CBC Sports

Meet the real 'babes' of sports broadcasting

Posted: Tuesday, December 23, 2008 | 12:53 PM

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Just wanted to say that I applaud William Houston of The Globe and Mail for his takeout piece on sexism in sports broadcasting in this weekend’s edition of Canada’s national newspaper.

Under the headline, Women on TV: Looks first, knowledge later, Houston sheds some light on the recent preponderance of so called, “sports babes”, who deliver the highlights on specialty channels in Canada and the United States.

While, the shallow nature of some hiring decisions is called into question and the locker room antics of “chicks with microphones” in American professional sport are speculated on – it might be wise to dig a little deeper into this matter. Upon some investigation we might find that women of substance occupy important roles in sports broadcasting in our own back yard.

For instance, there’s Brenda Irving of CBC Network Sports. The first woman to work regularly for Hockey Night In Canada, Irving’s depth as a broadcaster goes far beyond that single designation.

She brings to the job experience as a news reporter at the national level and has worked at several networks and stations in places as diverse as Llyodminster, Sask., Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., and Montreal - all while learning her profession.

This is to say nothing of the fact that Irving has traveled the world to cover Olympic, Pan American, Commonwealth and Canada Games. While Houston suggests that only in America do women hold positions as play-by-play announcers, Irving is living proof that he is misled.

She has provided lead commentary for professional tennis, championship figure skating, snowboarding, World Cup skiing, Olympic gymnastics and a litany of other sports for many years.

She has also been a fixture on the sidelines of the Canadian Football League and the Grey Cup Classic.

When compared to the women who are the subjects of Houston’s article, Irving has two major differences: she works in Canada and she is highly accomplished in her field.

That she is a busy mother to a young son and physically attractive only serve to add to her mystique and garner her more respect from her contemporaries.

Irving is not alone in this regard.

Karin Larsen of CBC Vancouver comes to mind. She did more than follow pro sports with a fan’s fascination while growing up. Larsen had an athletic career as a world champion synchronized swimmer and represented Canada at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea.

Over the course of her broadcasting history, Larsen has hosted coverage of the World Aquatic Championships, the World Equestrian Games as well as multiple Olympics. In fact, she expertly called play-by-play of the Carol Huynh gold-medal win in wrestling, and the Simon Whitfield silver medal performance in triathlon this summer in Beijing.

She too is a person with a family and has excelled in spite of the fact that she is beyond the age of “thirty something.”

Finally, Colleen Jones is a presence and has been speaking to a large audience for decades now. It is a much more substantial and loyal viewer ship than any of the women who appear on these sports specialty outfits can boast. A two-time world champion from the sport of curling, Jones delivers the sports report on CBC News Morning and has traveled extensively to commentate on the Olympic Games and a variety of summer and winter sports at the elite level.

All this and Jones is a hockey and tennis mom as well as an ardent fundraiser in her hometown of Halifax - not exactly the epicentre of professional sport in North America. And, let’s all remember, she is the most decorated woman in the history of curling.

Here’s the thing.

Yes, the “sports chicks” are out there and some of them are getting ahead by looking good and strutting their stuff in the macho world of American professional sport as it pertains to cable television.

Sex apparently sells in Major League Baseball, the NFL, the NBA, and to a certain extent the NHL.

But when you consider the Canadian landscape, you should be aware of a vastly different and more progressive horizon vis-à-vis women on the airwaves of athletic endeavour.

The females of depth who do sports on TV in this country have been around for quite some time and don’t be fooled - they have plenty of sex appeal.

The attractive thing about the real “babes” of Canadian sports TV is that they know how to tell a good story. It’s because they do more than sit behind a desk and look pretty while reading the scores. They get out there and cover the field of play in order to get the job done.

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