On coronavirus hiatus since March, the lack of sporting events has forced male sportswriters in their absence to compile “best of” and “remember when” pieces. Sports networks are running “classic” games, and sports radio hosts are having “who’s better, bigger, best” debates.
All of this continues with barely any women’s sports classics, talk, or anything else as women’s sports remain a far distant second to men’s.
Sports and their Joe Rockhead media types refuse to see women athletes in particular and women’s sports in general through non-judgmental, non-sexist eyes. Robert Scoop Jackson devoted the second chapter of his book “The Game Is Not a Game” to sexism.
Writing the chapter “really gave me insight on how toxic this male conditioning is when it comes to sports and the sports mentality,” explains Jackson, remembering a 2011 column he wrote for ESPN that opened a can full of criticism afterwards. “I never said women were better. I said Serena [Williams] was more dominant than Michael Jordan in what she basically did in the short amount of time she had to do it in.”
Williams, eight times the number-one tennis player in the world, won 23 Grand Slam singles, winning over 85% of her matches in her illustrious career. She reached her 10th Wimbledon final in 2018 less than a year after she gave birth to her first child. “She wasn’t greater than Michael Jordan,” says Jackson, “but let Mike go have a baby and come back.”
He also lauded Laila Ali’s boxing career. Muhammad Ali’s youngest child won titles in five boxing-sanctioned organizations, successfully defended her titles 13 times (2004-2007), and retired undefeated with 24 wins in as many tries, with 21 knockouts as a super middleweight and light heavyweight.
“You look at her record and she was beating people’s a–,” Jackson says. “Laila Ali was more dominant than her father. I thought it was accurate in the context I used it. I had the facts to back it up.”
However, the veteran writer got roasted: “The backlash I got from that was so male-sensitive, so male-protective, and so male-toxic that it led me to look into how single-minded society happens to be. It was not all male fans—females were coming in at it, too.
“We don’t ever take the time to digest something for what it says, but [rather go] the way we are taught and conditioned to think,” said Jackson. He says he used his latest book to “do a deeper dive from a research standpoint on how toxic it really is. How the sports world is really shaped by the male mentality, and how we associate faster and stronger with greater and better.”
This misguidedness also applies to such words as “dominant.” It’s rarely used when discussing women athletes. “There’s nothing you can physically do to equal the physicality of how a man is built,” said Jackson. “But that doesn’t necessarily mean that men are greater [than women].
The WNBA is a classic example. “They don’t dunk.” “They’re only women.” “They play in the summer”—these are the usual responses from those who don’t follow America’s longest women’s pro league. Never mind the fact that the vast majority of the players virtually play all year round, something their NBA counterparts doesn’t do. But after over two decades, they still don’t get the love from men sports lovers.
“If after all these years this is the only way to judge [athletes] is by physicality, then we are stupid, especially in this day and age,” Jackson concluded.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.