I've been asked so often that I usually expect it and have my answer down cold, though I do change up the wording now and then. Answer: "Well, I played tennis in high school, but I was never really much of an athlete. I was more of a spectator. I just loved to watch sports, and I knew I wanted to write. So I combined those two."
When I say I wasn't much of an athlete, that rings pretty true. Seriously, I was on the JV tennis team as a sophomore and junior before finally cracking the bottom of the varsity lineup as a senior after I worked in the winter to improve my game. I wasn't some kind of athletic superstar or even a multi-sport athlete.
I also bowled on a junior league for a couple years and danced at a studio for a decade. I never really considered myself an athlete when it came to dance though. I'm not saying dancers aren't athletes; I just didn't see that for me.
Because I've been asked this question so many times, I'm going to make what I'll call an educated assumption that this is a sexist question to ask. Hear me out. I can't help but wonder sometimes if I'm treated differently as a woman working in sports. Would this or that get said to a guy? Would a guy be given this kind of treatment? I usually don't make too much of anything, because if I start to think about it too much, I'm sure it's just over-analyzing.
So with this particular question I wonder: Do people ask this of male sports reporters? If they do, I'll shut up. It just strikes me as odd that I hear this over and over. It's like I need to justify or explain the reasoning for why I chose my job. I must have been an athlete to want to be a sports reporter, right? That's the only reason I could want to do it, because I played sports myself.
The truth is, I'm just like a lot of people out there - guys or gals - who enjoyed watching sports and combined that with a love of writing. It's pretty simple. I'll usually go into that part in my answer, too. I started watching a lot of Minnesota Twins games in middle school, which was around the same time the Wild came into existence. Those two sports keep me busy year-round, plus I'm also a big IndyCar fan (which has been no secret to any loyal readers of this blog).
I started as a sports fan, knew I wanted to pursue journalism, then found out how much I enjoyed the combination when I started taking on sports stories at my college newspaper. I'd guess that's a pretty logical path for other sports writers out there.
Then again, I understand why so many sports commentators are former athletes. It makes sense. They have an intimate knowledge of the game and can relay a lot of insider information. I just don't think it's the be-all, end-all when it comes to sports knowledge.
Like I stated, I'm making an assumption here about this being a sexist issue. So if you think this is way off base, please let me know. I don't want to misrepresent anyone.
I also need to make sure I state this, too: I have been treated with respect as a woman working in sports. I haven't felt harassed. Many colleagues have treated me like any other sports writer, and it's very much appreciated. I've gotten a lot of work because editors and colleagues respect my writing. That means a lot. There are plenty of people who haven't asked me this question, I suppose, but it's still the one I get the most often.
I'm well aware of how the field has evolved over the years to become more supportive of women. I've done research and read plenty about incidents of harassment or unfair treatment. I don't take it for granted that I can do my job without really fearing anything because of my gender.
This question isn't some big feminist platform for me. I don't scoff or turn nasty when it's asked. I'll gladly answer. I just thought I'd share my thoughts on the subject, since I keep getting the same question. Maybe other women hear it, too. Or maybe guys hear it. Or maybe it's just my imagination.