In an effort to reach out to people who don’t normally comprise their usual demographic, The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation is coming under attack for a new initiative designed to attract females to their Hockey Night in Canada Telecasts.
Rather than plaudits for expanding their vision to encompass a new market, there was vociferous
reaction to the initiative.
The CBC had bravely agreed to air commentary supplied by someone other than the usual clutch of aging sportscasters and various former players who’ve had the most successful dental reconstruction. Instead, providing the play-by-play and colour commentary will be provided by a couple of only slightly interested women.
The pair, audio-bloggers Lena Sutherland and Jules Mancuso use a totally different approach to calling the game. They don’t so much describe the action as mock it.
The two young, attractive females host a website called WhileTheMenWatch.com, where they have already been doing running commentaries during NHL hockey games, focusing on features of the sport not often discussed by their male counterparts. To understand the concept of the broadcast, here is how Sutherland recounted the initial brainwave that eventually led to the audio-blog, as it appeared in a National Post story on the twosome..
“One afternoon while [our husbands] were both watching the same game on TV Jules and I were on the phone and we started just making comments to each other like, ‘Did you see that guy’s hair?’ and ‘What’s going on with that coach wearing the suit four sizes too big for him’?”…we kind of thought, ‘Wow, this is funny, wouldn’t it be great if we could tune into an alternative version of the commentary from a female perspective?’ And that was kind of where we got the idea.”
The Post’s story went on to reveal that the two women’s attempt at entertainment was being met with a backlash in the “Twitterverse” of social media. A number of women ‘tweeted’ they felt indignant about the premise, although the piece in no way quantified the volume of the negative responses. Those who did take issue felt that the concept was belittling to hard-core female fans. Using words such as “paternalistic” one female sports enthusiast, Laurie Kempton, aired her unhappiness on the social networking website, Twitter, claimed it was an equality issue.
“It’s incredibly patronizing and insulting and I can’t believe in 2012 we’re reduced to dividing sports along decades-old gender stereotypes.” Kempton claimed in a subsequent interview.
Kempton did not say if she felt women should now go head to head in the Olympics or professional golf, hockey, football, curling or any other sport currently gender segregated.
Other female sports fans, however, were also feeling insulted and slighted by the initiative. By their anger and disgust one would think the alternative commentary was being forced on these women somehow and they would no longer get to listen to the male-dominated mainstream media version of the game.
Instead of applauding these women, these sisters in the struggle against their big-budget, testosterone fueled commentary competitors, other women want to tear them down and find fault with what they are doing. They see the two women’s brilliant initiative as some kind of threat to all of womanhood, rather than the fluffy entertainment it was meant to be.
It would be like hard-core Sci-Fi fans getting a kink in their kilt over the “Mystery Science Theatre 3000” producers. These rather funny and even occasionally insightful movies feature three animated geeks and a robot cracking wise as a running commentary over top of classic monster and UFO movies. For those with a penchant for campy old Sci-Fi flicks, they are fun to watch. I don’t recall there being animosity towards these films from the space-nerd community but then, the commentators and android were all male.
The National Post story did not carry reaction from any male hockey fans concerning the commentating alternative. It is possible the reporter, Michael Oliveira, of the Canadian Press, couldn’t find any. Male hockey fans likely couldn’t care how someone else might want to enjoy the game, as long as it doesn’t impact on their hockey experience.
In talking to dedicated hockey fans in the area, rather than derision, the female perspective broadcast garnered quite a bit of interest.
“I’d be interested in tuning into it for a chuckle,” confessed one male Stanley Cup watcher in an exclusive interview. “I watch so much hockey it would be great for a change. I already know what the regular guys are going to say. They haven’t uttered an original line in years.”
The two women providing the new wrinkle to the grand old game were given a boost by the reaction of two Canadian Olympic Women’s Hockey icons; Hayley Wickenheiser and Cassie Campbell-Pascal. Both gave the concept the thumbs up and expressed interest in giving it a listen.
“If it captures a new audience of people who may enjoy the game from a more entertaining viewpoint versus traditional commentary, then I think it’s a win for the game of hockey in general,” stated Wickenheiser in an email.
“I think it’s going to be a lot of fun for more casual viewers,” Campbell-Pascal added in a separate statement. “It may even resonate with some of the most dedicated fans.”
The latter is currently an on-air game analyst for CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada’s telecasts. She expressed interest in giving a listen to the quirky commentary of the two upstart audio-bloggers.