Detroit Free Press – September 20, 1980
By Joe Lapointe
Sports on the air
Because it is still unusual for a women to cover the male-dominated world of professional sports, Detroit is a rarity, with women covering sports on two television stations. Both Channels 4’s Gail Granik and Channel 2’s Anne Doyle are finishing their second year here. Both “anchor” the sportscast of the noon news, with spot anchor and reporting assignments on evening and night shows. They discussed their jobs this week with Sports on the Air – Granik at the Channel 4 studio, Doyle while seated in a booth at the downtown Press Club.
Q – Do you have it easier than men reporters when it comes to interviewing male athletes:
Granik – I think it works both ways. In some instances, some male athletes are very uptight. On the other hand, there are some athletes for whom there is a male-female thing going on. They want to be even better, more impressive, want to talk well and say good things to you…
Doyle – My father (Vince Doyle of WWJ-AM radio) says I have an advantage as a woman. I say I have a disadvantage. But in another sense, I think they are happy to talk to me because maybe a woman is something different. They talk to 25 male reporters and maybe the woman will ask a different kind of question. And maybe they will talk to me in a different way. Not all the time. Usually they have their pat answers. But when you get into some kind of ‘Who are you, what are the emotional pressures on you, what’s going on behind the scenes that’s really affecting you?’ sometimes I think a man will talk to a woman differently.”
Q – It may be trite and unfair to ask, but obviously people are curious: Do athletes ask you for dates and do you go out with them?
Granik – Oh, God, yes, a number of athletes have asked me out, from all different places. It used to happen a lot when I worked in Boston. I’ve been asked out by some pretty important name stars. I’ve been asked out by married men. All of the things you could possibly think of. And I have never, ever gone out with them, although some people might think I’m crazy. In the very sticky situation I am anyway, where you’re not exactly welcomed with open arms, people would want to find something to pin on me. Nancy Lopez married a sportscaster who met her when he was covering her. No one thought two seconds about that. It was cute. The reverse would not be perceived in that way at all. That old double standard has pervaded every level.
Doyle – I don’t date athletes. I knew when I came into it I couldn’t do that. I don’t get asked out too much. Occasionally. I just try to keep it on a pretty professional basis and friendly.
Q – What about access to the locker room to do your work after games? Is it still a problem?
Granik – In Detroit we can go into the Tigers and Pistons. We cannot go into the Lions and Red Wings. And neither Channel 2 nor 4 have pushed that issue. In fact, I’m not sure what the NFL policy is now. I think it’s closed door is just about everywhere. The Red Wings are one of the few NHL teams left that don’t allow women.
Doyle – With the Tigers, Ron Le Flore was on of the guys who yelled the first time: ‘Let her come into the locker room’ and it helped me in that way. There was a problem at first. I felt if I wanted to be a credible sports reporter, I’ve got to do that. I felt very strongly about that. Women ask me what it’s like in there. I tell them it’s not anything like you imagine…They think of nude men…I’m under a deadline and I’m not looking.
Q – Do you still fee l pressure because you are a woman in a man’s world?
Granik – I would not advise any woman or young girls to pursue this as a place to work. You’ve got to be very strong. It is maybe one of the few areas in life where one can still be a pioneer. You have to know that and decide at some point how long can you be the one still beating off the rattlesnakes and breaking off the brush? When a man comes into a town as a sportscaster, his knowledge is always presumed. In the case of a woman, it’s the total opposite…It makes everything you do a test by fire…The hardest part is dealing with one’s own peers, the men who work with sports broadcasting. It’s true you are still viewed by many men as some flighty person who is doing this for a lark. And you are taking away a job that on of the group could have.
Doyle – It was a little uncomfortable at first. I had to prove myself a little bit and people had to get to know me. I feel very welcome everywhere now. There are some guys who just kind of ignore me, but I feel very comfortable. I felt pressure coming into the job, a feeling that people would reject me without even knowing who I was, what I knew or how much I knew about sports. Or even giving me the possibility of being able to comprehend what was going on because I was a woman. And you could feel that negativism. Immediately, you sense it.
Q – Do Gail Granik and Anne Doyle see each other as rivals?
Granik – I’ve had dinner and talked to Anne. We’re not friendly in the sense we are friends and go off to places together. I consider her a friend, someone else who works in this market the way Charlie Neal and Jim Price and Steve Garagiola work in this market. I don’t feel any more competitive with her than I do with a man, but there is a tendency on the part of other people to compare us.
Doyle – Yes and no. There is a natural little rivalry there just because you’re different. There’s also a natural alliance there. Gail and I have gotten together and sat down and talked because we can share some things: ‘How did you deal with this?’ So it’s yes and no. It helps both of us for each of us to be there. And I would like to see Channel 7 hire a woman. I want them to compare me to men, too. I’d like to be just a sportscaster. That would be ideal.
Q – how do you get along with the people you cover?
Doyle – Sparky Anderson got mad at me the other day when I asked him why he let Duffy Dyer bat with two outs, two men on base, Tigers down 4-0, and I asked him why Dyer, batting .188., was allowed to hit in that situation. He got mad. He was a little sarcastic. I said ‘ Why not let Champ Summers bat?’ A righthander was pitching. I thought it was a valid question that people in the stands wanted to know. They were booing. Dyer took a called strike and ended the game. Anderson said even if Summers hit a home run, the score would have been only 4-3, and he didn’t care if we lose 4-0 or 4-3. And he said he had to go for the percentages. I said ‘Yeah, but Dyer struck out.’ And he got mad. He was just real touchy about it. And he said ‘Let me tell you a few things about baseball, Anne.’ The next day in the paper, Brian Bragg asked him the same question. I felt vindicated. I felt I was probably doing a good job if I got him mad at a question I asked.”