Saturday, August 4, 2012

My Problem with the Fox Sports Florida Girls

In late 2011, in an attempt to “bring a fresh look and feel in the delivery of content on TV and the digital platforms”, Fox Sports Florida took a page out of Maxim Magazine and created the “Fox Sports Girls”, a marketing device geared towards the 18-35 male demographic. These two 20-something attractive women joined the network to “guide viewers through the outstanding lineup of live games and programming”.

They might be amazingly nice, sweet, intelligence women off the air and away from Fox Sports Florida, but the Fox Sports Girls are a slap in the face to female sports fans everywhere. In a time where we have more female athletes than male athletes representing our country in the Olympics, for a major sports network to stoop to horrible female sports fan clichés to attract more male viewers and page views sets female fandom back at least 30 years. I would expect that from some of the sports blogs out there or perhaps an alcohol promoter, but not a regional sports network.

According to recent statistics, women make up 46% of baseball fans. For you non-math majors, that’s almost half. They are buying tickets, merchandise, and equipment. They are a growing part of the game at every level, from the playing to watching to reporting. They are no longer outsiders. To quote Wendy Thrum of SBNation,
“Some keep score at the game, while listening to the radio broadcast in their ears. Some have favorite players instead of favorite teams. Some can name every member of her team’s 40-man roster. Some can’t even name the starting rotation. Some love the Victoria’s Secret-inspired team gear. Some wouldn’t be caught dead in it, or in any gear that’s pink or sparkly.”

They are fans. And they come in all shapes, sizes, and interest levels.

But I can almost guarantee the Fox Sports Girls aren’t there to appeal to the female fan base. They are for the eyes of the other half of baseball fans. The ones who have been playing the sport for years, the ones who it has been socially acceptable to like baseball since the day they were born, the ones who stereotypically need no introduction or motivation to watch more sports. The ones with penises.

This is how Fox Sports Florida looks for “new and unique ways to create a deeper connection with our loyal and passionate fans”? By showcasing women on their website and asking them “What is the most important quality you look for in a man?”, “The celebrity or athlete you would most like to go out on a date with?”, and “What is more romantic flowers or chocolates?”. With so many women in the Florida sports fanbase, this line of questioning is completely embarrassing and uncalled for.

The coup de grace of chauvinistic shilling and in a move that I am surprised didn’t completely isolate their female viewers, in March of this year, Fox Sports Florida held a “Go to the HEAT Game with the FOX Sports Florida Girls Sweepstakes”. Yes, because that is exactly what female fans want to do: go to a basketball game with two girls known for being network eye candy.

What I find particularly insulting is that Fox Sports passed over so many great Florida-based female sports voices for women they only use for appearances and photo shoots. There are women out there that speak well on camera, do radio shows, write well, and know as much about sports as any man. In Tampa alone there are women such as Jenna Laine, Sarah Tyson, Roxanne Wilder, and Lynne Austin. Those are just off the top of my head. There are also dozens, if not hundreds, of women active on twitter and facebook contributing to sports conversations.

Florida in general has been an extraordinary launching pad for women to achieve success in sports media. Erin Andrews started in Florida; Pam Oliver went to Florida A&M; Tiffany Simons, current broadcast reporter for the New York Mets, sat next to me in class at Florida State; Jenn Sterger also went to FSU; MLB Social Media Coordinator Whitney Holtzman went to the University of Florida and worked as an intern with the Rays before getting her current gig; and of course, Laura McKeeman is the current broadcast reporter for the Rays and other Florida sports on none other than Fox Sports Florida. And there and have been many other women who have hosted radio shows or worked other jobs behind the scenes to foster the great Florida sports scene we hold dear.

(By the way, contrast the usage of the Fox Sports Florida Girls and McKeeman’s thoughts on her looks and her profession in this article. I’d like to ask McKeeman what she thinks of how her fellow sports media women are being used strictly for their appearance. Notice there are no questions on McKeeman’s Fox Sports page about her ideal man or whether she likes chocolate or not.)

I don’t know where Fox Sports Florida found Jordana and Annile. Like I said, they might be amazing women and great people, but I don’t think they are doing right by women by subjecting themselves to the whims of an obviously antiquated view of female sports fans. Optimally, I would like to see all women (and guys who support the cause) boycott Fox Sports Florida until they replace the Fox Sports Girls concept with women who are more than just glorified network mascots. Women who know sports and can talk about sports in more than just clichés and general questions.

Women who at least know how to hold a bat.