CUTE LITTLE GIRLS
The Amateur Athletic Foundation of Los Angeles recently published a study comparing the way television covers women's sports with the way it covers men's sports. The research team watched: 1) six weeks of late-night sports news on KNBC in Los Angeles; 2) coverage of the women's and men's NCAA basketball semifinals and finals by CBS and ESPN; and 3) the four final days of the 1989 U.S. Open tennis championship, which were covered on CBS and USA Network.
First, the obvious: There is much less coverage of women's sports than of men's. For example, during those six weeks, KNBC devoted 244 minutes (92%) to men's sports, 12 minutes (5%) to women's sports and eight (3%) to "gender neutral" topics. Women were sprinkled throughout these broadcasts, but almost always in nonathletic roles, for humor or titillation.
The study also found that:
•Female athletes are far more likely to be referred to by their first names than are male athletes. This so-called infantilizing of adult women was most evident in tennis commentary; women were referred to by their first names 52.7% of the time, as opposed to 7.8% of the time for men. (Incredibly, of the 19 male basketball players referred to by first name only, all were either black or Hispanic. Not once was a white male identified by his first name alone.)
•Commentators were more likely to use martial metaphors and words suggesting power when describing male athletes than when describing females. Male tennis players lost points not because of their own failings, but because of their opponents' strength or power. Women, on the other hand, lost points because they were too nervous or lacked aggression, confidence or stamina.
SO MANY COFFIN CORNERS
The San Saba (Texas) High football team would appear to have a unique home field advantage. Rogan Field, where the Fighting Golden Armadillos play their home games, is built on top of an old cemetery. While no one knows for sure how many bodies are resting beneath the sod, the Armadillos are grateful for their presence. Says fullback and linebacker Brian Sanderson, "It gives other teams something to think about."
The field has seemed, on occasion, to provide assistance of an otherworldly kind. "A few times, guys from opposing teams have had an open field and have tripped and fallen," says Brad McCoy, San Saba's coach. "Our kids say it's our spirit hand coming out of the ground to make a tackle for us."
The site was first used as a cemetery in 1858, and according to one local historian, about 200 bodies were buried there before it fell into disuse. In 1935 the family that owned the land donated it to the San Saba school district and invited relatives of the deceased to come and collect the remains. Some obliged, but between 40 and 50 of the bodies went unclaimed, which means that, whereas most teams count themselves lucky to possess any team spirit at all, the Armadillos can call upon two score or more of them.
Do the spirits help? During McCoy's three years as coach, the Armadillos have lost just three home games. Their record this year was 8-1-1. Lest their opponents be unaware of the forces working against them, McCoy has put up a sign near the visitors' locker room that reads: WELCOME TO THE GRAVEYARD.
FRED SHERO (1925-1990)
For 14 years, SI's Jay Greenberg covered the Philadelphia Flyers for the Philadelphia Daily News. He recalls Fred Shero, the Flyers' quirky, innovative coach from 1971-72 to '77-78, who died last week of cancer at the age of 65:
Hockey has lost one of its greatest coaches and most fascinating personalities. Fred Shero, who guided the brawling Flyers to Stanley Cups in 1974 and '75, was that rarest of coaches, a true theorist. He popularized the diagramming of plays and designed drills using tennis balls and folding chairs.
A shy man who sprinkled his conversation with quotations culled from Bartlett's, Shero kept a low profile. In 1972 he ducked out for a cigarette after a game and somehow locked himself out of the arena, thus contributing to his nickname of Freddie the Fog. Not loath to embellish the image he had acquired of being the bumbling genius, he delighted in saying things like "I want to be miserable. That makes me happy."
"Sometimes I don't think he knows the difference between Tuesday and Wednesday, and sometimes I think he is a genius who has us all fooled," said former Montreal coach Scotty Bowman. The real secret of Shero's success was that he simplified and made enjoyable what he called "a little boys' game played by men." The boys who played for Shero have been made older and sadder men by the fact of his passing.
