Politics, Technology, and Language

If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought — George Orwell

The glass dugout

Posted by digglahhh on 28 April 2007

So, Alyssa Milano who played Samantha on “Who’s the Boss” and provided masturbatory fodder for teenage boys on “Charmed” has a baseball related blog. For purposes of this discussion, let’s us set aside the fact that she launched a clothing line that is being sold on mlb.com and that the blog itself is at least partially a form of cross promotion. Perhaps that calls into question Ms. Millano’s passion for the game. But, I figured, why not read what she has to say about baseball and her favorite team, the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Her first post was a little cheesy and promoted her clothing line, but how many bloggers don’t do a little self-promotion? She didn’t make any references to players’ physical attractiveness; nor did she come off like a ditz in any other way. It was a non-descript light-hearted post that romanticized the game. A nice antidote to my post from two weeks ago in fact. As a person quite familiar with the world of Internet baseball talk, from the brilliant to the banal, and as a person who lives with someone equally knowledgeable—a woman, as it happens—take my word; there’s stuff written everyday that makes this look like the revolutionary statistical analysis of a young Bill James.

Here is an excerpt from Milano’s first post:

Honestly, this is what I love about baseball. It’s just like life. The ride. The journey. Every year when the season starts, I think I have a pretty good idea of how the season is going to go. Oh, I think I’m such an expert — I read every magazine, I read MLB.com everyday (OK, maybe four or five times a day), I watch the Spring Training games. And yet despite all the preparation, I realize I simply have no idea what twists or turns the season will take. As much as I try to peer into the future, the future is unpredictable. A ball bounces under a player’s legs, and the Red Sox lose their lead and the World Series. A fan interferes with a ball, and the Cubs lose their lead, and the playoff series. A-Rod finally silences the boo’s and steps up to the plate. That’s baseball. In life, we have our own rhythms, our own ups and downs, our own teammates, and all we can do is hold on and prepare for the challenges along the journey.

You see this kind of writing everywhere; nonetheless, that first post’s comment section was filled with accusations that she didn’t write the blog herself, questions about whether she really likes baseball, and thinly veiled pick-up lines.

I’m sure Alyssa Milano is flattered that through the power of baseball she can still be the same fantasy fodder she was in the days of Charmed. I’m equally sure these sexually frustrated dorks would have swam the English Channel to scrub her toilet regardless of whether she knew which season Fernando Valenzuela won the Cy Young (1981, in case you were wondering).

The most common comment reaction was surprise. Wow, Alyssa, it’s real cool you’re a baseball fan… Some other things about Alyssa that these commenters may find cool are that she can own property, vote, and correctly identify a screwdriver. What they might not find so cool is that she quite probably has no desire to sleep with them. Seriously, the comment section was like the worst parody of “The Aristocrats” one could imagine, countless pinheads reiterating slightly different versions of the same hopelessly pathetic jokes and amorous proposals.

See for yourself:

You are absolutely the most gorgeous woman on the planet and a baseball fan as well. {Sigh}

…I first saw you in Commando with our governator. After that, I didn’t miss an episode of Who’s the Boss cause I had a crush on you, but who can blame me? Anyway, now that I find out you are almost as big a Dodger fan as I am, you once again reclaim the title of the perfect woman, and my crush may come back, regardless of your marital status..lol

I have followed your career for many, many years. You are truly a PRINCESS!
I am a die-hard Yankee fan but I am sure that if we were to meet that all I had to do is look once into your eyes and I would switch to the Dodgers forever!!!

Girl, what do you know about baseball?

Much like the in the Kathy Sierra episode, Milano’s sex is placed at the forefront of the commenters’ remarks.

In 2007 we still have not evolved, as a society, to the point at which it is not shocking that an attractive woman could possibly enjoy and follow baseball. Worse, we still have a double-standard about sports “expertise” and gender. I heard Mets fan and actor Tim Robbins as a guest in the announcer’s booth during last season’s NLDS. He commented that he was looking forward to Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez getting a shot to face the Dodgers. Hernandez was injured and not even on the roster at the time! Yet, for some reason the Internet firing squad didn’t really take aim at Nuke Laloosh.

