Sportswomen Wanted

Denver's fabulous sports babes still struggle to score in the male broadcast world.

Neville makes similar observations. "I still think women in sports have to be better," she says, "because if you make a small mistake, not only don't you know anything about sports, but no other woman does, either. I'm not sure that people are as open to letting a woman make mistakes as she learns her craft the way they might with a guy." Despite this, however, Neville seems to be among the least bitter people in a profession that manufactures resentment at a dizzying pace. She hasn't moved even one additional rung up the ladder at Channel 4 since her arrival there during John Elway's rookie season, and as part of her duties, she's required to turn up at trophy presentations at high schools across the city and state -- a promotional chore that you don't see main Channel 4 sports anchor Marc Soicher participating in on a regular basis. But, Neville insists, "I'm very happy doing what I'm doing. I can't see myself being tied to a desk, so anchoring sports and news or anything else wouldn't drive me like reporting does. I love to go out and be at events and talk to people, and the high school level is great. I love the accessibility, I love the enthusiasm, and I love the daily reinforcement that there really are good kids out there. This is the perfect place for me."

That's not to imply that Neville is totally satisfied with the status quo. Throughout her Channel 4 career, she has pushed to get more attention for sportswomen across the board. "There's nothing more frustrating than to watch two weeks of ten o'clock newscasts and seeing no female athletes and no scores and really nothing about women in sports," she says. She's especially proud, then, of her contribution to Colorado Sportswomen, a show that she's been hosting since its 1993 inception. The program appears only quarterly (its next broadcast is at 6 p.m. on Saturday, December 18), which puts Channel 4's commitment to it in perspective; if men's sports were covered only four times a year, there'd be a helluva lot of airtime left to fill. But in Neville's view, it's a positive step that allows her to spin off segments to other newscasts, thereby helping to chip away at the hegemony of men's coverage. "It's our way of giving women in sports more of the exposure they deserve," she says.

Cj. Grammer, the creator and producer of Colorado Sportswomen, is receiving more attention as well. She recently won the 1999 Women's Sports Foundation Media Award in local sports journalism for a 1998 program that focused on young women attempting to break down sporting barriers; among those featured was Katie Hnida, who's now trying to catch on as a kicker for the CU Buffaloes football team. Grammer, who's been at Channel 4 since the mid-Eighties and has overseen outstanding programs such as this year's coverage of the Bolder Boulder, agrees with Maloney and Neville that "a lot of guys seem to want to hear about guy sports from guys." But she sees the increasing coverage of women's sports as having a happy side effect for female sports journalists. "On those occasions when you see something about women in sports, you'll often see women covering it, and I think that both of these things will continue to grow together. Remember, it was only 1972 when Title IX came in and presented a mandate for women to have equal varsity-sports access to guys -- and I think if you would have told anyone back then that the highest-rated events at the 1996 Olympics would be women's events, they would have laughed at you.

No shoulder pads necessary: Channel 9's Carol Maloney holds the line.
Jonathan Castner
No shoulder pads necessary: Channel 9's Carol Maloney holds the line.

"The reason people watched those events in such huge numbers isn't because women were involved," Grammer goes on. "It's because they were so good. Because of the availability of resources, the level of play is so much higher, and that makes them better games to watch. Now, do these games always get covered? No -- we're not where we need to be yet. We're so entrenched with the NFL and the NBA and the NHL that you have to wonder if there's going to be room for the rest of us. But my answer is, 'Yeah, there is.' The audience for women's sports may not be the same as the audience for men's sports, but there is an audience. And it's getting bigger."

Maloney hopes this forecast will assist her as her career matures. Although she enjoys covering high school sports ("It's easy and fun and important to a lot of people"), she confesses, "It's not the end-all ambition of what I want to do. When they interviewed me for the job, they asked me, 'Can you imagine yourself doing this for ten years?' I think they were looking for someone who could be like Marcia. And I had to be honest with them and say, 'I'd love to be your high school beat reporter, but I don't want to be limited to that.' And gradually they've let me do more things -- like filling in as morning anchor on the weekends -- and I've loved it." Still, she'd like to do more, and when her contract is up a year and a half from now, she plans to make note of that. "If 9News will let me grow there and cover a bunch of different sports stuff, I'd sign a twenty-year contract, because I love it there so much. And if they won't, maybe I'll get a chance to grow somewhere else."

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