Getting head to head with the men

BY Jaya Uttamchandani| IN Media Practice | 02/12/2006
Can traditions change? Will men ever get used to getting their sports update from women?

Jaya Uttamchandani

Recent sports media coverage has seen cricket and football ¿wedding¿ entertainment. It has, arguably, irked staunch sports lovers and followers. But really, how bad has it been?

The ICC Champions Trophy is over and done with, Team India carried their losing streak forward and it¿s now even in South Africa, but the coverage gave us a lot more to talk about - Sporting Wedding Bells.

Honestly, I am a purist and a female sports journalist. We have debated the recent ICC Champions Trophy on Sony MAX and the new Club EPL shows on STAR Sports time and again on the show and off it as well.  G Rajaraman, Sports writer for Outlook, is not for it, while Charu Sharma, who was presenting Extra Innings, said that the viewers liked it and it doesn¿t leave any member of the family out. It¿s entertainment for all. Shehzad Haque, RJ for Channel 520 WorldSpace, thinks it takes some away from women who are aspiring to be sports journalists. What do you think?

Here is what I think, getting Shefali Chaya on the show was great - she spoke about the dance contest and gave her views as a viewer on cricket. Loved it! Rohit Roy, on the other hand, was sitting with the experts, trivializing the sport, and was not quite my cup of tea. Getting cricketers as guests in movies works, getting actors to make an appearance during a cricket match works, but getting a cricketer to play a main lead in a romantic drama, wouldn¿t. It may sell initially, but it wouldn¿t work. It ends up becoming a laugh. Anil Kumble doing a double role in Kaho Na Pyar Hai? Really? Well, not for me.

Women are getting great coverage on these shows [Club EPL, Football Crazy, Extra Innings?] - Charlie Webster, Mandira Bedi, Shonali Nagrani, Jamie Yeo, and Paula Malai Ali.

But let¿s get this straight, because of the large belief than women don¿t know sports, women need to get head-to-head with the men, if not outdo them to make a stand. You need to know your sports to cover it. Or else it¿s merely reiterating that ¿women don¿t know sports¿ and it gets harder for women who do, to make a difference, because the women who don¿t are in your face. And to be fair, I am sure most female presenters know much more than they appear to know?

It¿s not simply about watching the sport or knowing who Rahul Dravid is, if it was that simple, India has almost a billion sports presenters. Sport has to be a religion for you, and it¿s hard to ¿study¿ it, but you almost have to! You have to get technical. Bringing up the pitch, the line, the length, your opinion on the line up and depth to the drawing board will still get a little sniggering come your way - women in sports is breaking traditional boundaries! And we all know it¿s really hard to break a mindset. So while you have some women who are working extremely hard to do so and are darnn good, you have others who merely serve as an example on why women don¿t fit it.

For instance, after Geoff Boycott, John Wright and Charu Sharma discuss a pitch being a bowler¿s paradise, you cannot ask ?winning the toss and electing to bowl- are you surprised?? NO! We aren¿t surprised; he just said it¿s a pitch for bowling. It doesn¿t take Einstein to figure that out - just listen - it¿s the least you can do for the rest of us! And if it¿s in your script, I often suspect women may be getting scripted to look dumb and beautiful, then ask your writer, change the question? do something! You can look gorgeous and be smart!

There are women sweating it out to gain any credibility or to prove it isn¿t all about a ¿pretty face,¿ there are women who genuinely love sports and want to take it beyond simply knowing what you see? There are some exceptional female sports presenters and I take great inspiration from the likes of Donna Symmonds and Colette Wong.  I¿m in no way saying the others don¿t deserve to be there. I think it¿s great! But you need to be there to present sports. It¿s embarrassing switching on the television to see a female sports presenter showing a distracting amount of cleavage and giving very trivial sports information, or simply doing the intro and exit.

Well just like the BCCI need to take some responsibility for Team India¿s dismal performance on the crease, Directors and writers need to take some blame for the shallowness on screen. But leaving you on a pondering note, for every ten specs of inanity there is a Donna Symmonds and a Colette Wong, but can traditions change? Will men ever get used to getting their sports update from women?  

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