Major women in sports media event planned in DC; two Joan Ryans examine their careers

If you are in the DC area Saturday, you should check out the Women in Sports Media event conducted by the Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism at Maryland.

Quite a lineup.

Also, on the Povich Center filed two more installments in their “Still No Cheering in the Press Box Series.” They are on the two Joan Ryans who made names for themselves as early women sportswriters.

The first Joan Ryan is the wife of former Cleveland Browns quarterback Frank Ryan. A passage:

Now, the press box, when I was first started writing in the ’60s, women weren’t allowed in the press box. The press box is an important place to be able to go into because that’s where they rattled off on the loud speaker system whose 178th time that so-and-so did this, the sort of statistic that nobody would ever expect a lowly sportswriter to have at their fingertips. So it’s much more important to have access to those sorts of statistics.

I don’t know why they didn’t allow women in the press box, but I remember I was at Cleveland stadium and I had arranged to write about the cameras that they had. It was the very beginning of slow motion and reverse, where they would show the progress of the football play and then they could reverse it and show the players going backwards. So I was writing a piece about the technical photography and sound, including the microphone placement, what have you.

I remember the CBS people had to walk through the press box to get to the roof of the Cleveland stadium where some of their equipment was, so they had to lead me through the press box. One had a manila envelope in his hand and he put it up over my face like there might be something going on that he didn’t want me to see. I did think that was really silly and I think I managed to write that into the piece.

The other Joan Ryan, a columnist in Orlando and San Francisco. A passage:

I don’t know if I had been in a locker room before. Maybe I had been in Tampa Bay’s or the Miami Dolphins’. But it was one of the first times I’ve been in a locker room. I went down there and pushed open the door, and I’ve been in a lot of those old stadiums and ballparks. You walk in onto this path. On one side are the lockers and on the other side are the bathroom and the showers.

So the guys are just walking back and forth across your path as you walk in. It took a couple of seconds for them to register that I had walked in and then there was just this pandemonium, like “Oh my God!”

I was the only woman in there. Just yelling. I’m just so introverted. It’s such a bizarre thing to think that I even went into this business when I look back on it. But I was just mortified, absolutely mortified. I think my brain just shut down. I really don’t remember what they said. It was just like you were the scrawny kid on the playground and everybody’s just yelling at you and laughing. All eyes are on you, which is just the most painful possible thing for somebody who’s so introverted.

I was standing there and all I remember asking was, “Where’s Joe Cribbs’ locker?” Because I was on deadline.

Right next to me was a row of lockers with a bench and one of the football players was sitting there, and he, like all of them do, had his ankles taped up with five miles of tape. He had one of those long-handled razors that they use to cut the tape off, and all of a sudden I feel the handle, not the razor part, but the handle of the razor going up my leg because I was wearing a skirt. It was going up my leg. At that point, I just lost it.

I just screamed at the guy, “What are you doing?” and I just turned around and left. This was probably either ’83 or ’84. My editor ended up making me write a column about it and it’s been written about in other places.

I turn around to leave only to see in the doorway a man standing there with one of the red V-neck sweaters that all the coaches wore, and I thought, “Oh my God.”

He was just standing there laughing at the whole thing. He thought this was extremely amusing. Only to find out that he actually was the owner of the team. I found out later.


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