Don’t Bring Me Down, Bruce!

Damon Bruce was back on the air today, despite a controversial rant about women’s role in sports last week.

Good. I’m fine with that. I hate to see anybody lose a job. People have bills to pay, groceries to buy, and–if they’re lucky–a retirement to save for. Ironically, however, it’s that empathy that Bruce argues invalidates my opinions on athletics.

This squishy, mamby-pamby ability to see life from another person’s perspective is somehow ruining the dialogue! I only wish he’d make it clear what mechanism it is by which:

“Sports has lost its way because women are giving directions.”

I mean, it’s not like female radio hosts are bringing on female guests to break down the Richie Icognito situation. It’s not like female sports editors are assigning their female reporters to cover the big game. And it’s not like female TV producers are asking their tandem of female anchors to air the highlights.

I’ll quote Julie Buehler here: “Let’s just say that women participating in sports media makes EVERYONE more sensitive and pansy-@$$#&. Fact is, estimates are that women make up less than 10% of sports media. So THAT is some serious ninja-level efficiency if women are affecting THAT much change while representing such a gross minority. Bruce shouldn’t even be mad. He should be kinda impressed. (Ron Burgandy [sic] voice).”

Bruce also has, for some really odd reason, a problem with this:

“You say you want transparency, but then there’s column after column of things we don’t like, and this has got to stop immediately, and we need swift policy changes for everything involved because I don’t like this one thing that I wasn’t supposed to see in the first place.”

Let’s ignore the fact that for anyone working at a sports radio station complaining about transparency is like a fish complaining about water. For some reason, Bruce seems to think it’s Oprah, Martha Stewart and Gloria Steinem clamoring to see what’s behind the curtain.

In reality, it’s the NFL, NHL, MLB, MLS, etc. in addition to the mainstream media, the advent of social media, and the demands of sports fans of both genders that has been the reason behind the increased access.

Even if that wasn’t the case, though, why does Bruce argue the necessary and proper response is to not question what we learn from our peek inside the sports world? Anti-intellectualism seems to be a manly virtue in Bruce’s world.

And that’s why men as well as women should be offended by Bruce’s stated opinion. To Damon, men aren’t tough enough to ask questions. Men aren’t tough enough to give up any bit of their enjoyment for the health and safety of others. Men aren’t tough enough to seek help when they need it. And men aren’t tough enough to acknowledge the opinions of anyone who doesn’t look, sound and think like them.

Finally, Bruce has an issue with:

“The amount of women talking in sports to the amount of women who have something to say is one of the most disproportionate ratios I’ve ever seen in my life.”

I do not for one single, solitary minute believe this to be true. Let’s for argument’s sake say it is, though. There are certainly some women in sports journalism who are content to be eye candy. There are women who have been promoted above their talent level based solely on their appearance. That’s a problem.

However, Bruce blames women for this while never, ever taking to task the men in power doing the decision making when it comes to hiring and promotions. He also ignores the effect some men have over the careers of smart women. You’d be disheartened to hear how many female colleagues I’ve heard say their bosses want them to dumb down their content in order to make them more likeable, more able to fit in the box that’s been created for women in sports media.

I thank God I have a boss who challenges me to be a better reporter instead of asking me to be more fluffy and vapid.

Is Damon Bruce’s opinion one I haven’t heard before? No. (I was asked that by a co-worker, actually.) That doesn’t make it more acceptable or more fit for air.

And this is not an issue of free speech! Bruce can exercise his individual liberty any time with the “He-Man, Woman-Haters” podcast. Technically, he can go outside the headquarters of the NAACP and yell racial epithets. That does not make it right.

Bruce, not to mention the station that employs him, has a responsibility to not contribute to the existing problem of sexism in the industry. If not the responsibility, than they should have the sensibility. Erecting stupid barriers to admission is a sure way to ensure the downfall of any organization. I cannot imagine KNBR wants to deny themselves the contributions of talented women just, you know, because it’s not their sandbox.

After this screed, you might imagine I wish Bruce ill. So I find it necessary to end with this: I worked with Damon briefly when he was in Columbus for a short time. I liked him. Never once thought, “Man, what cave does this guy crawl back into at night?” He says he’s learned his lesson, and I really, really hope this is true.

And I hope that Bruce, after advocating more toughness in sports coverage, wouldn’t begrudge me for sticking up for my opinion.

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6 Responses to Don’t Bring Me Down, Bruce!

  1. Andy Vulhop says:

    Thank you so much for all of this post, but especially nipping the “free speech” canard in the bud. Free speech is about the government preventing you from saying dumb shit, not protecting you from criticism or repercussions from saying dumb shit like Bruce said.

    The rest of the post is excellently written and perfectly on point, but that nugget in particular has always been a pet peeve of mine that I’m glad to see called out.

    Bravo

  2. oxcamel says:

    The thing that I wondered was why we are playing sports in his sandbox? And who gave him the sports sandbox in the first place? He also rants that most women have nothing to say and they are ruining the ‘men setting’ on sports. Women must be good at saying nothing and be able to ruin a whole industry. Perhaps women should just stick to things they know like birthin’ babies and labor pains.

    Why. in this day and age, do people think that it is okay to say stuff like this out loud and not expect someone to call them out on it. And Lori, thanks for getting that song stuck in my head.

    • Lori Schmidt says:

      *Wonderful* points. I did read another column on this that touches on one thing you mentioned. I can’t find it now, but it said something to the effect of, “Sure sports were ‘set to men.’ So were politics and business. Arguing, ‘That’s the way it’s always been,’ is not an effective argument for, ‘That’s the way it always should be.'” I wish I could find it and give the author credit, but it’s just proof that great minds think alike.

  3. Graig Fravel says:

    Freedom of Speech protects your right to say something. It does not protect you from the consequences of whtayou say.

  4. pete goegan says:

    I find your contributions to sports dialog much more valuable than his, Lori.

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