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The Inside Track | T. J. SIMERS

Gender Deficit Is Solved With European Styling

September 06, 2000|T.J. SIMERS

USC released results of a study Tuesday, saying 88.2% of local television sports coverage was devoted to men's sports, 8.7% to women's sports and the remaining 3.1% to gender neutral events.

Obviously, the report is very disturbing--especially with the Olympics looming--because if women are already getting 8.7% of the air time, the men are going to lose even more ground to gymnastics and synchronized swimming highlights.

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THE "GENDER IN Televised Sports" survey also suggested the only reason local commentators give any time to women's sports is to leer at the scantily clad athletes, as if this was un-American.

Leering may not be an Olympic sport, or considered politically correct, but it's one of the leading recreations in this country.

Here at The Times, "ogling or leering at a person" is listed as "inappropriate workplace behavior" in the employee handbook, and rightfully so, because it's very disconcerting writing a column and having everyone stare at you.

But lying on the couch at home on a day off, far from the workplace--with the wife in the other room--and leering at Anna Kournikova would seem to be the only reason anyone would watch Anna Kournikova play tennis.

I suppose you could put a stop to day-off leering with more highlights of Martina Navratilova, but if you're going for ratings to keep your job, do you go with Meg Mallon making a long putt, or do you go with nude bungee jumping?

Here at The Times, of course, we're more interested in Mallon because someone has to be, but according to the USC survey, KABC's Bill Weir went with the nude bungee jumper for 39 seconds, including an interview with the nude woman, who said, "That was amazing. I will never forget it."

That was in March, and I must admit, I can't remember anything else that Bill Weir has done since.

"There is a name for a pattern of behavior that ignores and belittles women's accomplishments," said Anita DeFrantz, president of the Amateur Athletic Foundation, which sponsored the survey. "It is sexism, plain and simple."

That's a relief, I thought she was going to say, "Bill Weir."

The USC survey, meanwhile, recommended that TV should make a serious attempt to include more than token coverage of women's sports in every telecast. Would you just settle for token coverage in every telecast?

"If you want equity and fairness, and are trying to make the world a better place for girls and women and you want sports to be a part of that, then yes, there's something wrong with what's going on in the sports coverage of women on TV," said Michael Messner, USC's professor of sociology and author of the survey. "From a mass media perspective, producers and owners are doing what's safe, and not willing to shape social values in a new way."

Messner said ESPN's "SportsCenter" dedicates only 2.2% of its time to women's sports, and during a three-week period, ESPN never led a program with a story featuring female athletes.

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THIS GOT ME to thinking as I was lying around the Caesars Palace pool. Coincidentally, there was an exotic dancers' convention in town and Caesars allows "European-style sunbathing," so both men and women can go topless.

As an aside, even though I kept my T-shirt on, I think Caesars should be applauded for providing this oasis of equity . . . one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.

Now it takes something special to pull my attention away from the NFL, but knowing that USC was about to release this important survey, I found myself dedicating an unusual amount of time to these athletes gathered around the pool, and I got to thinking, what would be the percentage of women's coverage on local TV if they were competing in European-style pole vaulting?

Look what it's done for Jenny Thompson, who appeared sans Fastskin in a magazine. Name any other swimmer about to compete in the Olympics.

Brandi Chastain led the U.S. to a World Cup soccer win and ripped off her top. A star was born. You think there would be attendance problems in the WNBA if it went to European-style basketball?

I know this also would bring leering to a new level, maybe even making it a demonstration sport in the next Olympics. Anyone leering at my daughters, however, is asking for it.

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CORRECTION: THE DODGERS' Tom Goodwin is striking out one out of every four times at bat. It only seems as if he's striking out every at-bat.

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IT HAS TO have something to do with Texas and rear ends, but I know this, Kevin Brown is probably more upset with George W. Bush than anyone else for getting caught by reporters using a vulgar name to describe another reporter.

Brown and Bush were together with the Texas Rangers for several years, and I'm sure Brown's thinking he taught Bush better.

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