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On "selfie girls" and alienating your fans

Paul Rudd takes a selfie with Ned Yost and the Royals in October 2014
Paul Rudd takes a selfie with Ned Yost and the Royals in October 2014
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

In case you haven't seen it, here's the video from last night's Arizona Diamondback's broadcast.

I won’t begin to say that I can speak for the Arizona State sorority girls that were captured on the Diamondbacks broadcast and soundly mocked by Bob Brenly and Steve Berthiaume.

Nor can I say, at 34, that I entirely understand the appeal of selfies. (or SnapChat.)

The single most important takeaway here needs to be that what I understand or like really doesn’t matter.

Are those ladies hurting anyone? Are they interfering with anyone else’s ability to watch and enjoy the game? Are they interrupting the game of play?

The answer to all of those questions is "NO" and that’s the simple answer to why I don’t give a flying frog’s bottom about how those ladies (or women. But not girls. They’re in college, stop being pejorative) chose to spend their evening.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve missed pitches, plays and runs at Miller Park because of some couple or family thinking it was a good time to stand up and hand their camera to someone nearby to get a picture of them with the field of play behind them. Some of those folks may have been fraternity or sorority men and women, but that’s not really relevant to their fan knowledge of baseball, I assume.

When I’m interrupted multiple times an inning for folks to go get food and beer and head to the bathroom - where’s Brenly to mock how those folks aren’t really actually there to watch a game?

Perhaps the best part of this story is one that’s been ignored in a lot of the wealth of articles I’ve seen about it. The broadcasters literally ask fans to send in pictures of themselves as part of an on-screen promotion during the litany. Of course, they do so without an ounce of irony.

So Brenly and Berthiaume are shaming these women for doing something they’ve just explicitly been asked to do. And that Fox Sports is making money from.

Sports have a problem with women fans. This is currently playing out in living color over in the NHL with the Blackhawks and Patrick Kane, but MLB is the worst offender when it comes to demeaning, pointless and silly "Ladies’ Nights." (But I’ve already covered that).

I don’t need my background in PR to know that it’s probably not the best idea to alienate any part of a fan base that’s willing to come out to watch your below .500 team on a Wednesday night.

Attendance at last night’s DBacks game was 18,529. That’s a third of the 49,033 capacity of Chase Field. The Diamondbacks are 77-81. But definitely shame a group of fans who shelled out for tickets to watch you play the 66-92 Rockies.

I used to be one of the female fans who hated what we call the "pink hat" fans. That term is meant to derisively mock the female fans who buy team gear in shades of pink and covered in rhinestones.

And it’s true - I’m not that fan.

For a long time I thought I was on some sort of pedestal because I wasn’t there for baseball butts or Ryan Braun’s abs. I could quote you advanced stats and talk authoritatively on why I wasn’t a fan of the designated hitter.

Bully for me.

So the lady next to me isn’t keeping score and is wearing something from the Victoria’s Secret Pink collection. Who the hell cares? She’s there. She’s watching baseball, same as me. I don’t get to decide who’s a fan and who isn’t and I certainly don’t get to judge.

Every female sports fan has 100’s of stories to tell about some douche who stopped us in a bar or stadium and tried to get us to "prove" the strength of our fandom by naming players or teams or stats. I’ll take it one further and tell you that I’ve had to do it while interviewing coaches and players - like I had to pass a test before I was worthy to talk to them post-game.

And if I’m going to raise hell about why it’s bullshit that just because I’m a woman I have to somehow prove my fandom to a guy, then I certainly can’t sit around doing the same thing to other women.

Because judging a lady in a pink hat and finding her wanting as a fan is absolutely not any different.

Let’s be real. The ASU ladies were not initially targeted and broadcast on Fox Sports Arizona because they were taking selfies. Whether it’s cameramen or producers, someone behind the scenes of every sports broadcast makes a conscious effort to put young, pretty women both on TV and on the scoreboard. As Justin Bopp put it, this silent objectification of the women who attend their games is odd and uncomfortable. It’s totally unnecessary, but unfortunately prevalent.

Female fans have been marginalized, sexualized, objectified and ignored for far too long.

There’s a tone-deafness to sports broadcasts and promotion that continues to be glaringly awkward and obvious as team after team does things to shame, objectify and alienate women fans.

This is my first experience with the vaunted "unwritten rules of baseball" making their way into the stands, but Brenly and Berthiaume’s commentary was as dated, stodgy and rigid as a lot of the other unwritten rules that pervade this game.

In order for any business to survive, they need income. In sports, that means fans. MLB has done a decent job of drawing in both a younger crowd and female fans. Women are said to make up 45% of baseball’s fan base.

But apparently Brenly and Berthiaume don’t think the Diamondbacks are in need of young fans. If nothing else, their tirade of mockery was a steady buzz of "You kids get off my lawn" where they continued a long tradition of diminishing young people because they "don’t understand."

One thing I can guarantee - not one of those young women went to Chase Field Wednesday night looking for Bob Brenly’s understanding or approval.

Until the cadre of old, white men who seem to think they can choose how and why people play and enjoy baseball have left the sport, I’m not sure how baseball can grow.

We are a society that thrives on ridiculing others and making ourselves feel better by making a spectacle of someone else. A quick Twitter search for "baseball selfie" over the past 24 hours calls the ASU sorority women "vapid" and features tons of folks virtually high-fiving Brenly and Berthiaume for "destroying" these "chicks."

Those women were there having a good time. They and 18,000 other poor souls watched two mediocre teams play a mediocre game of baseball. How or why they enjoyed it is really none of my business or concern.