My girlfriend works for Major League Baseball; she oversees official scoring decisions and corrects the mistakes of official scorers who have spent their lives watching baseball. Still, when we go out to a bar or a game, she is often given the backhanded compliment of being very knowledgeable for a girl. Excuse me? For a girl? She can recite entire sections of the rulebook and has a better grasp or the history, strategy and rules of the game than 99% of those of either sex. But that doesn’t make her immune from being stereotyped.

In one particularly egregious instance an official from one of the teams called the office seeking clarification on a ruling that was made in the previous night’s game. When she asked him to elaborate, he asked to be connected to a male. Frustrated, but politely, she made clear that there was no confusion; she was not the office secretary but one of the department managers. He still asked to speak to a man.

This attitude in sports places an unfair onus on women who proudly show their interest in sports. My girlfriend sometimes feels like she is speaking for all women and that if she errs in her job it very well might reinforce somebody’s pre-existing stereotype. A similar mistake by a male co-worker carries none of that sociological baggage. A woman I know is trying to start women’s baseball leagues in Detroit. In Internet discussions about the best ways to build and market the leagues, she and her cause are routinely mocked amid flagrant, non-sequiturs that assert male athletic superiority.

Many male fans are eager to point out a female fan’s ignorance in order to dismiss them or to label them groupies. Yet often these same men babble on freely and incessantly about sports with all the acumen and rhetorical skill of George Bush at a science fair.

3 Responses to “The glass dugout”

  1. alice said

    I’m wondering how much of the crap Milano’s getting is simply because of her gender, and how much is because, prior to this blog, her public connection with baseball was serially dating young stud pitchers. I don’t read many baseball blogs, but I do read a lot of hockey blogs, and three of the best “independent” blogs that I follow are written by women. I simply don’t see this misogyny in the comments they receive, and one of them, the Acid Queen discusses, rather caustically, the comments she’s deleted (hint: there’s real animosity between Buffalo Sabres and Carolina Hurricanes fans). To the extent that there’s an inner circle of fan hockey blogs, women are represented in it. I’ve seen exactly one condescending comment in Christy’s Behind the Jersey, and it’s not entirely clear whether the condescension is due to her gender or to her age (she’s a college sophomore, and has been maintaining her blog at a very high level since she was in high school). That said, I know a fair number of women who choose androgynous or frankly male handles when they participate in sports-oriented message boards, in order to avoid being asked out rather than their opinion of whom the Raiders should pick in the NFL draft.

    Returning to Milano, she may be getting nasty and condescending comments because she’s a celebrity blogger. I’ve seen some of the same in comments on Curt Schilling’s blog, 38 pitches, including the question of whether he really wrote it. Likewise, David Boreanaz has a “celebrity” blog on NHL.com, as a Buffalo Sabres fan. The comments are full of inappropriate, non-hockey, content regarding his roles. It’s inappropriate in different ways than the comments on Milano’s blog, but it’s still inappropriate, and some comments are even vaguely stalker-ish.

    I think this is a round-about way of saying that misogyny directed at women in sports (whether as athletes, journalists, or fans) is a real issue but that Milano is the wrong person to focus on. In addressing this issue, it’s important to disentangle gender issues from those involving fans being invested in public figures (you might call them boundary issues).

  2. Harry said

    I agree with Alice. I would have more sympathy for this position regarding Ms Milano if googling her up didn’t result in this: clearly, she’s pretty comfortable with a public persona as a sex object, so I regard her as fairly complicit in whatever retrograde motion sexual attitudes have in 21st century America.

    This of course does not forgive the various animals that comment on her blog, but really, someone who’s career consisted very prominently of a strong emphasis on her, um, prominences,… well, color me unsurprised. I’m guessing she’s likewise not startled.

    But, as a general observation on the fact that a supposedly enlightened society is, in fact, composed of lunkheaded sexists, I weep with you.

  3. digglahhh said

    For the most part, I agree. I wasn’t trying to single Milano out or insinuate that this example is the best possible representation of sports related gender bias. I was actually directed to her blog because of a separate sociological question my girlfriend raised about her clothing line, clicked on the comments was disappointed.

    I guess in the interest of full disclosure, I should also state the previous celebrity mlb blogs didn’t go over well either, from what I’ve heard. I think Scott Strapp had one last year that he stopped writing half way through or something.

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