Sunday, March 23, 2014

Locker room antics


What's it like to be a woman in a men's locker room?  It is THE most asked question I get whenever my job comes up in conversation, whether I'm speaking to a Rotary Club or to a newfound acquaintance.  I'm here to say it's not enjoyable or exciting or sexy.  It stinks!  It's littered with sweaty uniforms, jock straps, and used athletic tape.  On game day, particularly after a loss, it's a hectic scene with players rushing to get showered, dressed and out the door, while I'm scrambling along with a mass of media members to get a good spot in front of the star player's locker. And of course most of the players are nearly naked or completely naked.  

Locker rooms are the inner sanctum of a team's facility in professional sports.  I often feel like I'm intruding on a very personal, private space.  It's an argument that has been around for decades... women don't belong in a locker room!  As a sports reporter it is critical I get the players reaction after the game or practice.  Once they are out the door, it is very difficult to get them to stop and talk.  I wouldn't be able to do my job if I wasn't allowed in, so I push my discomfort aside and focus on the task at hand.  

Some women I've met are intrigued by the idea of seeing a lot of grown men naked... to steal a line from the movie "Airplane."  I do everything possible to avoid seeing anyone's private parts.  I stare at the floor or ceiling, turn my back to the entrance of the showers or someone dressing at their locker.  I have to believe few people, not directly affiliated with the team, feel at ease there.  In fact many of my male colleagues have confessed to me that they are uncomfortable as well.

Thankfully I wasn't a pioneer during the 1970's and 80's when females in sports media had to fight for the right for equal access.  I can only imagine how humiliating and distressing it was for them to be literally picked up and thrown out of locker rooms and clubhouses. I was usually the only female in the locker room when I first started in the business in the mid-90's.  However, today it's a rare occurrence.  There are several women in both print and television journalism as well as radio that work in the Phoenix market.  Over the years, though, I have had a few incidents in the locker room that have left me red in the face.  

One such incident was when I was required to get interviews in a visiting baseball teams locker room for another FOX station.  As I was waiting for the teams star player to get dressed, another player started barking suggestive comments that were clearly directed at me.  The most memorable being that he had a "mushroom cap right here."  All of other media members stared at me for my reaction.  Even the star player, who was known to be an arrogant jerk, looked at me and apologized for his teammates behavior. Awkward!  I chose to ignore the offender and never even turned around, which was probably the best course of action.  However, after leaving the locker room I thought of a perfect comeback which would have put him in his place... "I wouldn't be proud of that mini crimini."

Another time I was covering one of the local teams.  I'd been in the locker room numerous times, but this time one of the players yelled loudly "woman in the locker room!"  He proceeded to make additional comments trying to get my attention as he stood facing me completely naked.  Again, my male colleagues all stared at me with nervous laughs.

Once an extremely large football player tried to grope me while I was sleeping in my seat on the teams chartered plane, but that is a story for another time. 

I love my job, but being in a locker room is my least favorite aspect of it.  If there was anyway for me to avoid going into a locker room without it affecting my job performance I would be all for it.  In the meantime I plan on holding my breath and continuing to avert my gaze.     

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