Sharing the Beat

Jane Gross to Roger Angell in his 1979 New Yorker story, "Sharing the Beat" (subscription required):

I think women reporters have a lot of advantages, starting with the advantage of the player’s natural chivalry. We women are interested in different things from the men writers, so we ask different questions. When Bob McAdoo gets traded from the Knicks, my first thought is, How is his wife, Brenda, going to finish law school this year? And that may be what’s most on his mind.

The other advantage of being a woman is that you’re perpetually forced to be an outsider. As a rule, you’re not invited to come along to dinner with a half-dozen of the players, or to go drinking with them, when maybe they’re going to chase girls. This means a lot, because I believe that all reporters should keep a great distance between themselves and the players. It always ought to be an adversary relationship, basically. That’s a difficult space to maintain when you’re on the road through a long season.

My presence doesn’t change the way the players act or talk. I’ve begun to see that the pleasure men take in being with each other—playing cards together, being in a bar together-isn’t actively anti-female. It isn’t against women; it just has nothing to do with them. It seems to come from some point in their lives before they were aware there were women. They have so much fun together. I really have become much more sympathetic to men because of my job.

I’m sure the black players treat me differently from the way they treat male writers. They don’t think I’m a honky-I’m another oppressed minority. They may not have thought this all the way through, but it’s there. Male sportswriters all seem to think that the athletes are going to take a shot at us on the road, but it hardly ever happens. In fact, that comes much more from the sportswriters than from the players, and you can tell them I said so.