Inside the Storm brewing in Bristol
Truth is, female sports broadcasters and writers should rally around suspended ESPN PTI gabber Tony Kornheiser.
At the root of his crude humor about Hannah Storm’s SportsCenter attire was a courageous defense of Chris McKendry, Linda Cohn, Suzy Kolber, Michele Tafoya, Sage Steele, Shelley Smith, Lisa Salters, Rachel Nichols, Holly Rowe and all the other female broadcasters/reporters who do magnificent work on the Worldwide Leader without masquerading as Tiger bait.
No doubt, Kornheiser’s Storm blast wasn’t calculated or even intended to be heard by his bosses at ESPN. And if not for the blog, Thebiglead.com, listening to and reporting two days after the broadcast of Kornheiser’s spontaneous radio riff about Storm’s wardrobe, Kornheiser’s two-week ESPN suspension would’ve never happened.
Sometimes people do the right thing by accident. Sometimes our inability to control our instincts gives us a level of courage we don’t normally have. Kornheiser has never been short on savvy or backbone. Intentionally or unintentionally, he slammed a worthy target.
“Hannah Storm in a horrifying, horrifying outfit today,” Kornheiser said on his Washington, D.C., radio show last week. “She’s got on red go-go boots and a Catholic school plaid skirt way too short for somebody in her 40s or maybe early 50s by now. She’s got on her typically very, very, very tight shirt. She looks like she has sausage casing wrapping around her upper body. I know she’s very good, and I’m not supposed to be critical of ESPN people, so I won’t. But Hannah Storm, come on now. Stop. What are you doing? She’s what I would call a Holden Caulfield fantasy at this point.”
The Caulfield analogy basically implies that the 47-year-old Storm went on air looking like a cross between a hooker and a stripper.
Why did she? Only Storm knows for sure, but I’ll speculate.
A. She’s still outraged about learning she’s the lone, moderately attractive white woman in North America not propositioned by Tiger Woods.
B. Thought it was Take Your Granddaughter’s Clothes To Work Day.
C. Had a post-work brainstorming session scheduled with Bristol ladies man Hammerin’ Hank Goldberg.
D. All of the above.
Whatever the cause, Hannah Montana Storm’s hey-look-at-me costumes are potentially problematic for ESPN. The network does an amazing, commendable and often-overlooked job of employing a diverse and talented on-air workforce. It’s a potpourri reflective of the sports world it covers.
Storm, in her area of expertise, is as talented as anyone at the network. However, she should not be allowed to audition for Erin Andrews’ Sideline Barbie job while sitting/standing in the anchor chair.
It’s not fair to McKendry, Cohn, Steele, Dana Jacobson and all the rest. It infringes on their brand. The anchor chair is for broadcasters -- male and female -- who want to be taken seriously and judged solely on their clever delivery and ability to ask pertinent questions.
ESPN has always done a marvelous job of identifying and presenting credible female anchors.
This past Sunday, Storm took things a step further, going Johnny Gill on The Sports Reporters -- slipping on a tiny red dress, high heels, bare legs that dangled out of TV sets across America and making men and women say “My, my, my.”
I watched the whole show hoping for a Sharon Stone-"Basic Instinct" moment.
Do I think ESPN was wrong for suspending Kornheiser?
Kornheiser, one of ESPN’s most visible employees, basically called a female co-worker a hooker and a stripper. Gloria Allred is making a living these days demanding apologies for porn stars and extorting the men who rubbed them the wrong way. A smart ESPN lawyer recognized that if the network took no action against Kornheiser, the company was vulnerable to charges that Storm and other female employees work in a sexually hostile environment.
It doesn’t matter that Storm was allegedly satisfied with Kornheiser’s public and private apologies. ESPN executives have to concern themselves with future hypothetical situations involving Storm and every other female employee. ESPN, especially given its well-earned reputation as a giant male frat house, has to position itself as progressive on female workplace issues.
Furthermore, the network is sort of consistent in policing its employees from doing anything publicly that damages a fellow employee. I ran into this problem when I worked for the network. I couldn’t contain my disdain for Mike Lupica’s phony, arrogant shtick or Scoop Jackson’s ghetto posturing. I shared my views knowing full well it would likely end my relationship with ESPN.
Kornheiser is in a power position. As the co-host of ESPN’s best show, he shared his views on Storm realizing it might lead to a short, unpaid vacation. Kornheiser is no victim. He’s a 61-year-old, outspoken rebel who is always going to occasionally clash with management. It’s who he is. It’s what he does. It’s why he’s popular.
The suspension will ultimately prove to be good for Kornheiser’s brand and ESPN’s.
The network is part of the establishment. Too many of its talking heads don’t have the freedom to say what they really think for fear of getting sideways with a newsmaker ESPN might soon need.
Kornheiser’s fearlessness gives the illusion that ESPN is reluctantly tolerant of the truth.
You can e-mail Jason at BallState0@aol.com or follow him on Twitter.