Jessica Mendoza: You are a sports pioneer. A glass-shatterer. And I salute you!
I covered Jessica Mendoza during her NPF days with the USSA Pride as they battled with Chicago Bandits for the Cowles Cup Championship in 2011 at the Ballpark at Rosemont. I rejoiced when ESPN hired her as a sideline reporter and College World Series analyst. For me, ESPN’s now earned their reputation as a ‘world-wide leader in sports.’ I praised them for putting ‘Spain and Prim’ on the air last year around this time. And now, I’m praising them for doing the right thing by breaking a long-held glass barrier for women.
Mendoza was the first female analyst for a Major League Baseball game in the history of ESPN, during a game between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Arizona Diamondbacks. (Citations by Yahoo Sports/Wikipedia).
The hard-working 34 year old put in an Olympian effort on a history-making Tuesday night as the first woman offering color commentary in a Major League Baseball playoff game, calling the Astros-Yankees wild card matchup at Yankee Stadium.
Only to be met on social media afterwards by clowns like this:
why do i turn on baseball and hear a woman’s voice in the broadcast booth?!? we watch sports to get away from women.
“Really? A women’s softball slugger as guest analyst on MLB Wildcard Game? Once again ESPN too frigging cute for their own good,” he wrote in one of several tweets that had many Mendoza fans rushing to her defense. (via People Magazine)
Her résumé to get past the no-girls-allowed sign for one of America’s major team sports: A four-time All-American softball player at Stanford and a two-time Olympic medalist in the sport, she has appeared on ESPN since 2007. Until this summer, her assignments have mostly been on the periphery, covering softball and as a sideline reporter on college football games.
Guess what? I listened. My 10 year old girl listened. My partner, Ted listened. We all agreed…she was good. In fact, she continued the keen, precise, insightful coverage she’s provided since replacing Curt Schilling, who was serving a suspension for racist remarks made during earlier broadcasts.
And we weren’t the only family listening. Thanks to Mendoza, I think, the numbers for the Wild Card game were up significantly…the highest in 12 years (note: the Cubs were in it the last time this happened.)
According to Mendoza’s Twitter account:
Most hadn’t listened to the full broadcast, but male and female both expressed discomfort with the sound of a female voice doing color commentary.
Mendoza received hundreds of tweets after the game. Industry analysts, including the Washington Post and the New York Times, gave her glowing notices. ESPN reporter Rachel Nichols tweeted out her support, along with many other ESPN colleagues and sports broadcasters around the nation.
WGN-AM’s Bill Leff remarked on Thursday’s show that her female voice ‘wasn’t a distraction’ and noted that she ‘knew her stuff.’ But callers to his afternoon show Thursday were mixed.
Here’s why, I think:
- Resistance to Change: Mendoza herself talked about on Good Morning America, as reported in People Magazine: “Any time there is a change, there’s normally a lot of resistance. I think the [thing I was most] excited about was the aftermath and how much support there really was.”
- The Old-Boys Network: Fifty years ago, Major League Baseball was America’s sport. But the NFL has surpassed it. I have my own issues with the NFL, but that’s another post for another time. Now, those who listen to MLB broadcasts are largely men, ages 45-80. Not the demographic that moves with the times best. I’m not saying this for all men. Just the ones who are most resistant to change fall in that category.
ESPN is standing behind their new star, who’ll continue doing color analysis through next season. Let’s leave the final words to her:
“I want to get to a point when we hear a female voice on NBA, NFL, or just anything in men’s sports, and it is like, ‘Sweet. She’s doing a good job.’ “
Jessica Mendoza, to People Magazine