Last night I posted about Daryn Kagan's view on Tony Kornheiser's two week suspension for his on air remarks about Hannah Storm's choice of wardrobe. Daryn has graciously granted permission to republish the full text of her post here (followed by a couple of poll questions for readers).
Daryn's post surprised me for two reasons. First, this type of strongly worded post seemed very out of character compared to what she normally writes. So obviously she feels very strongly about it. The second reason is that she is taking a position I would not normally have expected. That is until you read what she is saying very closely about the traditional culture surrounding the television sports industry.
February 24, 2010: ESPN Blew It
by Daryn Kagan
Originally published on DarynKagan.com.
ESPN has suspended Pardon The Interruption host Tony Kornheiser for comments he made on his radio show about fellow ESPN personality Hannah Storm's clothing.
According to FoxSports.com Kornheiser reportedly said, "Hannah Storm in a horrifying, horrifying outfit today," Kornheiser said. "She's got on red go-go boots and a catholic school plaid skirt … way too short for somebody in her 40s or maybe early 50s by now. She's got on her typically very, very tight shirt. She looks like she has sausage casing wrapping around her upper body … I know she's very good, and I'm not supposed to be critical of ESPN people, so I won't … but Hannah Storm … come on now! Stop! What are you doing?"
And for that ESPN has suspended Tony Kornheiser for two weeks.
So folks are asking me on Twitter and Facebook what I think about that.
Why me? Well, in another life I covered sports at CNN for 3 1/2 years. So I know only too well what it means to work in that arena. I learned very quickly that there are few jobs more fun. I also learned very quickly that sports is still a man's world unlike few professions. I knew that if a male colleague messed up an athlete's name, the response would be, "Oh, Fred messed up a name." If I messed up a name, the response would be, "Oh, she doesn't know sports." Was that fair? Absolutely not. Were those the rules of the game? Absolutely. I knew that going in. I knew that I had to know my names, stats, and stories cold. If I didn't like the rules of the game, then I figured I shouldn't be playing in that arena.
Let me also say that I think the world of Hannah Storm. Boy, does she know her stuff. Even in the middle of his ridiculous rant, Kornheiser acknowledged she is "very good."
All that being said, I think ESPN blew it. They decided to pull the PC card and protect the woman's honor. Bad move. If you follow the sports world, you know ESPN has developed into a cesspool male sports personalities with way too many sexual harassment situations. The latest one came just a few months ago when married baseball analyst Steve Phillips got involved with an entry-level young woman half his age. They've both been let go. It's just the latest in a long line of embarrassing stories for the network. I think that's why they went to a PC making statement with Kornheiser's suspension.
The difference is Hannah isn't some little girl, she's a well-respected peer and colleague. I promise you ESPN would not have suspended Kornheiser if he made a comment about John Kruk's weight or if he thought Mike Golic wore an ugly shirt. Besides, Tony is hired to do opinion. That's his job! You're suspending him for the very thing you're supposed to pay him for.
One rule of the TV game is that it is a visual medium. People are looking at you. Any woman who has worked in sports has had someone comment on her appearance and what she wears. Any woman who has worked news has covered a huge story has had her own mother comment, "I don't think I like that blue blazer." When I told my own mother back in 2003 that I was heading off to cover the start of the war her response was, "What are you going to wear?" (True story.)
Can it be frustrating that viewers focus on what women wear first before listening to what they say? Absolutely. But like I said, it's one of the rules of the game. If you don't like it, don't play.
What I see here is a missed opportunity. There was such a ripe chance here to deal with this thing with humor. I mean have you seen Tony Kornheiser? I'm a huge fan of his PTI show, but really, someone who looks like Tony commenting on anyone's appearance? That's the softest toss for a punch line ever.
So, to Hannah I would say, brush it off, come out swinging with those red boots. You're great at your job. You know your sports as well as Kornheiser or any of the other dudes. You're fitter and have a better physique than Kornheiser could ever dream of having. Add that all up, my friend, and walk on with the last laugh.
ESPN-- instead of focusing defending a woman's honor why don't you give us women sports fans more of what really counts--even higher profile roles for women like Hannah, Suzie Kolber, Linda Cohn and Reschiea Candidate? How about for once, let's see saucy, opinionated woman kick up their boots by filling in on PTI? Now that would be a worthwhile move.
Feel free to agree or disagree with me on Twitter or Facebook.