Friday, November 7, 2008

On Maylan and Jackie ....

Too many years ago to imagine, an editor at the New York City tabloid at which I worked suggested I begin writing a weekly column about women athletes. At the time, I was covering pro football, baseball, and horse racing, and the only women athletes I knew personally had names like Winning Colors or Personal Ensign. I demurred, suggesting that perhaps the newspaper's tennis writer or golf writer might be better suited for the assignment as they had actual dealings with female athletes. No, said the editor, since I was the only woman sportswriter on the staff, I was the logical choice for such an undertaking. That, of course, immediately got my Irish up. If that's the case, I retorted, perhaps the section should launch a column about minority athletes and assign it to the staff's lone African-American reporter. The conversation rapidly deteriorated into a highly-charged emotional debate (which I have an unhappy genius for instigating) but eventually, order was restored and life went on -- without said column.
As one of only a handful of female sportswriters in the country writing for a major metropolitan daily, I was very skittish about being pigeon-holed. I had put up with too many insults and been kicked out of too many lockerrooms to accept being shunted off the mainstream beats. I felt that being asked to write up close and personal columns about athletes I had nothing in common with (other than basic anatomy) was professionally insulting. I still do.
But the editor, ham-handed as he was about the whole thing, had one good point, that being, anything that draws new readers into the sports section is good.
Which brings us to Maylan Studart and Jackie Davis. Maylan won here at Aqueduct on opening day, and again yesterday; Jackie scored her first victory on Wednesday. Both have been receieving an amount of media attention disproportionate to their success; Sebastian Morales' first victory went largely unnoticed last year, and I do not think much has been made of Victor Santiago or Jose Berrios. It has been suggested it is unfair for young woman riders to get so much publicity. That may well be. Yet I can't help but think back to the argument with my editor, and I remain convinced that anything that can bring in new fans is good. Ride on!

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