On Your Marc: 1/24

A woman for baseball

Alyson Footer makes strides for women in sports

By Marc Katz

It is 2017, and we’re still grappling with race, gender, and sex issues, although from what Alyson Footer told me the other day, progress has been made, especially in locker rooms.

I wish we could treat the chancellor of Germany a little better than a sports reporter in the United States, but you can’t have everything.

This wasn’t the story I was after. During my lifetime writing about sports, I noticed how few women sports writers there were, and some of the hazards they encountered in the profession.

I don’t recall actively doing anything about it, but I knew there were women out there who could do this and do it well.

I’ve seen studies that say maybe 10 percent of our sports writers are female. I don’t know why the figure is so low, and neither does Footer, whose love of baseball has led her in and out of sports writing for more than 20 years.

I do remember laughing when the old Dayton Journal Herald sent a female reporter to a Dayton Gems hockey game on the night the Gems decided to open their locker room to all reporters.

Well-schooled that night, the Gems were fully clothed sans jerseys, seated at their lockers as the female reporter walked in. The most abusive it got was when a player jokingly asked her if she wanted to touch his chest hair.

She did not.

Footer is a 1989 Northmont High School graduate with undergrad and graduate degrees from the University of Cincinnati.

So she wasn’t in that first wave of female journalists, but in today’s era of all journalists being harassed, I figured she might have some shocking stories.

The reality is she doesn’t, which is the way you’d hope it would be.

She began working in UC’s sports information office in the mid-1990s, spent a year in public relations with Cleveland’s Class AA team in Canton and has been in Houston since 1997, working for either the Astros or MLB.com (Major League Baseball), where she has been a sports writer, blogger, social media developer, and now national correspondent for MLB.com, mostly shooting videos.

She said she never had to talk her way into a locker room or suffer snide remarks from Neanderthal athletes used to talking only with male reporters.

“I never had any problems,” Footer says. “Nothing like the generation before me had to go through. You can’t get away with stuff like that any more. By 1997, it was a pretty tame atmosphere.”

Her story is more about the change in how media dispenses its stories rather than in who’s doing it, especially in sports.

Footer says she did know plenty of female reporters who had to do interviews in hallways, while male reporters waked right by and into locker rooms, and even knew of a reporter who was banned from eating in the Fenway Park media dining room.

That wasn’t so long ago, but ancient history as far as sports writing goes.

When she first arrived in Houston to work with the Astros, she hurried to find a schedule to see when the Reds visited so she could meet Dayton Daily News Reds beat writer Hal McCoy and broadcaster Marty Brennaman.

Since then, she has been assigned to obtain video of such diverse events as fan reaction at the recent Cubs/Indians World Series; fans and players during the last week of David Ortiz’s career with the Boston Red Sox; the special spring training-type workout of Tim Tebow, the quarterback trying to make it as an outfielder.

“[They’re] random things that sort of pop up,” Footer says. “I shoot a lot of video with my phone. I host podcasts. I deliver awards we give out. It’s not just writing.”

Even on the writing side, people who do the work she did when she was a beat writer are now tweeting as games progress, making game-end stories more and more superfluous.

“I do more multi-media than writing,” Footer says. “We’re probably dumbing down our society [by taking away the reading element], and I’m probably contributing to it.”

It’s a heavy schedule, as fans demand news by the minute, but Footer says she has time for herself and friends. On the sports side, it’s just baseball.

“Baseball is my thing,” Footer says. “I pay almost no attention to the other sports. People talk football to me, and it’s like a foreign language. I don’t watch it. I don’t like it.”

I spoke with her just prior to the National Championship game between Clemson and Alabama. She didn’t seem to know what time it started. I didn’t even ask about the Super Bowl.

Baseball, even bad baseball, has an allure. In 2013, when the Astros stripped down to earn more draft picks, the team lost 111 games.

Footer said it was worse than that.

“I used to go to games I wasn’t covering to see if they were going to be no-hit,” she says. “Every night there was a chance.”

Every night, there’s also a chance Footer will be working a baseball story.

The views and opinions expressed in On Your Marc are the views and/or opinions of the author and do not reflect the views and/or opinions of the Dayton City Paper or Dayton City Media and are published strictly for entertainment purposes.

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