Trump Rules

With Donald Trump all but wrapping up the GOP presidential nomination, many voices in the political landscape have already crowned Hillary Clinton as the next president of the United States (see here and here).

But after the absolute spectacle we just watched in the Republican primary, I’m much more hesitant to call this one over. Too many rules have been broken in this election season to take anything for granted. Donald Trump has revealed a number of truths about our country — truths that we really already knew but perhaps never realized their full depth or weight. (more…)

Thoughts on #OregonUnderAttack

If you haven’t heard, a group of armed angry anti-government militia-men – they call themselves the Citizens for Constitutional Freedom — are currently occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Burn, Oregon. Here at the Civil Word, we try to make sense of it all. (more…)

Black Menace and The Importance of the #iftheygunnedmedown Hashtag

The Mike Brown tragedy has brought to surface a number of systemic failures that contribute to the oppression of Black Americans. From political disenfranchisement which allows a city two-thirds black to be represented by a city council that’s 80 percent white to the militaristic police-state response used to control and limit the agency of black people (also, everyone), systemic racism and prejudice pervade every aspect of American life.

Particularly fascinating is our collective and pervasive fetish with portraying black victims as menacing. In the case of Mike Brown, the image most widely shared has him standing stoically on a porch, the camera angle such that Brown — already 6’4″ — looms even larger over the viewer. He’s wearing a red Nike tank that reveals beefy muscular arms — one of which is raised chest level with his hand contorted into a peace (gang?) sign. He is not smiling. Brown looks much older than his eighteen years.

Needless to say, one look at this image and a lot of folks think they know exactly what happened between Mike Brown and the police officer that shot him dead. A picture is worth a thousand words and the story some get from this one is that Mike Brown had it coming. (more…)

Deford: No Respect For The Women On The Sidelines

In honor of this years Men’s NCAA basketball tournament, I’d like to offer up an NPR piece from sportswriter Frank Deford. With the dearth of female color commentators on the scene, it seems just as relevant today as it did when it first aired a few years back. You can listen to it here. Transcript below.

Football season has hardly started and fans are already grousing about sideline reporters. To be sure, sideliners now exist in most all sports, and a handful of them –– notably Craig Sager of Turner, who was apparently in town the day the clown died, and thus got all his clothes –– are downright famous. While Sager is best known for basketball, it is football sideline reporters who are most identified with the sport.

That is because, just as football offensive linemen are supposed to be fat, football sideline reporters are supposed to be women –– attractive women. Who can ever forget a drunken Joe Namath mumbling to one of the poor sideliners that he wanted to kiss her? But, evidently, it is the television version of the laws of the Medes and the Persians that football sideline reporters must be female. There’s even a website: Presumably, TV believes that a touch of pulchritude at the mic improves ratings –– affirmative attraction action.

And so the sideliners are delegated to freeze down on the tundra while the male play-by-play announcer and his hefty old gridiron warrior expert babble on comfortably up in the heated booth. The sideline reporter is sort of like the scroll at the bottom of the screen, which, especially on ESPN, rolls on endlessly, even when it doesn’t have anything of consequence to say. Likewise, the sideliner. If you’ve got the technology for a scroll or a live body on the field, use it.

The most asinine task sideliners are required to carry out is to ask coaches, before the second half, what plans they have for the rest of the game. The coach who’s ahead says he wants to keep up the intensity and avoid turnovers. The coach who’s behind says he wants to get more physical and avoid turnovers. Back to the booth. And all the guys watching with their buddies laugh at the ditzy babes who ask such obvious stupid questions.

But the irony is that most sideline reporters –– whatever sport, whichever gender –– really have done their homework and really do know their stuff. Most of them are terribly overqualified for the assignment of being a human scroll. But, of course, whereas it has not been uncommon for years for newspapers to have women on the football beat, television wouldn’t dare allow a female up into the booth to actually call the game.

The funny thing is –– as I was reminded when I heard Mary Carillo doing tennis commentary during the U.S. Open –– is that when you hear a female voice in tandem with a male voice, the contrast sets off both advantageously –– as TV stations always pair male and female anchors on the local news.

But in sports television, sideline reporters can only go side to side, never up. Their place is down on the field, with the cheerleaders.