Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Sanctity of the Locker Room

Okay, I know that I am going to catch some flak for this, but I have to say it. The recent disclosure that Ines Sainz, a female sports reporter for Mexican media outlet TV Azteca, may have been harassed in the New York Jets' locker room after the game last week illustrates very clearly that the NFL needs to rethink its media "all-access" policy. Publicly, people are saying all the right things.

"There is no place for this type of behavior in society."

"She is a professional trying to do her job."

Off the record, though, everyone is thinking the same thing: why are women in men's locker rooms in the first place? Have you seen a photograph of this woman, the self-proclaimed "sexiest sports reporter in Mexico?"

Not exactly what you would call professional attire, is it?

"Sainz said on her Twitter account last Saturday that she felt 'very uncomfortable!' in the Jets' locker room, where a few players made catcalls as she waited with two male co-workers to interview quarterback Mark Sanchez, who is of Mexican descent," reported the Associated Press.

You can think it, but don't say it!

"Of course you feel it when you are being stared at and when you are being spoken of in a certain way," Sainz told The Associated Press. "I opted to ignore it ... I tried to not even pay attention."

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, in a statement to the media after conducting an investigation into the Jets' behavior, said "Sainz herself was unequivocal in saying both that no physical contact occurred, and that no player or other Jets staff member made any comment or gesture that could be construed as threatening, demeaning or offensive."

Respecting others' privacy is a basic societal tenet. Nudity and professionalism are an awkward fit, don't you think? This is why we have men's and women's locker rooms and restrooms. What as a society are we trying to prove here? That we are so evolved that we can be simultaneously naked AND professional? An NFL locker room seems a curious place to conduct such an experiment in developmental behavior. I understand that a woman doing her job should not be subjected to verbal or physical abuse no matter where she is, but the league needs to recognize that the players do not work under ordinary circumstances and that granting these women access to the post-game locker room, where emotions may still be running high and where there absolutely will be nudity, is just asking for trouble. A few years ago, Fox Sports embarrasingly broadcast a postgame scene in the Vikings' locker room that gave the world a shot of Visanthe Shiancoe's privates.

Hey now!
This is an issue screams for a dose of common sense. I understand that female reporters are trying to do their jobs and that the vast majority are completely professional, but this wouldn't even be an issue if the geniuses at NFL headquarters barred the media from the locker room. Why do any reporters–men or women–need to have access to players immediately after the game? The fact that male reporters are not granted access to women's locker rooms seems to me an admission that men cannot be trusted to act professionally or dispassionately. If male reporters cannot be trusted, why then should we place this burden of professionalism on the uber-men of the NFL? The men who play professional football are modern-day gladiators. They are paid to spend each Sunday trying to knock each other flat out. Can we accept that perhaps there is an overabundance of testosterone in NFL locker rooms after these players have just spent three hours trying to kill each other? Can we not allow these warriors a few minutes to chill out, shower, and dress before we wait breathlessly for them to give us the same tired old quotes week after week? Are "we are just thankful for the win" and "we are just taking is week-by week" such earthshattering revelations that we have to have this imparted to us before the guys even get their pads off?

"Did you just browse me?"
Hey NFL, here's what you do. Make the locker room off limits to the media for an hour after the game. Let the players come to the team's media room if requested to do so, either before showering or after. The sanctity of the locker room may be an antiquated concept to some, but it isn't to the players. Considering the health risks they take, it seems reasonable to allow them some time after games to shower and compose themselves before having to face the press.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Eric Felten wrote an article recently for the Wall Street Journal entitled "Preppy Pitfall: All That Madras, Not Enough Effort."  Perhaps you read it.  In it, Mr. Felten attempts to place the blame for our current malaise at least partly on the publication in 1980 of Lisa Birnbach's The Official Preppy Handbook.  Seriously?

This guy wrecked your good time.
Felten writes that it was not the preppy era's clothes or music that is to blame, but the book's promotion of the attitude of aristo-cratic indiffer-ence that is at the root of our troubles.  Is he really claiming that a satirical book that lampooned a minute slice of American society overwrote our famous Protestant work ethic and is bringing down the curtain on our great Republic?  Apparently he is.  The preppy fad no more brought about this culture of indolence than the disco craze caused us all to become a nation of cocaine addicts.  The fad was the clothes, not the attitude. We wore the pink and green for a year or two and then moved on to the next thing, which happened to be punk.

 Nathaniel Elliot Worthington, III, circa 1990.
The punk fad grew out of  dissatisfaction with societal structure.  It started in England, where a bad economy, high unemployment, and limited opportunity gave rise to the anarchistic worldview.   The apocalyptic dress and the nihilistic approach were the outward manifestations of the frustration and angst that marked this generation.  To these outliers, hard work was not the solution to increasing social stratification.  If the Haves who had it were not going to share with those who didn't, what was the point? Atlas Shrugged, anyone?  Despite the (musical) chord it struck with a disaffected generation, punk was a fad, as was the follow-up act, grunge.  Just as most of the hippie generation eventually got with the program and became mainstream contributors to society, so to will most of the punks, skinheads, and grungers.  Youthful defiance almost always gives way to adult acceptance. 

Nope, it was easy credit and coddling parents that wrecked our economy, not Lisa Birnbach.  Every generation of parents strives to provide for their children a better life than they themselves had.  Post-war America was powered by an economy that was the envy of the world. The Baby Boom generation was born during a period of prosperity that has never been equaled and they have enjoyed the highest standard of living ever experienced by the human race.  How then could this generation provide their children with an even better lifestyle? Well, if hard work and opportunity made possible the world's best standard of living, only NOT working and enjoying that same standard could be better.

The wealth amassed in post-war America was staggering.  My generation was the beneficiary of all this wealth creation. Because our parents wanted us to have more than they did, we grew up feeling entitled–entitled to a good grades, entitled to a car at sixteen, entitled to dining out weekly and vacations yearly, entitled to the newest pair of Air Jordans.  We wanted it all and we didn't want to have to work for it or wait for it. So, as adults we leveraged up and used other people's money to finance the lifestyles that we felt entitled to. Our grandparents–the Depression Generation–looked on in dumbfounded amazement.   Our profligate consumption was anathema to the generation that grew up learning to reuse everything.   I swear that I once watched my friend's grandmother recycle the ice cubes left in the ice bucket after a cocktail party.

The spending that was emblematic of this entitlement was dependent upon  both an ever-expanding economy and continued access to credit.  Leverage–or credit–made the economy go. It powered the lavish lifestyles that were backed by insufficient balance sheets and not enough earnings power.   An expanding economy begat easy credit which begat an expanding economy.  It was a symbiotic relationship.  Until it wasn't.

Many pundits have compared our current situation to that experienced by Japan in the 1980s.   It is an ominous portent. Japan has struggled for twenty-plus years to right its economy.  Guess what?  In the 1980s, the generation that rebuilt post-war Japan complained loudly that Japan's youth was turning away from the salaryman doctrine that typified Japanese corporate-worker loyalty and instead was embracing the indolent tendencies of the west's youth. Did Birnbach's book also sink the Japanese economy? If so, Nathaniel Elliot Worthington, III is public enemy number one.  If Mr. Felton was being tongue-in-cheek, I whiffed on his attempt at humor.

"And she stepped on the ball!"