Over the last month, I’ve spent extra time thinking about women in sports broadcasting, specifically radio. A college student asked for my help with his senior project investigating females in sports media; so I answered a series of questions about how I got into this business, what obstacles I’ve faced along the way, what industry changes I’ve seen, and what can be done to create more opportunities for women. The introspection gave me a chance to look back with gratefulness at how far I’ve come and peak forward at how far I still have to go. There has definitely been progress in the last 15 years, but women in sports radio face an uphill climb that stretches to infinity and beyond. Just last week, a male listener took exception to a word I used in talking about the Thunder-Lakers playoff series. He sent me a tweet to tell me and tagged it by saying, “This is why women shouldn’t be allowed to talk about men’s sports.” While I’m certain his sentiment doesn’t represent every male listener, I’ve received countless messages of similar prejudice during my time in the business.
My ultimate career goal is to earn a job as a radio play-by-play announcer in the NBA (thus the title of my blog). If I happen to be the first female to reach that plateau, so be it. I didn’t set out to be a trailblazer, but it comes with the territory. Play-by-play is dominated by men, more than any other area of sports broadcasting. There are several women who call football and basketball games on TV like Doris Burke, Pam Ward, and Beth Mowins; and Suzyn Waldman serves as the analyst for Yankees’ radio. But in more than a decade of play-by-play, I’ve never once crossed paths with another female handling the same duties on radio. A couple female analysts and a handful of sideline reporters, yes; but play-by-play? No. This past winter, I had the privilege of filling in on a Hartford men’s basketball broadcast. More than 10 years as a play-by-play announcer, and that was my first men’s college game. I recently had a conversation with a company that hires radio talent for college sports broadcasts all over the US. Forty-nine schools with roughly five voices per school, and they don’t have one female voice. Not one! No sideline reporters or analysts and certainly no play-by-play announcers.
As I use this year to seek out new opportunities in this area, I anticipate resistance. As one NBA broadcaster reminds me, some people simply don’t want to hear a woman’s voice calling games on the radio, no matter how talented she is. Others will always see sports as a “man’s world,” no matter how knowledgeable and credible the female sportscaster. To that end, plenty of universities and pro teams see hiring a woman as a risk. Of course, I need experience to be considered a serious candidate for an NBA job, and that means putting more men’s basketball on my resume. That first men’s game in January was a HUGE step forward. While I always believed I could handle the speed of a men’s game, having the audio to prove it is like holding a winning lottery ticket.
There is no timeline…no true precedent…no road map to follow to the NBA. But I’ve come this far, so there’s no turning back. It’s truly a journey into the unknown, accomplished with baby steps. While there’s no way to know when that door will open, I will be ready when it does. All it takes is one team to give me a shot, and I’ll prove that a woman blazing a trail into NBA play-by-play isn’t as risky as it seems.