First of two parts
Merriam-Webster defines “unbalanced” as not keeping or showing an even balance of something. Dictionary.com says the adjective is often used in business, fiction, arts and culture, science and medicine. In this week’s and next week’s columns it will be applied to sports.
“Unbalanced” definitely applies in discussing the availability of men’s and women’s college basketball telecasts on regular and cable channels on any given day between November and March. Despite Pinocchio-like press releases to the contrary from such entities as ESPN, CBS and others, hoops broadcasts this season, like past seasons, are heavily tilted toward the men.
We didn’t originate the term, but let’s call this situation an “unbalanced scale.”
Both ESPN and BTN brag about their women’s basketball coverage this season. But there were 28 pages of men’s games scheduled on ESPN as opposed to barely eight for women. BTN’s women schedule took up just two pages.
CBS Sports and CBS Sports Network’s 14.5 page schedule included only 28 women’s basketball games among its 258-game schedule from “19 different conferences.” The SEC Network’s schedule for women was three pages.
There are at least 14 regular and cable channels that regularly air live sporting contests, and at least half show college basketball. Using both newspaper and cable on-screen guides, we used our “unbalanced scales” and did a seven-day TV listings search on these channels: BTN, CBS, CBS Sports Network, five ESPN channels, Fox Sports North, Fox Sports 1, Fox Sports 2, three Fox Sports regional channels, SEC Network, Pac-12 network and NBC Sports Network. The results shouldn’t be that surprising:
Day 1 – 39 men’s games (95 percent), 2 women’s games (five percent)
Day 2 – 12 men’s games (57 percent), 9 women’s games (43 percent)
Day 3 – 27 men’s games (77 percent), 8 women’s games (23 percent)
Day 4 – 37 men’s games (80 percent), 9 women’s games (20 percent)
Day 5 – 31 men’s games (72 percent), 11 women’s games, plus one SEC Network’s “whip-around coverage,” a live look-in on seven games (28 percent)
Day 6 – 50 men’s games (66 percent), 26 women’s games (34 percent)
Day 7 – 30 men’s games (58 percent), 22 women’s games (42 percent)
There are 349 of 351 Division I schools that have both women’s and men’s basketball teams, as well as at least 32 athletic conferences in Division I. Certainly women’s hoops fans by now deserve an equal opportunity to watch their games as much as men’s hoops fans can.
But sadly, until women’s hoops fans become more vocal and more insistent that BTN, ESPN and these other sports networks provide more women’s basketball games on television, on more than a couple of nights a week, and in prime time, the numbers we found won’t change from year to gender-unbalanced year.
Despite a local columnist’s insistence to the contrary last week, Wolves Interim Coach Sam Mitchell’s job hasn’t lost management’s confidence. GM Milt Newton told the MSR, “I think Sam is doing a fine job developing our guys. He has my support.”
“Latinos are finally being heard where once they were ignored,” wrote The Shadow League.com’s Sunny Cadwallader last week after Jessica Mendoza became the first Latina to permanently join ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball national telecasts. “Today’s young Latino females have more role models in the sports media business than ever,” said Cadwallader.
In the meantime, does this mean that Black females — or all Blacks for that matter — are slowly disappearing from this same sports media business?
Next week: a look at the “unbalanced scale” of coaching hires
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.