Man oh man, the Sexism Police are having a field day with the Rio Olympics

If it’s true that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, it is equally accurate to suggest sexism is in the ear of the beholder.

And, oh boy, do the Sexism Police monitoring the Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro ever have good hearing. And eyesight. They’re listening to and viewing the Five Ring Circus with ears and eyes wide open, convinced that there’s a sexist bogeyman lurking in every sound bite and turn of phrase. Why, if you listen and read closely enough, they’ll have you believing that there’s as much raw sewage and garbage spewing out of the broadcast booth and press box as there is into Guanabara Bay.

Katinka Hosszu: Her husband made her do it.
Katinka Hosszu: Her husband made her do it.

I mean, I’ve probably read two dozen articles accusing the media of sexist reporting. It’s to the point where I’m thinking that Slip of the Tongue and Dangling Participles might be new Olympic sports.

If so, we can present the gold medal to Dan Hicks right now, because the NBC gab guy had the bad manners to credit Hungarian swimmer Katinka Hosszu’s world-record performance in the 400-meter individual medley to her coach/hubby, American Shane Tusup, who is “the guy responsible for turning his wife into a whole different swimmer.”

Joining Hicks on an increasingly crowded podium would be a couple of his colleagues at the Peacock Network—NBC’s chief marketing officer John Miller and talking head Jim Watson—as well as Hannah Parry of the Daily Mail in the U.K. and a twit of a tweeter at the Chicago Tribune.

But are we dealing with sexism or thin skin here? Let’s take a sober second look at a handful of the alleged sexism cases.

Dan Hicks: At first blush, yes, his comment sounds horribly sexist. A case, however, could be made that Hicks’s timing and news evaluation, if anything, were wonky.

Verdict: Did Hicks make the coach the story because Tusup is a he and Hosszu is a she? I doubt it. Clearly, in the immediate aftermath of her accomplishment, the focus ought to have been squarely on the Hungarian Hosszu. She was the lead story and deserved to be lavished in praise. Tusup should have been assigned as an afterthought. A sidebar, if you will. Hicks is guilty of a colossal gaffe in editorial judgment. He got it bass ackwards.

U.S. women's gymnastics team: Let's all celebrate at the mall, girls.
U.S. women’s gymnastics team: Let’s all celebrate at the mall, girls.

John Miller: The NBC marketing poohbah reacted to criticism of the network’s delayed coverage by saying, “The people who watch the Olympics are not particularly sports fans. More women watch the games than men, and for the women, they’re less interested in the result and more interested in the journey. It’s sort of like the ultimate reality show and miniseries wrapped into one.”

Verdict: Guilty. Must-see TV coming to NBC next season—Real Housewives of Rio. No matter how you slice and dice Miller’s remarks, he’s guilty of sexist tripe of the highest order.

Jim Watson: The United States women’s gymnastics team wowed ’em in the qualifying round and, upon observing them smiling, giggling and glowing on the heels of their performance, Watson said the women “might as well be standing in the middle of a mall.” Yes, Jim, nothing delights a woman more than hanging out with all her mall-rat friends while the menfolk are off doing the heavy lifting in life.

Verdict: Guilty of sexism, as charged. Watson is sentenced to an entire afternoon of traipsing behind his wife (girlfriend?) while she travels from shoe store to shoe store to shoe store with all her mall-rat besties. And, of course, while the ladies are inside slipping in and out of pricey pumps, he must stand outside holding his wife’s purse. Then pick up the tab.

Katie Ledecky: Man oh man, what a swimmer.
Katie Ledecky: Man oh man, what a swimmer.

Hannah Parry: Can a female reporter make sexist comments about female athletes? Well, I know gay people who are homophobic and transphobic. So sure. But is it sexist for Parry to write that American swimmer Katie Ledecky is being “touted as the female Michael Phelps?” By way of comparison, consider Canadian soccer star Christine Sinclair, long regarded as the best female footballer on the planet. If I were to write “Christine Sinclair is the female Lionel Messi” am I guilty of sexism? Must I write, “Christine Sinclair is to women’s soccer what Lionel Messi is to men’s soccer?” I’m saying the same thing, only using a different turn of phrase.

Verdict: Not guilty. Parry did not betray the sisterhood. She is comparing Ledecky favorably to the greatest swimmer of all time, which is not faint praise. It is, in fact, the highest manner of praise.

Chicago Tribune: After U.S. trap shooter Corey Cogdell-Unrein reached the podium, someone at the Trib posted this Twitter tease: “Wife of a Bears’ lineman wins a bronze medal today in Rio Olympics.” Yikes. That old “wife of” thing just doesn’t cut it. Not even when the husband plays for the Chicago Bears of the National Football League.

Verdict: Guilty on the lesser charge of making a woefully lame attempt at localizing an international story. I mean, if Hillary Clinton is elected president of the United States and the Trib tweets, “Wife of former President wins White House” I’ll scream “Sexism!” In this case, though, trivializing Cogdell-Unrein’s achievement by linking her to her hubby is more an example of pathetic news judgment than it is sexist.

In summation, your honor, yes sexism has reared its ugly head at Rio, some of it outrageous and some of it exaggerated. And it’s a lot like the garbage in Guanabara Bay—there’s probably more to come.

