“As most of you know by now, I had a slip-up last week on the air while covering the Blackhawks playoff series. As a result of the attention it received, an old web-based sports comedy series I participated in several years ago came to light. The intention of that show was to present a satirical, tongue-in-cheek approach to sports but, unfortunately, some of the material it contained was off-color and offensive. I understand why some may have been offended by it and for this I am truly sorry. To be clear, that show in no way reflects my personal opinions.
It has always been my dream to cover my hometown teams on the network I loved watching. I have worked tirelessly to develop my skills as a sports reporter, anchor and host, and I want to thank the city of Chicago for allowing me that opportunity. The outpouring of support I have received is overwhelming and it will remain in my heart, as will Chicago. Always.”
–Susannah (Collins, former CSN Chicago reporter, via CBSlocal.com)
As former CSN Chicago Susannah Collins represents, women maintain a very delicate balance when working in a male-dominated field.
As Anne Doyle points out in an article in Forbes, there are growing numbers of talented, seasoned women broadcasters covering sports, including USA Today columnist and on-air commentator Christine Brennan, ESPN’s Pam Ward, (who was removed, for unspecified reasons, from football broadcasts) and athlete and NBC tennis commentator Mary Carillo.
In sports broadcasting, there are also the “Dream Angels” (my phrase,) like former Comcast Sports reporter Sarah Kustok and Fox Sports’ Erin Andrews, who maintain an ever-so slight distance from their subjects and maintain friendly, non-threatening eye contact. Audiences and advertisers just love them. Because they mean money and ratings to the station.
And then, there are the “Vixens (my phrase):” the energetic, opinionated women-with-attitude. The tart-tongued sharpie can hold her own with anyone, retort when threatened, and come away with the upper hand. One-line, double-entendre innuendos can roll off their tongue. And yet, they’re all having fun out there. Looks, brains and attitude. Think 80’s rockers Pat Benatar and Sheena Easton. Vixens can also mean advertising revenue to the station, because they’re so different. They exude sexuality, usually wearing more provocative clothing….a little cleavage here, skin-tight jeans and boots there.
For example, Turner Sports and CNN reporter Rachel Nichols and ESPNU’s Niki Noto are “vixens.”
Former Comcast Sports reporter Susannah Collins was such a Vixen. From her website:
“While reporting on the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden, Susannah’s sense of humor and composure while deflecting inappropriate come-ons from intoxicated fans caught the eye of producers at Showtime Sports.”
Susannah Collins Blogsite
My take on Collins’ tenure at CSN Chicago was that she was highly energetic, knowledgeable about sports, and asked non-threatening questions of the players, which should have been fine with the powers-that-be at Blackhawks and Bulls. She was also, in the words of my male colleagues, a “smokin-hot babe.”
I thought she was a worthy and different successor to the beloved Sarah Kustok, whom she replaced.
But the category of “Sports Vixen” is growing specialty area for women in sports broadcasting. Looks, brains and attitude also sells. And yet, you gotta be careful when you’re the Vixen.
Collins is an example of something I always tell students at Moraine Valley Community College and Columbia College when I guest-lecture: if you can’t show it or tell it to your mother, you probably shouldn’t do it.
Usually, I’m talking about posting nude pictures, provocative poses, or compromising positions on their Facebook or Twitter pages.
Collins lost her prestigious, demanding gig last week for…what? Maybe a slip-up on the air, substituting the word “sex,” for “success? ”
Her reference to the Chicago Blackhawks’ “tremendous amount of sex” during a live shot — one she quickly corrected to “tremendous amount of success.” was no more than an innocent, funny mistake. One that all of us on live sports duty could easily have made. And corrected, just as she had.
Yet, a day or so later, Collins was dismissed from Comcast Sports.
An outcry followed, and speculation ran rampant in media circles as to the real cause of Colllins’ firing, since, as noted by Fox Sports’ Sam Gardner, CSN Chicago vice president and general manager Phil Bedella said Collins’ release was related to “circumstances unrelated to her on-air remarks.”
The Downers Grove native was more than likely fired for participating in a show that her own website labeled her “true calling,” allowing her to “combine her love of sports with her charismatic, on-camera abilities.”
This was her web-based series, “Sports Nutz” which she co-hosted between June 2009 and April 2010.
Nowhere listed on the website was the show’s ability to offend just about everyone, in the name of sports comedy. While researching this blog, I watched Collins in a tete-a-tete focusing on a male co-host’s bulging jeans. Okay, it was a little over-the-top. And I understand the need to be different, to be tongue-in-cheek, and to use talent who can pull off funny-sarcastic in a crowded field of internet-based sports shows.
My fellow ChicagoNow blogger and good friend Paul M. Banks compiled the best of the bunch of Sports Nutz shows. Just look at the titles for some of these shows…. the “Jew Fantasy Draft,” and “Douchebag Nation,” among others. Certain to offend someone.
I understand why Comcast Sports got nervous. Advertisers and viewers/listeners are the “kwon” of the broadcasting world, to use the “Jerry Maguire” word. Without these, the outlets don’t exist. Respect and political correctness, which was not a strong point of “Sports Nutz,” probably made the bosses fearful of retribution.
Given the outcome, I have to question why a broadcasting venue such as CSN Chicago failed to find and study these shows prior to hiring Collins. Or if they did, why would they reverse course and risk a lawsuit? It’s not as if “Sports Nutz” was difficult to find online. And her very own online bio provided links.
That said, I speculate that since she’s had a few jobs after she left “Sports Nutz,” Collins may not have submitted video from the show. They could have dealt with it, then.
Catching your bosses unaware in 2013 is the unpardonable offense. Full disclosure as to prior questionable, possibly offensive activity, no matter how tongue-in-cheek or comedic, is the responsibility of the interviewee, i.e. Collins, to provide.
Another point is how hiring decisions are made. As Doyle points out in Forbes, there is a clear double-standard, in that credentialed, skilled female broadcasters (see above) are competing for air-time with “smokin hot” babes.
Doyle asks a great question about the double-standard:
How long would Brent Musburger last if his contract depended on his ability to attract female viewers, measured against the likes of Ryan Gosling?
Anne Doyle, Forbes.com
And why is Musburger still employed anyway, after drooling all over Katherine Webb, the beauty queen who used to be known as the Alabama quarterback’s girlfriend before TV cameras made her a 15-minute wonder?
What I find most disturbing, though, is something that echoed in Doyle’s article: sports crazed young girls are getting powerful messages that beauty queen titles and tight pants may be hotter tickets to careers in sports (broadcasting) than athletic scholarships or college degrees. And that the more provocative you are, the better able you will be to find a job.
Collins’ case proves that being a smokin-hot Vixen can get you in the door. But if you have the mouth to call a “Jew Fantasy Draft,” and don’t tell potential employers about it, you might just be fired. Wise up, friends.