FOR PETE'S SAKE
The National Baseball Hall of Fame is forming a committee to review its selection procedures, prompting speculation in the last few weeks that the move was related to Pete Rose's possible election. SI's Steve Wulf writes:
The fire won't really start until next year, but the alarm is already sounding: Baseball is out to get Pete Rose.
Ringing the bell are members of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA), which votes on Hall of Fame candidates. It's a rather big jump from the fact that the Hall has created its new committee to the conclusion that the powers-that-be are trying to keep Rose's name off the 1991 ballot, but several writers have made it.
The fact is, says Bill Guilfoile, the Hall's associate director, that the committee, composed of baseball executives and writers, will meet this winter just to fine-tune the voting process. "We do this periodically," says Guilfoile. "The meeting has nothing to do with Pete Rose. I can't understand the furor. The BBWAA knew about this weeks ago."
The BBWAA is the most powerful journalistic outfit in sports. It not only conducts annual voting for the Hall of Fame, but it also elects MVPs and Cy Young Award winners, etc. Some of its 450 members consider the BBWAA to be as sacred as, well, the Hall of Fame.
There may be no more highly charged question in. sports than, Should Pete Rose be in the Hall of Fame? Personally, I feel he shouldn't be inducted until he is allowed back into organized baseball—assuming that happens. I'm not saying that his great career should be ignored, but I do think his banishment from the game should hold sway.
But if he's elected, so be it. I just keep wondering why people get more indignant over the possibility that Rose won't get into the Hall than over the fact that he bet on baseball games.
A BATTERED BRUIN CALLS IT QUITS
Athletes' bodies are deceptively fragile, only when disaster strikes are we reminded that their careers hang by threads of sinew. Consider the saga of Gord Kluzak. Chosen by the Boston Bruins with the first pick of the 1982 NHL draft, Kluzak was viewed as a franchise player, a no-nonsense defense-man around whom Boston would build a championship team. "We thought he had the potential to be a Hall of Famer," says Bruin general manager Harry Sinden. The son of a Saskatchewan wheat farmer, Kluzak was 6'4" and 215 pounds. His teammates called him Gordzilla, so immune did he seem to physical impairment.
Yet on Nov. 12, Kluzak, who is only 26, announced his retirement because of a damaged left knee on which surgeons had operated an incredible 11 times in the last six years. In the 1986-87 season alone, Kluzak had four operations on the knee. "I've never seen someone labor over an injury as long as he did," says Kevin Dupont of The Boston Globe. "His story should have had a happy ending."
Kluzak's physical woes began during a 1984 preseason game when the New Jersey Devils' Dave Lewis nailed him with a clean check that damaged ligaments and cartilage in his left knee and ended his '84-85 season before it began. During a torturous struggle to return to the ice, Kluzak reckons he rode enough miles on his stationary bike to go from Boston to Los Angeles and back. "It got to the point where we all would wait around after practice to see if Gordie's knee had swelled up," says Bruin defenseman Don Sweeney. "A day of nonswelling was a victory, a little light at the end of the tunnel." Kluzak played 66 games in the '87-88 season, but played just 13 more thereafter, though he continued valiantly to rehabilitate his knee after each of his operations. Last spring the Professional Hockey Writers' Association awarded Kluzak its prestigious Masterton Trophy, given annually for "perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey."
This fall Kluzak fought his way back to the ice once again. On Nov. 5, at Madison Square Garden, he was his team's best defenseman in a 3-2 overtime win over the Rangers, but the knee swelled badly after the game. Kluzak took a week to announce his decision, but said in a tearful farewell that he had made up his mind after that game. He said, "We'd just won in overtime, and I'd played a regular shift, but I didn't feel anything. Something inside me was telling me that was going to be it."
THEY SAID IT
•Robert Parish, 37-year-old Celtics center, when asked if he thought he could keep up with the team's new up-tempo offense: "To half court, yes."