Patti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg sports for 45 years, longer than any living being. Do not, however, assume that to mean she harbors a wealth of sports knowledge or that she’s a jock journalist of award-winning loft. It simply means she is old and comfortable at a keyboard (although arthritic fingers sometimes make typing a bit of a chore) and she apparently doesn’t know when to quit. Or she can’t quit.
She is most proud of her Q Award, presented in 2012 for her scribblings about the LGBT community in Victoria, B.C., and her induction into the Manitoba Sportswriters & Sportscasters Association Media Roll of Honour in 2015.

Alexander Burmistrov: Is born-again Burmi the Winnipeg Jets new Fro Lite or Kane Lite?

Quiz yourself this, kids: Would you trade Michael Frolik for Alexander Burmistrov? Even up?

Didn’t think so.

That, however, is essentially what Grand Master Kevin Cheveldayoff did last week. For reasons yet to be clearly defined, the man who generally manages the Winnipeg Jets was unable to convince his most useful forward to remain in River City, thus Frolik shall continue his Jack-of-all-trades career while wearing Calgary Flames adornments.

To compensate for the Fro defection, the Grand Master prepared the fatted calf and welcomed home the prodigal player, Burmistrov, who, when last seen prior to resurfacing at the National Hockey League club’s development camp this past weekend, was acting every bit the petulant, pouting punk and skulking off to Mother Russia.

So that’s your exchange: Frolik out, Burmistrov in.

I have heard it suggested that Burmistrov is Frolik Lite, in that he delivers all those special niceties that the Czech forward provided. He just doesn’t do them as well. I believe that to be an accurate assessment.

But, is Burmistrov actually Fro Lite or is he Kane Lite?

The dearly departed Evander Kane was, of course, a skilled (much of it wasted) player with attitude issues. He played cat-and-mouse with defrocked head coach Claude Noel, challenging his authority on more than one occasion. Although never putting it on public record that he wanted out of Winnipeg, we know he liked Pegtown about as much as Phil Kessel likes media scrums. Eventually, he was shuffled off to Buffalo.

Similarly, Burmistrov and Noel were singing from different sheets in the songbook, thus he skedaddled home for a two-season gig with Ak-Bars of the Kontinental Hockey League.

Now he’s back and what the born-again Burmi brings to the party come October will be among the main storylines as the Winnipegs commence their 2015-16 crusade. If he’s Frolik Lite, it’s all good. If he’s Kane Lite, not so much.

As it is, the former teenage prospect is now a 23-year-old prospect with plenty of upside but a past that fuels skepticism, and the Jets surely harbor a morsel of uncertainty about this migrant young man, otherwise they would have welcomed Burmistrov back to the flock with something more than a two-year contract.

The hope, of course, is that he’s finally got his shite together, meaning he knows head coach Paul Maurice is the boss.

Desperate Hockey Wives: Okay, money aside, we still don’t know the intimate details of Michael Frolik’s defection to the Calgary Flames, thus rumors abound.

One such trickle of gossip suggests his girlfriend, Diana, pulled a Lauren Pronger and forced Frolik to sign anywhere but Winnipeg. The way it is whispered, she developed a considerable distaste for all things River City and, much like Lauren Pronger with hubby Chris and the Edmonton Oilers, she held veto power on where they set up house with daughter Ella.

I have neither heard nor read anything to lend credence to that rumor but, if true, I ask this: So what? Should a wife/girlfriend not have a voice in where she lives?

It seems to me she should have a loud voice.

Sam’s Story a Non-Story? Once upon a time, a lot of football people were strictly Xs, Os and bite-the-head-off-a-live-chicken kind of guys. It would seem that at least one of those dinosaurs still walks among us.

I say that because of a snippet in a Kirk Penton piece last week.

It seems an unidentified Canadian Football League coach or manager pooh-poohs the considerable copy and air time devoted to Michael Sam, whose on-again, off-again career appears to be on again, although it’s expected that the Montreal Alouettes will arrrive in River City for their date with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers this Friday sans the only openly gay man to sign a CFL contract.

Michael Sam hasn’t played a down of football north of the border and he has gotten a thousand times more recognition than Randy Chevrier, who won the Tom Pate Award (for oustanding sportsmanship and someone who has made a significant contribution to his team, his community and the CFLPA),” Coach/Manager No Name said. “That’s pathetic. You guys (in the media) should be embarrassed.”

Well, no. Here’s what’s pathetic and here’s who should be embarrassed: A football lifer who doesn’t recognize or appreciate the social significance of Sam’s story.

It should never be just about Xs, Os and quarterback sacks. Sam is man-bites-dog copy. Can an openly gay man not only survive but, indeed, succeed in the macho world that is professional football? Is major professional sports in North America still a homophobic hinterland in a day and age when same-sex marriage is legal in Canada and the U.S.? Will Sam pave the way for more gay athletes to come out? That’s why noted sheets like the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Daily Mail in the U.K. and so many others track the trials and tribulations of the Alouettes would-be rush end.

But what do those papers know about news? They’re pathetic, right coach?

rooftop riting biz card back sidePatti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg sports for more than 40 years, longer than any living being. Do not, however, assume that to mean she harbors a wealth of sports knowledge or that she’s a jock journalist of award-winning loft. It simply means she is old and comfortable at a keyboard (although arthritic fingers sometimes make typing a bit of a chore) and she apparently doesn’t know when to quit. Or she can’t quit.
She is most proud of her Q Award, presented to her in 2012 for her scribblings about the LGBT community in Victoria, B.C., and her induction into the Manitoba Sportswriters & Sportscasters Association Media Roll of Honour.