At about half past two on Friday 17th October, a woman was allowed into the Channel Nine commentary box. And the world didn’t end. Or at least we don’t think it did, although it might explain why our page hits have plummeted recently. Which is surprising considering the reaction to the event. Apparently social media “exploded” (Channel Nine’s word, not ours) in a massive outpouring of support. And yeah, looking at twitter, a few players and staff in the Australian setup tweeted their encouragement. Which I guess is about as much of an explosion as you could expect for an otherwise uneventful Friday afternoon.
But for all the build-up, it hardly felt like an earth shattering event. It’s good that Channel Nine are trying to broaden their horizons a little, but a woman commentating on a cricket game doesn’t feel like it should be that big of a deal to us. It should be, well, pretty normal. Its 2014 fer chrissakes. But it was built up as something defining, an important moment in cricket broadcasting. Meg Lanning (we probably should stop referring to her as ‘the woman’) was going to break glass ceilings and provide equality in sports broadcasting. We figure after she’s finished all that curing Ebola should be a cinch.
A lot of the hype over Lanning’s appearance seems to stem from the blokey, misogynist, club that the Channel Nine commentary seems to have become of late. Or maybe it’s always been like that but people are only just noticing now. But it’s not been nearly as big a deal as when it’s happened elsewhere. Lisa Sthalekar and Alison Mitchell have been involved in the ABC coverage, and we can’t remember anyone ever building that up as defining moments for gender equality. But then the ABC doesn’t employ Michael Slater, who was responsible for perhaps the most excruciatingly misogynistic interview since Oscar Wilde commented that women are about as useful as a good lampshade. Or something.
Whatever the background, Lanning’s inclusion in the Channel Nine commentary team for a bunch of domestic games absolutely nobody is watching (aside from us of course) didn’t exactly set our world on fire. Maybe we’re just jaded like that. Perhaps it was because Lanning’s commentary was, well, dull. Everyone seemed to be very carefully trying to tiptoe around her and make sure they didn’t say anything that might be construed as misogynistic or demeaning, so its not as if she had much material to work with. It was only when Lanning was commentating next to Tom Moody that things became somewhat more interesting, but try as Tom might, it still wasn’t exactly riveting stuff. More a series of observations about how the women’s game differs from the men’s.
As a long term experiment we’re really not sure how well it will work. Maybe in time everyone might start getting over the awkward initial shuffling stage and things might then begin to get interesting. And by interesting we mean we hope Slater drops in some sly innuendo on air so Lanning can cave in his stupid face with a cricket bat. Now that would be entertaining. Supposedly Lanning will back up for a few of the T20 games against South Africa, but honestly we can see Channel Nine quietly shelving the ‘project’ for the rest of the summer and returning to Plan A: waiting for Ellyse Perry to retire so they can hire her full-time. Lanning would probably have far better luck with the much more congenial atmosphere over in the ABC box anyway.
Other than that it has all been pretty fun. A game at the North Sydney Oval that saw nearly 800 runs scored was enjoyable, even if only because every time the ball is hit onto the roof of the stands, it’s a complete lottery if it will come down again or end up getting stuck in the gutters. Chappelli told a few more anecdotes about Rod Marsh and Dennis Lillee, Moises Henriques had a spell in the commentary box where he proved to be surprisingly well spoken, and Brad McNamara continued to make us weep tears of pure agony. Actually, the belated realisation that McNamara is the executive head of Channel Nine’s cricket coverage has cast a pall over proceedings even greater than that generated by the inevitable return of Mark Nicholas.
Its all beginning to make sense. Sadly.