Yesterday there was an incident involving The Independent and the World-Cup-winning England Women's Cricket team. They hinted with a cover photo and an article from Andy Burnham that they felt women's sport deserved greater coverage, then in their sports section - and on their website - totally buried the coverage of the women's cricket and had no coverage of any other women's sport. Today they appear to have explained their mixed-up messages with a full-page opinion piece, this time with a full-size front-of-website link, by Dominic Lawson lovingly titled "Well done our women cricketers. Just don't ask me to watch them."
In the piece he explains - or tries to - why no-one on earth actually wants to watch women's sport. His point - as far as I understand it - is that men's sport is the only sport we all want to watch because it represents the pinnacle of human achievement. The fastest runners, the highest jumpers and the longest throwers are all men. And this, he would have us believe, explains why no-one wants to see women's sports, or - for bonus uncool points - the special olympics.
This misses a few big points. Firstly it forgets that more than half of the population is women, maybe women are more interested in the greatest achievements of their own kind. And maybe for someone with a disability it's a little more inspiring to see what someone with a similar disability can achieve, rather than an able-bodied person.
Secondly if we are really only interested in the fastest, highest, furthest then no-one would go to second division football matches. Yet those matches get much better numbers than most women's games at every level. On top of this we would all watch only the wheelchair marathon. They finish way faster than the able-bodied men. Or for that matter - we'd just watch the motor racing, that is loads faster. Or if you want to insist on racing without mechanical intervention then why isn't there an Olympic competition for cheetahs? They can sure move. No matter how hard you train Dominic, the England Women's Cricket team could whoop your ass and the only way you could fail to be impressed by their speed, skill and teamwork is if you had already decided not to be in your miserable closed misogynist mind.
Thirdly you only need to wander along to see your local school sports day to see that our enjoyment of sports has a lot less to do with the pinnacle of human achievement than it does to do with cheering on those we perceive as "our team". The joy experienced by her family, neighbours and friends when little Jessica comes 19th out of 19 in the sack race far exceeds anything Dominic Lawson has felt watching men's cricket. If the media gave greater coverage to women's sport we would all feel more connected to the players and hence more invested in their victory. We'd maybe know that one of them was from our area. We'd have seen them on TV talking about their recent injury and recovery and we'd be rooting for them to be picked for the squad for the final.
Fourthly watching sport is something that people do for fun. Whether live or on TV it is the experience as a whole that is enjoyable. I've been to the Oval a couple of years ago to watch a (men's) match and I can report with some conviction that most people spent most of the time either eating or drinking. The fun of watching these sports is greatly enhanced by a bigger crowd, which means more atmosphere, more sense of being part of a community of fans and a better range of food and drink facilities. Again more media coverage would have a big impact.
Finally we might accept that Lawson is some sort of weird freaky intellectual anomaly for whom watching sport is a purely scientific intellectual activity where he derives pleasure purely from calibrating in his own mind the limits of the male able-bodied human condition. But then he says this...
"It was with the greatest difficulty that the world's strongest woman chess player, the Hungarian Judit Polgar, was able to persuade the sport's authorities that she should compete only against the men, rather than other women. Yet none of her fellow women players have followed her example, presumably judging that they have a better chance of becoming a "world champion" if they limit the competition to members of their own sex."
The fact that other women have not moved into men's chess might also be because when Judit Polgar did so it was, by your own admission idiot-boy, "with the greatest difficulty".
The world of sport is notoriously sexist, even women looking to become managers or officials or coaches fight a continuous uphill battle to be taken seriously in men's sport while men wanting to take those roles on in the women's game are welcomed with open arms. Those women who do prove themselves as talented as their male counterparts are routinely denied admission to men's teams, even when they could make substantially more money joining the men's team. Funding for women's sports at every level is woefully inadequate. While top-level male athletes earn thousands every week the women in the equivalent teams are likely to be working full time to make ends meet and trying to fit their training around that.
Lest we fear that Lawson's remarks should show him up as prejudiced against those with special needs (clearly it's a-OK if we think he's misogynist) he pulls this winner out of the bag "I too have a child with Down syndrome". Seriously. In next week's column "My hairdresser's gay, so I can't be a homophobe...". Anyway his point is that his daughter's school sports day (by inference an event of similar national importance to England's women winning the World Cup) shouldn't be given extensive media airing.
Given the level of misogyny holding women back at every level of every sport out there, I'm inclined to think - nor should Lawson's noxious remarks.