The Fantasy of Women’s Sports in Primetime TV SlotsGail, a dark, tiny, female reporter, is given the assignment of investigating Babe, one of the most talented female athletes of the twentieth century. Suggestions have sprung up that Babe was not a woman at all. These suggestions have come from beer corporations and radical right-wing opponents of a new growing opinion that men and women’s sports should equally share primetime TV slots.
Gail had never heard of Babe. Gail writes movie reviews and articles in the Arts section. Gail is a chain smoker. She used to cut gym everyday to smoke under the bleachers with her friends. She hasn’t owned a pair of sneakers since the third grade. In high school she used to think there were three kinds of kids: the nerds, the jocks, and the freaks. She was some combination of the first and last group. She still held that opinion and liked to sneer at joggers in the park. She was, thus, unhappy about this assignment.
Gail visits her parents who live in the suburbs. They are bohemian types. They eat a lot of gorp, have matching pottery wheels in a shed in the back yard, and would have never owned a television, but Gail begged them to get one in her freshman year of high school. When she graduated, it was the first thing that was unplugged and packed into the car, ready for her dorm room. She asks them if they ever heard of Babe. They say they vaguely remember a golf player named Babe. But they sneer. Golf is for the bourgeoisie, they say. Gail goes up to her old room. When she was in elementary school all of her friends had horseback riding ribbons and trophies. She looks at her room now, imagines the walls covered in tiny ribbons, and they dissolve into a Picasso poster and the graffiti she used to write when she hadn’t fallen asleep yet. She goes over to one section of the wall, runs her finger over a phrase: JOCKS ARE DUMB. Gail goes back down stairs and asks her father why she never wanted to play sports. “Well, honey,” he says, “You’re small. And artistic. You’re not an athlete.” And she thinks to herself, I didn’t know what the word athletic meant until I was in the third grade. And then I threw out my tennis shoes.