Documentary

#YesAllWomen in sports

#YesAllWomen in sports

For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a sports journalist.

There might have been a very brief stint in kindergarten where Friendly’s waitress was discussed as an option, but that melted away as quickly as a Cone Head sundae.

With the exception of kindergarten, there was no hesitation or question; I was going to be a sports journalist. I was going to do anything to get there, but there were going to be some rough moments.

I remember being the only girl watching the game with the boys. I remember the isolation of being the only woman on a beat. I remember the skeptical looks, the odd questions, and the doubtful comments.

But by far, the absolute worst part of all was, and still is, The Quiz.

Any woman that works in sports journalism will tell you that at some point in her life, she has been subjected to a quiz by someone who thinks they know more about sports than she does. It could be someone close to them, like a friend or family member, or someone that she’s just met, like a guy in a bar, your barista or mechanic.

The quiz normally starts with little questions with an air of superiority and condescension, normally starting with “WELL” and ending with “Huh?!” (Real-life example-WELL, What is Utah’s mascot, huh?!)

As a woman, you know that a man would never be subjected to this in a serious context. You are acutely aware that this is not a joke. There is an expectation that you must answer the basic, idiotic questions to show your knowledge and that is the most frustrating thing of all.

If someone tells you they’re an accountant, you don’t ask them to debit an account. If someone tells you they’re a history teacher, you don’t demand they list all the presidents. You don’t make them prove that they are knowledgeable in their field. You take their word for it.

As a society, we still have a long way to go with how we see women in sports, both on and off the floor, but we have made tremendous progress. For all of The Quizzes, there are genuine questions and supporters.

I once asked my mom if she ever tried to convince me to pursue another career. She started to laugh. “Even if I wanted to, I never had a chance. You decided very early that this was what you were going to do. You were constantly going to games with your dad, so I just tried to help in whatever way I could.”

Her encouragement made me focus on the positive aspects of what I do.

For me, work is debating whether or not Terrell Owens should be in the Hall of Fame or covering a March Madness game. It’s always something new.

There’s enough competition in sports, so let’s stop the quizzes and start the support.

'Why would the boys be treated any differently than the girls?'

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'Why would the boys be treated any differently than the girls?'

I grew up playing sports. For the most part I played soccer, but I also ran cross-country and track, I skied, snowboarded, and, at one point, I tried gymnastics. (It wasn't pretty.) My two younger sisters did the same. Our parents ran themselves ragged driving us to practices and tournaments, arranging carpools and fundraisers.

It never crossed our minds that we were girls playing sports. It's just what we did. And we loved it!

I didn't realize how lucky I was until visiting my grandparents in rural Ohio one summer. I found an old photo of their high school graduating class. I asked my grandmother what sports she played in school and I'll never forget her answer: "Oh, there were no sports for girls back then. We could cheer for the boys basketball team, but that was it."

I was shocked. I thought that was ridiculous. Why would the girls be treated any differently than the boys? I couldn't comprehend it.

Looking back, I'm so thankful I grew up in a time and environment where that wasn't the case. I can't imagine my life without sports. Not only because it's what I do for a living, but because playing sports throughout my childhood is a big part of what made me the person I am today.

Sports taught me the value of hard work. Being part of a team, I learned how to communicate and work with people to accomplish a common goal . . . and discovered just how gratifying the process can be. I became a teammate and leader who earned respect and empowered others. I made lasting friendships while stuffed like a sardine in a travel van singing Ace of Base at the top of my lungs. I wouldn't trade those experiences for anything. And I certainly wouldn't be in the position I'm in without them.

Don't get me wrong; it hasn't all been positive. Now that I'm a woman working in sports, I've had other kinds of eye-opening moments. During an interview for my first on-air job I was asked, in so many words, if this is really a career for me or if I had other plans after I found a husband. Once I did land a job, I covered many college football games by myself. There was one small school in particular whose players relentlessly catcalled me on the sidelines. I won't repeat the foul things they said, but I can tell you I went home feeling very dirty (and it wasn't because I was pouring sweat after lugging a camera that weighed half as much as I did from end zone to end zone in the middle of an Alabama summer). Even now, every so often, social media has a special way of reminding me how some people still view women in sports. Surprise -- it's not good.

But if that's the worst I have to go through, I know I can't complain. My only focus is doing my job to the very best of my abilities and working as hard as I possibly can to continue to grow and get better. We've come a long way. I'm so grateful for those who blazed the trail and made it possible for me to do what I do. And, thanks to my grandmother, I will never take my opportunities for granted. My hope is that when my daughter grows up, she will be just as surprised and appalled by some of my bad experiences as I was talking to my grandmother that day.

