It's rare that I go personal here, because that's not what this blog is. But with the hyper-interest of female sports reporters in the locker room lately, due to some comments by hockey broadcaster Don Cherry, I thought I'd address things from a personal point of view.
Because a lot of what I read in response to Cherry's comments, reminded me that people still aren't entirely clear what this job entails.
That doesn't mean I'm sugar-coating, but let's all calm down about what we see and experience in there.
A baseball clubhouse isn't the Mickey Mouse Club. But it's also not equivalent to a nudist colony, where men walk around casually, pursuing the sports reporter ladies, or often, lady, leering and scaring the little gal.
It's also not an eye feast, where we, as women doing our job, are seduced and reduced to ecstasy. If you think that's what we feel or think, you haven't been in there. And you don't know anything. And you're sexist.
I can't speak for what a football or hockey locker room are like (or, in Cherry's case in Canadian speak, the dressing room). I assume it's very similar. But I can only tell you what a baseball clubhouse is like, and mostly in the minors. My life in the majors accounts for less than half of my yearly experience, on a freelance basis, maybe ten assignments per season. Sometimes less.
So here's what it's like: You wait. And wait. And wait. It's like a doctor's office. You wait, then go inside, and wait some more.
You stand outside a door, in a damp hallway, listening (usually) to rap blasting behind the doors. Employees are milling around with food carts, and paperwork, and walkie-talkies. Players are entering and exiting on their phones. They've finished batting practice. Now they relax. And we wait for the allotted time to start, about 45 minutes, to talk to players and coaches. Meeting with the manager is about fifteen minutes.
When we go in, we find the player. Often he's sitting on the sofa, watching television. Or he's by his locker, listening to music. Or, sometimes, he's hiding from us. We talk to the player by the locker or in the hall.
We then leave.
After the game, they get a cooling period. We go in. Many players are still showering. Many are dressed and eating. Or sitting by their lockers. Or back on the sofa. We ask to talk to a player. We then leave.
See anything exciting yet? Boring as hell isn't it? Sorry. You just read my workday in the clubhouse, and every other reporters' typical day, getting pre-and-post game interviews.
Now, for the part most sports fans seem fascinated with.
Do we see players in the nude? From time to time, yes. We see them walk by or they're at their locker, and, well, we're aware that someone isn't dressed. But we look away, mind our business, and all is fine. They dress quickly and get ready to talk to us or head out the door.
Yes, there have been weird moments. Some guys will walk around naked like it's no big deal. Avoiding looking at them is all we can do. There's the usual moments of seeing a flash of nudity, and yet there is discretion. We respect each other. It's uncomfortable. And everyone tries to be comfortable under the circumstances. Some guys don't mind being interviewed in a towel. Most reporters, myself included, aren't fazed by that.
Ok, let's go a little further. There have been really bad moments. Get a roundtable of female sports reporters. You'll hear some stories.
Making my personal worst list: a major league player waiting until I turned, dropping his towel, and laughing in my face; the minor league player talking to his teammate about wanting to bend me over and using the f word to describe what he wanted to do. As I stood there, pretending it didn't bother me; finally, there was the player questioning my presence, then telling everyone to get naked so I could do my job (Confession: I got a lump in my throat typing those words. That hurt and humiliated me.)
Those incidents are the absolute worst of eight years in baseball. There have been minor incidents, moments that players have done things that were unacceptable or immature, and many more moments where there was laughter, teasing, or remarks that I just ignored. Nothing extremely upsetting like those others.
In the minors, very often, I've not only been the only woman in the clubhouse, but the only reporter. I'm not intimidated, I'm not bothered. I get the work done and go.
In other words, it's mostly just a job, where professional players talk to professional reporters, and we all go home.
It's an atmosphere that is part lighthearted and fun, part business and getting what needs to be done for the very reason we are all there: a game. We are all focused. We are all worried about our deadline, or daily goal, our daily pageviews, our blog posts, or one column, or both, that have to be done that night or the following morning.
We have editors that want the story NOW. Or we have ourselves to answer to, and hope readers like what we have to say or share. We all want to do something informative and interesting, and we Must. Be. Accurate.
Those are our worries and thoughts when we walk into the clubhouse, locker room, dressing room, wherever it is that we're reporting from. Male or female.
Don Cherry put the spotlight on an issue that is way past it's expiration date. It's not current or sensible. But, truthfully, sports fans, and many in sports, still hold the view that the locker room is no place for a female reporter. That view isn't tolerated in sports, for the most part anyway. But it's there. And it's not our problem. It's yours.
You can think the locker room/clubhouse/dressing room is a nude-fest with female sports reporters being treated like Playboy bunnies, or abused daily, and that we're in there falling apart over all the nudity that supposedly surrounds us.
Or you can think the truth.