Posted May 21, 2012

None of us want to be in calm waters all our lives

Announcers, ESPN

Beth Mowins (above) could see her profile increase after Pam Ward’s bump off the college football beat. (Porter Binks/SI)

More than a decade after becoming the first woman to call a college football game for a national TV network, Pam Ward is being moved off the beat in 2012. Via SI’s Richard Deitsch, here is ESPN’s statement on reassigning Ward away from college football coverage: “For a decade, Pam has been a trailblazing voice on college football. She will continue to be a big part of our coverage plans across multiple sports including college basketball, softball, the WNBA and more.”

It’d be some kind of reverse sexism to defend Ward’s body of work because she has lady parts. I was never a particular fan. I like my announcers openly and brazenly biased (think the pair of relentless homers who do Hawaii games on the island’s local feed), unable to contain their glee (Verne Lundquist, whose chortles are a national treasure) and susceptible to stunts (Tessitore-Gilmore, who were famous for rifling through college students’ unmentionables on camera long before they became America’s Friday-night shootout sweethearts). But I can and will envy her ascent* and freely admire that she was there at all.

I’m also not big on the concept of “favorite female sports announcer,” because it’s a tiny pool and needlessly lops off a big swath of the population doing the exact same job that doesn’t change on account of plumbing. (It’s like saying “favorite freckled barista.”) But if I had one, it’d be Beth Mowins. If the Ward move leads to an increased profile for Mowins, that’s to the good, because she’s good at her job.

Back to Storm the Dorm for one more point: It may not even be possible right now to have a female announcer doing national coverage and displaying any hint of the wacky personality I so cherish in the above-listed gentlemen. We’re all not there yet. Would a pair of ladies reciting the exact same lines, word for word, as those Hawaii homers be greeted as a fitting sideshow for a game with a 1 a.m. ET kickoff, or derided for show of bias and lack of analytical chops? I have a guess.

Which returns us to Mowins. Female announcers are going to have to become fixtures whose gender is no longer part of the conversation (a common theme at SI this spring) before they’ll be able to deploy their plumage, which is why I admire her so much for putting in good, serious work. She carries the torch today so that our daughters and our daughters’ daughters may one day draw hand turkeys on the telestrator at halftime.

*I’d love to do television, someday, but if you’re reading this, suits: do not ever give me the chance. It would end terribly. One Fat Guy Touchdown early in the game and I’d just be replaying it over and over again for a solid two quarters, not unlike a raccoon caught in a bear trap with a silver dollar in its fist. I recognize I am not cut out for this, and reverently salute those who are. 

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