Mendoza is the sole female voice of ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball, and one of few female broadcasters. Even if you hate her, you shouldn’t hate what she represents.
On Friday night, my grandmother brought up the Red Sox, and how she was watching the game on Sunday night. From there, she complained to me about the announcers, who weren’t favoring the Red Sox because as I explained to her, this was a national broadcast, so they weren’t allowed to deliberately favor one team over the other.
That was the first complaint. Then she says, “who’s the girl? She doesn’t even pay attention to the game! All she does is talk about phone games!” I tried to tell her who the girl, Mendoza, was, but she was too deep in her rant for me to get to her.
Unfortunately, you may have heard the same from your friends and relatives. It’s unsurprising because people are what they are, but it’s unsurprising because of how unusual it is that a girl actually commentates a baseball game.
It’s even less common to see a woman on a sports broadcast who isn’t stuck on the sidelines to be a fashion model-sports news reporter hybrid, and one that’s even up in the booth. It shouldn’t be, but it is.
And while it should be insignificant that a girl is in the booth calling a game with the big boys, it’s not at all, and should represent a small shift in the way things are going to be.
While baseball has a number of elements that make it increasingly uninviting to the modern American viewer, one is how women aren’t included enough. I mean inclusion not in the literal sense of the game, but to feel included as part of the fanbase.
I don’t mean that every girl should be born with a baseball, or that they need to be taught the game as much as boys do, but that women should feel accepted and welcome to be baseball fans.
Just look at how they’re “included” in broadcasts. Case in point: when the game cuts to the overdressed (or underdressed, never in the middle though) girl on the sidelines with a microphone, you can just tell how charmed the old white guys in the booth are by the girl whose job it is to report. It doesn’t have to be a girl who looks like a model, but it is 90% of the time.
Let’s face facts: the image of the modern female sports reporter is unfortunate. It starts with how networks use them in the broadcast, usually casting them to the sidelines to literally be the game’s sideshow. When the game gets dull, the broadcast cuts to the pretty and overdone girl on the sidelines with a story that secondary to the game, or is often not even acknowledged by the guys in the booth. Blame the script writers and the techies for that, but a simple “thanks” would make me feel more comfortable watching.
It goes without saying that female sports reporters also have a bad rep. As a Red Sox fan, I’ve heard all about all the NESN girls from Hazel Mae to Jenny Dell all getting fired for sleeping with players.
These women consciously made decisions in their private life, but the problem is that the negative attention from these scandals is what keeps a misrepresentative stereotype alive.
And now we have ESPN’s Jessica Mendoza, who instead of being pushed down to be another face on the sidelines, is now up in the booth.
She’s there because above all else, she has a deep interest in baseball. As the only girl there, ESPN is making her do player interviews and other ridiculous stuff like that thing about iPhone games, so not all of her TV personality is her fault. (And anyway, that game was an 8-3 blowout. They can only talk about the other teams for so long.)
Overall, how Mendoza’s handling her position is admirable, though it should not be shocking. Already in broadcasting for over two years, I hope she inspires more women to be as passionate about baseball, and to be unashamed to be as invested in a “boy’s sport”.
For all the flak ESPN and the MLB are receiving lately, I think baseball is one sport that should welcome change. That goes for diversity, pace of game, and through the above, how the MLB markets to younger audiences. I mean, they have how many young superstar players right now?
Meanwhile, FOX is giving jerks like AJ Pierzynski and Alex Rodriguez airtime, so take that for what it’s worth.
Even if you’re not on board with ESPN’s new “direction” or even if you think Mendoza is annoying, adding a girl to the broadcast booth should not be high on your list of grievances.