Women\'s Olympic Golf

For the longest time in this country, sports were for men and men alone. Men played. Men coached. Men officiated. Men commentated. Even when women started to make inroads in tennis, in golf, in the Olympics, it still really was all about men. Sports and men; men and sports, linked forever.

On radio and on television, men naturally became sports’ sole narrators. The voice of sports that came into millions of American homes was exclusively male. This was a perfect arrangement for the vast majority of fans who also were male. Men were talking to men about sports. The male voice was the undeniable soundtrack of our sports lives.

But history started to move quickly, a newsreel flickering with images: Richard Nixon signed Title IX. Billie Jean King beat Bobby Riggs. The Atlanta Olympics became the women’s Olympics, starting a trend that hasn’t stopped. A women’s soccer tournament filled the Rose Bowl. Millions and millions and millions of girls continued to grow up in sports, becoming women who love and play sports the rest of their lives.

Over time, the soundtrack of sports began to change, ever so slightly. A different voice could be heard calling for equality, calling plays, calling penalties, even calling games. The male voice now had company on the broadcast of not only women’s sports, but also men’s sports. It was the female voice.

Lisa Byington interviews Kansas men's basketball coach Bill Self for TNT after the first round of the 2019 NCAA Tournament.
Lisa Byington interviews Kansas men's basketball coach Bill Self for TNT after the first round of the 2019 NCAA Tournament.

“It’s great and it’s time,” pioneering CBS sports broadcaster and podcast host Lesley Visser said over the phone. “You know, men weren’t born with a genetic blueprint that allowed them to recognize a safety blitz. That came from passion, from knowledge, from studying and loving football. Now, thousands, probably millions of girls and women have that same passion and knowledge about football and other men’s and women’s sports. So of course they’re gravitating to the booth, calling games. It makes perfect sense.”

The latest manifestation of this logical development also is one of its most significant. The NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks announced their new television play-by-play announcer Wednesday: veteran sports broadcaster Lisa Byington, who will be the first woman to handle full-time TV play-by-play duties for a major men’s professional sports team.

Byington has been doing play-by-play for several years on the Big Ten Network and Fox Sports, and became the first woman to do play-by-play on the NCAA men’s basketball tournament this past March for CBS and Turner Sports, but this role is different. An announcer for a local pro sports team becomes not only the voice of that team, but the face of the team as well. Any adult who loves sports can recite the names and probably even quote the catch phrases of the sports announcers of their childhood team. They might have forgotten the general manager’s name. They have not forgotten the man who did the play-by-play.

Now, in Milwaukee, that play-by-play man is a woman.

“We know the announcer’s voice is the soundtrack of the game,” Byington told USA TODAY Sports. “If it’s a man’s voice, it’s background noise, it’s normal. We don’t give it a second thought. But if it’s a woman’s voice? If I hear a female voice doing a game on TV and it’s a men’s sport, I’m as guilty of this as anyone, I stop to try to figure out who it is. So I’ve always said when we can get to the point where a female voice is just background noise on a men’s game, then we’ve arrived."

She continued: “That’s not going to happen, though, unless we have the first woman, and then the second, the third and the fourth and the fifth. I don’t know when that’s going to start to sound normal to people, if it’s five years down the line or 10 years or a generation, but we need to get to that point, we need to have a game on and not think twice that a woman is calling a men’s game.”

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There are few traditions in American culture older than the simple act of men talking about sports, so the emergence of high-profile sports play-by-play and/or color announcers such as Beth Mowins, Suzyn Waldman, Doris Burke, Pam Ward, Tiffany Greene and Byington is a piece of our history. Of course none of these women just showed up in the last year or so; they have been working at their craft for years.

Waldman is a ground-breaking New York sportscaster who has been the color commentator on the Yankees’ radio broadcasts since 2005.

“There have been nearly 20 years of Yankee fans who have grown up listening to Suzyn’s voice,” Visser said. “To them, it’s totally natural to hear a woman on the broadcast.”

Said Waldman: “Eventually, you’re part of the furniture, and all those little girls who are listening have grown up never knowing this is something they couldn’t do.”

But acceptance never comes easily. As Waldman said, “They’re out there.” Who’s out there? The men who despise women who rise through the ranks in sports broadcasting and sports media in general.

“I would challenge the people who have issues hearing a woman call a men’s game, I would ask them why, whether it’s her voice, her resume, what she is wearing, what her hair looks like,” Byington said.

“If you’re asking all those questions of a female broadcaster, you better be asking those same questions of a male broadcaster too. And if you’re not, then you have to self-reflect a little bit, and ask yourself why you’re asking those questions of a woman and not a man as well who’s doing the same job.”

Some stubborn male chauvinists even still harp on women having “never played the game," which is a preposterous complaint because women grow up having played every game in America these days, even football. This also happens to be a criticism absolutely no one can level at Byington, who played both basketball and soccer at Northwestern University.

In a Zoom interview with the Bucks when she was vying for the job, Byington was asked a question almost every woman in sports media has received: Is she prepared to handle the big stage?

She was ready with her answer.

“I told them, this is not new to my story. It’s a new chapter but it’s the same book and this is what I deal with every single day. I sort of threw it back at them and I said, ‘I think the better question is not am I ready for it, but are you ready for it?’

“I think the fact that they hired me is their answer.”

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Lisa Byington becoming Bucks' play-by-play broadcaster is historic

Source : https://news.yahoo.com/great-time-lisa-byington-big-110127917.html

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