Posted in Brain Bits, Observations, Television

Brain Bits on an August Afternoon

Jessica Ennis

Along with a fair amount of TV viewers in the United States, I’m delighted not to have to listen anymore to the blather of Bob Costas, at least until the next Olympiad. NBC’s prime time coverage of the London Games was a joke, centered as it was on the creation and perpetuation of athletes media darlings, the vast majority of whom are either swimmers or gymnasts (I’d add beach volley ball players, but Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings truly earned their swan song coverage). I guess you either have to sweat chlorine or be covered in rosin to make the grade. With the exception of Usain Bolt and Lolo Jones coverage, you’d think this past set of Olympic Games had abandoned its track and field foundation unless you tuned in during daytime or caught some footage on-line.

Perhaps somewhat related is how much more jingoistic NBC has become with each Olympiad it telecasts. ABC, which broadcast the games during the height of the Cold War, never shut out coverage based on the nationality of the competition. But NBC’s broadcast priorities appeared to be something like this: the glamor sports, such as swimming, gymnastics, beach volleyball and basketball got first nod, and then if there was airtime to fill, they’d go to the sweaty sports, but only if an American had a decent chance of a medal (eastern European athletes simply don’t exist in the Eye of the Peacock). I’m actually being generous here, because track and field, aside from the sprinters, got very little coverage in prime time, as in 2 minutes and out, if that. I don’t know about you, but I never saw men’s or women’s javelin, high jump, shot put, hammer throw, discus (except during the ridiculously brief decathlon coverage) or steeplechase featured in prime time. Devotees of other sports, like rowing and the equestrian events, have gripes equal to mine, I’m sure.

I’m tempted to blast the eternal glorification of the American women’s (what a misnomer that is) gymnastics team, but hey, I figure anyone who takes the wisdom of a teenage girl to heart, as conveyed in close-up on NBC, deserves what they get (And by the way, some of that was not exactly flattering. I’d hate to run into McKayla Maroney in a dark alley). In my opinion, Jessica Ennis, who could have taken it easy and won the women’s heptathlon on points, but instead turned on the burners and finished with the fastest time in the 800 meters, is a far better role model for your kids. Not to mention Manteo Mitchell, who broke his leg during a heat in the 4×400, but pushed on to finish, just to get the U.S. in the finals. Not to mention the U.S. and Canadian women’s soccer teams, who played a game for the ages.

It would be a first if NBC took to heart some of the avalanche of criticism it received as it plans for the Rio games in 2016. But I’m not holding my breath.

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I enjoyed a large portion of what Helen Gurley Brown had to say. She was far ahead of her time in advocating that women could and should lead independent lives, with careers and money of their own. In 1962, the year “Sex and the Single Girl” was published, there sure weren’t a lot of people acknowledging that so-called “good girls” had sex, and not only that, they enjoyed it. And to say in print to single women, “You may marry or you may not. In today’s world that is no longer the big question for women” was even more astonishing in that “Mad Men” age.

When I was in college, “Cosmopolitan” was at the peak of its influence, and despite the fact that we wore our hair straight down to our waists and lived in jeans and boots, my friends and I devoured every issue. Where I came to part company with Mrs. Brown was over her attitude toward sexual harassment in the workplace. She had the quaint notion that any woman should be able to outrun a man who chased her around a desk. Would that it were always that simple. She really had a blind spot where this issue was concerned, and had absolutely no concept of the bullying and twisted attitudes behind sexual harassment, how pervasive it could be and how it could destroy lives and careers.

Nevertheless, I applaud her for being ahead of her time. I loved reading her books—she had a sharp wit and a wealth of experience to share. However, I wished that she, who had such a bully pulpit at her disposal, would have had the wisdom to see that women’s problems on the job didn’t end with the deflection of a forward pass. A major opportunity lost.

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