If baseball can have a female pundit why can’t football?

I was watching ESPN’s “Baseball Tonight” on Tuesday evening and noticed something surprising. There was a woman on the programme (a rare sight on sports programming). Her name is Jessica Mendoza and if that wasn’t a big enough surprise her role on the programme was even more surprising. Unlike say Gabby Logan when she appeared on “Match of The Day” she was not the host she was an expert pundit contributing her opinions on ball games, teams and individual players. She even appeared on the show’s demo field analysing the swing of batters like the Baltimore Orioles’ Chris Davis showing how he could regain the form that brought him an MLB leading 53 home runs in 2013. And very good she was too. It was a shame she was only on for three nights (though the host said she’d be back).
The interesting point is that Mendoza’s sporting career was not in baseball but softball, a sport which is often regarded as women’s baseball but as Marilyn Cohen (“No Girls in the Clubhouse, page 14) points out they are different sports with different rules and even their own governing bodies. Yet despite the fact her career was in a different sport – she was a 2004 Olympic gold medalist in softball and won the silver in 2008 – ESPN still considered her qualified to comment on baseball.
What a contrast to British football which still doesn’t have a female pundit on male football despite the fact that male football and female football have more in common with each other than baseball has with softball. Football is generally more progressive than baseball – while a young girl in England can now dream of playing for say Liverpool,Arsenal,Chelsea or Manchester City – if not Manchester United* – her American equivalent cannot dream of playing for the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers or any other franchise for that matter since the MLB teams do not even have women’s softball teams never mind baseball ones.
Yet baseball has had a good month when it comes to gender equality. As well as the appearance of Mendoza on “Baseball Tonight” there was the story of 13-year old phenom Mo’Ne Davis who was the star of the Little League World Series becoming the first girl to pitch a shutout in the Little League World Series, and even being on the cover of US magazine Sports Illustrated. It is highly likely there will be more girls playing Little League next year since they now know they can play and will overcome the Little League “don’t ask don’t tell” policy.
As for football there is now no reason not to have women being pundits on the mens game. The argument that women cannot talk about mens sport since they don’t play with men has been blown out of the water by Mendoza. She was as knowledgeable as her male co pundit Alex Cora – an ex Major League player. The BBC, Sky and BT Sport must take heed. There is no reason not to have Kelly Smith debating the form of strikers with Alan Shearer on Match of the Day, or for Casey Stoney to be arguing with Gary Neville on Sky’s “Monday Night Football” about defending. Football’s excuses for excluding women as pundits are wearing very thin.
*Manchester United scrapped their women’s team in 2005. They still don’t have one.

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