Nobody gets too far like that

(Preemptive warning here: I’m still with fever but the Erin Andrews story pissed me off enough to get me up to write. My apologies if some of this comes across as rambling.)

I’ve made no secret of my feelings toward Heidi Watney. I think she does a poor job. I’ve heard grade-schoolers ask better questions. But she’s beautiful and that’s all that really matters in the business she’s in, so I have to suffer through her if I want to watch a Red Sox game on NESN.

Regardless of how I feel about her professionally, it bothers me to go to various Red Sox blogs and read about her looks and nothing about her talent. I’ve yet to read anyone genuinely critique what kind of job she does, it’s always about how gorgeous she is.

She doesn’t help her cause much (well, I suppose it isn’t her cause is it?) by wearing spiked shoes and thigh-high boots with mini-skirts when she’s on the field. I actually watched her wobble across the infield one day during batting practice, waiting for her to fall on her ass because that certainly looked like she was going that way in the high-heeled boots. Every time I wonder why sports bloggers don’t take her seriously and only focus on her looks, I remember that day and figure it’s what she wants. She gets the paycheck and the notoriety…why would she care if people think she can do her job or not?

Why bring this up now? Because there’s a national female sideline reporter who I happen to think does a good job. Like Heidi, she’s beautiful and dresses to accentuate that. Unlike Heidi (at least from where I stand), she’s well-versed in baseball, asks intelligent questions and doesn’t seem like she’s out of her league working on ESPN. I like Erin Andrews. Have for a while. She doesn’t make me want to stick icepicks in my ears nor does she make me want to turn the channel when she’s on. These are good things.

This week, some slimeball videotaped Erin Andrews through a keyhole peephole? (how they did it is still unclear to me) while she was in a hotel room and then posted it on the Internet. After initially jumping on the story and posting links to the video, the likes of Deadspin have decided to get all high and mighty about this, but their type of blog is exactly what encourages idiots to do this. Even this website, which employs possibly the best Celtics writer around, Jessica Camerato, occasionally perpetuates the “women don’t like/don’t know about sports” myth and use it for “humor”.

Bandwagon fans are “pink hats” because women don’t know about sports. It’s all right to joke about who Heidi Watney might be dating but don’t ever speak of the players stepping out on their wives. I’ve been told that I don’t like Heidi because I’m jealous. I’m not. I take my baseball, relatively, seriously, and I, at the very least, expect the people working on a baseball broadcast to do the same. (In all fairness, I’d like to start a petition to get Ramiro off of my NESN post-game shows. See? It isn’t a gender issue – it’s a talent one!) What really gets me is the accusations of jealousy come from the same people who post nothing on their own blogs about Heidi except to talk about how beautiful she is. I’m jealous because I think she does a lousy job but those men are more upstanding because they post their fantasies about her? Sorry. No.

Hey, I get that the world of sports (and sports reporting) is run (and OVERrun) by men and even in 2009 there really isn’t anything I can do about that no matter how hard I try. (Amalie Benjamin Tweeted last week that she was at a Baseball Writer’s meeting and she was only one of two women in attendance. That’s discouraging to anyone.)

When you showcase photos of half-naked women on your site even though what you’re writing about has nothing to do with them; when you write about what you’d like to “do” with the local, lovely sideline reporter; when you joke about women being second-class citizens who just get in the way of your sports watching – well you all are what creates the idiot who decided that secretly taping Erin Andrews in her hotel room was a good idea. Because you allow jokes to be made about women and because you continue to objectify them in the most demeaning ways – this jerk knew the moment he put the video online you’d all scoop it up.

On Twitter yesterday and today many were lamenting that they couldn’t find the video online. People I follow because I respect their opinions were disappointed they couldn’t find this stalker footage. I actually had someone tell me last week that they were “unfollowing” me on Twitter because I posted that I was tired of people calling a man who cheated on his wife a “hero” (Steve McNair). Heaven forbid you call out the men in these situations, right? (And, to be clear, I certainly don’t think McNair deserved death. But people referring to him as a “hero” both in print and at his funeral made my stomach turn.) I wonder if the guy who stopped following me on Twitter was one of the many feverishly scouring the Internet for the Erin Andrews video?

So what does all this have to do with Heidi Watney? I’ve decided to give her a break. Because someday, just like Erin Andrews, she’s going to have some sleazoid, psycho following her around and, regardless of what she does to bring attention to herself, I don’t think anyone deserves that. She’s young. She’s getting ahead the only way she knows how and it’s working for her. Who am I to judge? Just because I think she’s unqualified for her job doesn’t mean I need to be picking on her.

I realize I’m preaching to the choir here. Most of my readers are well-rounded, sports fans who can appreciate the attractiveness of others without degrading them in the process. Most know that women can be as knowledgeable about sports as men and that you can criticize without personalizing it. I’ve already mentioned that I like Erin Andrews so having this happen to her bothers me. But it would bother me even if it had happened to Heidi. Maybe even more given that would almost guarantee it was a Red Sox fan who did it. If this was a video of, say, Chris Rose from Fox Sports, just a video of him walking around his hotel room, what kind of reaction would it have received? Most of the mainstream sports blogs probably would have ignored it or would have reported it for the creepy invasion of privacy that is is…not promote it like eye candy.

It saddens me that women still have to fight for a little bit of respect. It frustrates me that I have to write about it. It pisses me off that tomorrow another sports blog or website will post photos of sideline reporters or an athlete’s girlfriends and encourage discussion about how hot they all are and what they’d like to do to them. For every step forward there’s another step back.

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