Dei Lynam: Cherishing the stories I've told and the stories I'll continue to tell

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Dei Lynam: Cherishing the stories I've told and the stories I'll continue to tell

I never considered myself a tomboy. Yes, I loved sports growing up, and I had more guy friends than girlfriends, but I loved clothes and doing my hair, too. If I didn't end up in sports broadcasting, I really do believe I would have been a buyer for a high-end department store.
 
Fortunately for me, my first dream came true. I can't believe I have been working in the sports broadcasting industry for 25 years. I don't feel old enough for that to be possible.
 
I think of the many people who helped me along the way, either by hiring me or by teaching me tricks of the trade.
 
In 1991, I made my first big move when Don Sperling, Executive Producer of NBA Entertainment, hired me as an editor. I packed my bags in Playa del Rey, California, and left my finance to move in with two strangers in New York City, midtown on the east side.
 
NBA Entertainment was the best training ground for me to learn how to edit and eventually how to produce creative, entertaining pieces. Few people know that I produced promotional spots for the NBA. They were 30-second spots that aired during the nationally televised games on NBC.
 
I participated in changing the NBA's campaign from NBA Action -- It's Fantastic to I Love This Game. I would go to Madison Square Garden and go up to celebrities and ask them if they would look into the camera and say, "I love this game."
 
Sting was one of my favorite celebrities I encountered on this journey. Opera singer Placido Domingo was another because he sang the phrase and allowed me to use one of his songs for a spot.
 
I won an Emmy for those spots, and that beautiful gold trophy sits on a bookshelf in my living room to this day.
 
Later when I was a weekend sports anchor in Madison, Wisconsin, I had a long leash when it came to features I wanted to produce and edit because my boss trusted my creative talents. In January 1994, the Wisconsin football team went to the Rose Bowl, a first in 31 years. My ability to edit coupled with my local knowledge of Southern California from my years of attending UCLA made me an ideal candidate to cover the Jan. 1 event for WMTV. 

I went with a cameraman to the West Coast for the week leading up to the game. One day the team had off, and players could do as they pleased. Somehow I convinced the starting quarterback to join me on a ride to Manhattan Beach. Darrell Bevell was a college senior who grew up in Arizona and had never seen the ocean. I will never forget his reaction when we drove up over the crest of Rosecrans Boulevard, and the beautiful Pacific was staring back at us. He was truly in awe, and my camera was rolling.
 
We proceeded to walk down to the beach where, with the camera still rolling, Bevell engaged in a conversation with a surfer. Imagine a nice Mormon guy talking to a stereotypical surfer dude who knew how to catch waves but had no idea a bowl game was being played in his backyard or that a quarterback was an important position on a football team.
 
The conversation was priceless. The feature received rave reviews. And last weekend when I saw Bevell during the Seahawks playoff game (he's the offensive coordinator) I wondered if he remembers that trek to the beach with an up-and-coming sportscaster.
 
Thinking outside the box has always been fun for me. One time on the day the Kentucky Derby was run I wore a hat during my sportscast. And yes, I was on the set, not outdoors.
 
One of my favorite weekly segments I came up with was Catching up with Ken Griffey Sr. I was working as a weekend sportscaster in Cincinnati and Griffey was a coach for the Reds.
 
Once a week I would go to the ballpark, and he and I would talk baseball while having a catch. Having a conversation while tossing a ball with a member of the Big Red Machine -- so cool.
 
The people and the adventures have been the greatest part of being a sports journalist. I have walked on the Great Wall of China because I went to Beijing to interview Yao Ming live the day he was selected No. 1 overall in 2002. I have been on a safari in the Masai Mara on the heels of traveling to the Democratic Republic of the Congo with Dikembe Mutombo, who was building a hospital in his home country.
 
Storytelling is a dying art in this age of sharing information in 140 characters or less. A few stories that I will cherish having told are the following.
 
•  I ventured to upstate New York to interview prisoners who were in a program to rehab former racehorses that had been left to die after their careers were over. Seeing men, some of whom had been charged with murder, find a way to care for an animal and be humbled in the process was amazing.
 
•  I flew to California to interview five of the most powerful agents in sports, including Lee Steinberg and Arn Tellem.
 
•  Going Christmas shopping with the St. Joe's Hawks was a blast.
 
•  Attending a summer camp called Seeds of Peace where children from Israel and Palestine live under one roof. To hear their conversations about their respective homelands was both fascinating and heartwarming.
 
•  Finding the stories of MVPs in the sports community -- the people who make a difference has always been a treat.
 
Finally, I want to share a thought that has served me well: Don’t be afraid to try something new. I have been a sideline reporter, a studio host, an anchor, a beat writer, a play-by-play announcer and a color analyst. Twice, I have taken a leap of faith and joined a start-up operation, first with Comcast SportsNet and then with NBA-TV. The business is ever-changing, but it's been a great challenge to change with it and stay relevant in an industry I so enjoy being a part of.