Sweetness And LightSweetness And Light The Score On Sports With Frank Deford

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DAVID GREENE, Host:

This week, Frank Deford takes on some of the slow-changing attitudes in the world of sports, especially for females TV reporters. He says their role in covering pro-football especially troubles him.

FRANK DEFORD: Football season has hardly started and fans are already grousing about sideline reporters. To be sure, sideliners now exist in most all sports, and a handful of them - notably Craig Sager of Turner Broadcasting, who was apparently, nearby the day the clown died, and thus got all his clothes - are downright famous.

TV: sidelinehotties.com. Presumably, TV believes that a touch of pulchritude at the mic improves ratings, affirmative attraction action.

And so the sideliners are delegated to freeze down on the tundra, while the male play-by-play announcer and his hefty old gridiron warrior expert babble on comfortably up in the heated booth. The sideline reporter is sort of like the scroll at the bottom of the screen, which, especially on ESPN, rolls on endlessly, even when it doesn't have anything of consequence to say. Likewise, the sideliner - if you've got the technology for a scroll or a live body on the field, use them.

The most asinine task sideliners are required to carry out is to ask coaches, before the second half, what plans they have for the rest of the game. The coach who's ahead says he wants to keep up the intensity and avoid turnovers. The coach who's behind says he wants to get more physical and avoid turnovers. Back to the booth. And all the guys watching with their buddies laugh at the ditzy babes who ask such obvious stupid questions.

But the irony is that almost sideline reporters whatever sport, whichever gender, really have done their homework and really do know their stuff. Most of them are terribly overqualified for the assignment of being a human scroll. But, of course, whereas it has not been uncommon for years for newspapers to have women on the football beat, television wouldn't dare allow a female up into the booth to actually call the game.

The funny thing is, as I was reminded when I heard Mary Carillo doing tennis commentary during the Open, is that when you hear a female voice in tandem with a male voice, the contrast sets off both advantageously - as TV stations always pair male and female anchors on the local news.

But in sports television, sideline reporters can only go side-to-side, never up. Their place is down on the field, with the cheerleaders.

GREENE: That's commentator Frank Deford. He joins us each Wednesday.

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm David Greene in Washington.

STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

And I'm Steve Inskeep in New York.

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Sweetness And LightSweetness And Light The Score On Sports With Frank Deford
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