Jennifer Gish, the Buffalo Bills beat reporter for the Albany Times Union, wrote after the team's 2-0 start that it's still way too early for Bills fans to think about the Super Bowl -- or even about beating the New England Patriots. After the Bills did beat the Patriots, her readers flooded her with email and phone messages calling out the fact that she was wrong. Considering Gish covers the team for a living, such a courtesy was not needed.
If they would have stopped at simply pointing out her underestimation of the team, though, it would not be a big deal. But not everyone did that. Instead, several readers attacked Gish not for being a football writer who'd made an error in evaluation -- if it was even that -- but for being a woman. She was told to go back to the kitchen, that women know nothing about football, that she was ugly, and several disparaging comments that had nothing to do with her ability to cover a football game.
There is an unfortunate tendency among sports fans to attack female sports writers not for their ideas, but for their sex.
Last weekend, I attended a sports media convention called BwB. Jemele Hill and Jane McManus from ESPN spoke about how often they are told they know nothing about sports because of their anatomy. McManus said that she wrote in a column that the New York Jets were going to focus on running backs in the 2010 draft, and until draft day was told that she knew nothing about football because she's a woman. She was vindicated when the Jets picked halfback Joe McKnight and fullback John Conner. Hill said readers commented on not only her sex, but her race.
I'd like to say my readers are more enlightened, but in the comment sections of my posts at Cagewriter (where I cover mixed martial arts) or Shutdown Corner (where I cover the NFL), you will see the same things written about me as were written about Gish. I've had shirts printed disparaging my name, and UFC color analyst Joe Rogan once took to a message board to call me the C-word. Attacks in the comment section, disparaging emails and Twitter and Facebook messages are part of the job, but there is a difference between the you-don't-know-anything insults slung at my male colleagues and the you-don't-know-anything-because-you're-a-woman barbs aimed at me. Personal, misogynistic comments are too often the norm.
Women like Gish, Hill and McManus have built up a thick skin to put up with the mean comments. I've been forced to do the same, and often dismiss what is said about me with an eye roll. We can do this because we know that we walked into a field where the ability to let negative comments roll off our backs is just as much a job skill as breaking down a loss or interviewing the star player.
But our ability to put up with idiocy does not mean that this is not an issue for sports fans. The problem does not lie with us, but in the hearts of the many people who feel the need to tear down women for nothing more than being women.
Is this truly who we are?
-- Maggie Hendricks writes for Yahoo! Sports and NBC Chicago. Follow her at Twitter.com/MaggieHendricks.
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