Wick Communications

Sports as metaphor

In sports on April 12, 2012 at 10:24 am

Did you hear the one about the guy who went to a fight and a hockey game broke out? How about the woman who wanted to join the golf club only to be turned away at the gate? OK, that last one isn’t much of a joke … because it isn’t funny.

Unless you were locked in a closet over the weekend, you likely know that it was Masters time again in Augusta, Ga. The Masters is in many ways a thoroughly wonderful event. The azalea-lined greens and immaculate fairways make for a spring scene that is unparalleled in the world of sport. It is unquestionably one of the biggies and the pressure on each putt is enough to make even guys like Tiger Woods weak in the knees.

It is also the scene of gross gender inequality. The Augusta National Golf Club doesn’t allow women members. Until embarrassingly recently it didn’t allow men of color either.

Can you ignore that fact when you are covering the event? You sure can. Hundreds – thousands – of golf writers have over the years. But should you ignore something like that when you cover such an event? …

As Eric Deggans notes in his blog post for sportsjournalism.org, our sports heroes often lead us out of the wilderness of inequality. Jesse Owens, Muhammad Ali and Jackie Robinson are more important as agents for change than as athletes. To cover them as mere sports figures is to miss the bigger story. I think the same is true of the Masters.

I think that the golf club’s sexist policies literally overshadow what is an amazing sporting event. I would be hard pressed to write a weekend of golf stories without mentioning that Virginia Rometty, CEO of tournament sponsor IBM, is good enough to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on sponsorship for the golf tournament but not, apparently, enough of an equal to actually become a member of the club. (At least four former IBM chief executives, all men, have been invited to become members.)

Sports are most important when they tell us something about ourselves. They can reveal character, humanity, resilience, honor and strength of all kinds. Don’t reduce your coverage to a string of numbers wrapped around quotes from the winners. If you are a sportswriter, please include context. At the Masters and elsewhere, 40 years after Title IX, that includes the exclusion of women.

Clay

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