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Deford: A New Sports Talk Show By Women, But Will People Watch?

NFL sideline reporter Alex Flanagan (center) interviews Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick last year.
Mark Zaleski
NFL sideline reporter Alex Flanagan (center) interviews Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick last year.

Probably the three biggest recent stories involving women in sports have been Mo'ne Davis, Michele Roberts and Becky Hammon. Since you may have already forgotten them, Davis was the Philadelphia Little League pitcher, Roberts was the lawyer who was named executive director of the NBA Players Association, and Hammon was chosen as an assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs.

Three very different situations, but all three are connected by the same principle: The stories got attention only because they were cases of women being associated with men's sports — or "invading" men's sports, as it is sometimes more hysterically characterized.

Invariably, it's an even bigger story if a woman in sports can be identified as a "pioneer." We love female pioneers in sport. Then, as soon as they become just regular old ex-pioneers, we forget all about them.

What's curious, though, is why women, who have seen their participant numbers in sports absolutely soar since Title IX was enacted, do not seem to care that much about watching other women participate. Women's sports struggle to draw crowds and ratings. Good grief, it is the NFL that most likes to boast about how much women love watching its brutes play football.

But now we have another pioneer adventure. The CBS Sports Network is introducing a chat show called We Need to Talk. It is an all-female sports roundtable — sort of The View from the locker room. Previously, female sports announcers have gotten their greatest exposure down on the sidelines, where, unfortunately, time and circumstance reduce them to asking coaches quick questions at halftime.

We used to have handmaidens. Sports television gave us hand-mic maidens. But now, will female sports fans listen to female sports announcers even if they won't watch female athletes?

Of course, this raises the greater question: Do we actually want women acting as idiotically as male fans do? Would Henry Higgins of My Fair Lady really have cried out "Why can't a woman be more like a man?" if he could have seen the future: grown men sprawled out on couches all the day long Sunday with their clickers lying in reach on their beer bellies?

But then, it doesn't even get any better in the superhero world. As no less than The New Yorker reports, they keep turning out Batman and Superman sequels, but there's never even been a Wonder Woman film. She will, however, be gratuitously included in the new movie: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. I just hope poor Wonder Woman won't be reduced to asking the two male heroes how they think they're going to do in the second half of the movie.

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Frank Deford died on Sunday, May 28, at his home in Florida. Remembrances of Frank's life and work can be found in All Things Considered, Morning Edition, and on
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