It gets better. 'Til then, wear a wedding band

A young sportswriter once reached out to me.

She was a veteran at her college paper, but felt frustrated. At a football game, players from the opposing team had given her the Ines Sainz treatment, erupting in cat calls when she approached them for a postgame interview.

She said she downplayed her attractiveness, but she was still having a hard time getting taken seriously by all the coaches who referred to her as darlin'. The school mascot smacked her rear as she walked to her press row seat.

Would you be surprised if I told you I got her call last week?

What other relic from the 1970s is next? Smoking in the workplace? Mustaches? Needing your father or husband to co-sign your application for a credit card?

I vote no on mustaches.

It's hard to like the term "sexual harassment." It sounds so stark. But it seems to be making a comeback -- from Sainz to Jenn Sterger and two massage therapists, and that's talking about the Jets alone. What has the NFL done about any of these allegations? Investigations have resulted in no suspensions for harassment.


Ron Franklin pulled a Bobby Riggs on ESPN coworker Jeannine Edwards, calling her "sweet baby" before dialing it right up to "ass---" when she complained. Isn't it funny how endearments and insults can sound so alike?

ESPN reacted by severing ties with the veteran announcer.

Having chicks in the workplace is a hassle. They need separate bathrooms, they won't make your coffee anymore, they get all cranky when the office holiday party is held at the Playboy Club. Maybe that's why so many sports departments just aren't hiring them as much.

To be fair, a lot of newspapers aren't hiring much of anybody these days. But Dave Morgan built the Yahoo! sports department from scratch and was asked by Karen Crouse at a 2008 Association for Women in Sports Media convention how many women he'd hired to write for the site. His answer: zero.

Sound like an anomaly? Check the lists of columnists and bloggers at any number of major, corporate-run websites.

Diversity in hiring was a trend in the '90s but seems to have gone out with the dot-com bust. Marie Hardin, who looks at industry numbers as the associate director of the Curley Center for Sports Journalism at Penn State, said that the numbers of women in sports journalism haven't increased in a decade.

"Young women come into the business and then leave after a few years, creating a lot of churn instead," Hardin wrote in an e-mail.

Why don't women stick around? Here's a guess: With just a few female sports reporters in any given market, the gender remains a novelty. A segment of each new class of young women is constantly fighting to gain the same ground a generation before thought it had already established.

Which may be why my anonymous young scribe hasn't complained in any official capacity. She doesn't want to give the impression she can't hack it.

I gave her advice, told her that things will get better, that authority figures sometimes try to bully young writers regardless of gender. I told her she will develop credibility with experience, and to trust her own voice. I told her that there are three or four women at Jets practices on an almost daily basis, and that the practices are nothing like the one when a TV Azteca reporter came to visit.

But I also gave her some advice that the pioneering women in our business might have gotten during the Joe Namath era.

Wear a fake wedding band, sweet cakes.

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