One of the pitfalls of being an unranked team is that ESPN usually assigns the B squad to announce your games even if it does say Carolina across your jersey. UNC fans are spoiled and winning is not the only thing we have come to expect. We are also accustomed to the best of the best when it comes to television commentators. I’ll be the first to admit that Dick Vitale gets on my last nerve. He doesn’t even try to mask his infatuation with Duke anymore. Yet, many of his peers consider him to be the best in the business, and he’s a member of the basketball hall of fame. I even respect former Duke players Jay Bilas and Mike Gminski who occasionally call Tar Heel games. Bilas, in my opinion, is one of the most impartial and knowledgeable commentators in sports. That is why Bilas is a senior analyst and an ESPN Game Day fixture. He is the crème de la crème of college basketball analysts which is more than I can say for the announcers ESPN has recently assigned to Carolina games. And frankly, I think all of college basketball deserves better.
Like ESPN color analyst, Doris Burke, I have chosen a career that is dominated by men. I also happen to be the only female contributor on the KIH staff. I have a great deal of respect for women who work in male-dominated professions. However, it is no excuse for incompetence. Prior to last Saturday, I had never paid attention to Doris Burke calling a game despite the fact that she is a perennial analyst especially around tournament time. Burke has called more than one Tar Heel game, and I guess I had just always tuned her out. But, I did not tune out the comment she made during last Saturday’s Maryland/UNC game when she said that Mason Plumlee reminded her of Tyler Hansbrough. I am obviously a bias observer, and to be fair prior to the Miami game, Plumlee was being hyped up as a POY candidate. But give me a break me off of that Kit-Kat bar. Mason Plumlee and Tyler Hansbrough are both young, male Caucasians who have played ACC college basketball. Yep, that’s where the similarities end. Tyler Hansbrough is the all-time leading scorer in the ACC and has his jersey in the rafters of the Smith Center. And Mason Plumlee is well . . . Mason Plumlee.
OK . . . OK . . . I gave Ms. Burke the benefit of the doubt knowing that the game was on ESPN and maybe she had not hit her Duke reference quota for the half. You know us ladies have got to stick together. Nobody’s perfect, and everyone has a slip of the tongue or a misstep every once in a while. By Wednesday night, I had pretty much gotten over Burke’s Saturday afternoon gaffe. After all, I had just witnessed the best Duke loss since Lehigh and was still basking in the afterglow. However, I groaned with the rest of Tar Heel nation when I realized Burke was at it again on the sidelines announcing the GT/UNC game. All was well until midway through the second half, then all of a sudden Jim Boeheim from Syracuse suddenly became James Michael McAdoo’s new head coach. I got really nervous as the unthinkable raced through my head, “Is James Michael McAdoo transferring to Syracuse?” I know things haven’t been great recently, but you’re a McAdoo! Or maybe it was something much, much more nefarious and surreptitious. “Is Jim Boeheim planning a coup d’état in Chapel Hill?” “Am I going to wake up tomorrow to an Old Well painted orange and Carmelo Anthony’s jersey hanging in the rafters of the newly named Boeheim Dome?” I’m pretty sure Doris Burke meant to say the name Roy Williams when referring to JMM, but she said Jim Boeheim. Again, it was an honest gaffe. However, professionals correct themselves. Maybe no one made Burke aware of her error, or maybe she did not want to admit that she misspoke. Or maybe she thinks that because she is a pioneer among female sports analysts that simply having lady parts is good enough to earn a pay check.
When you work in a male dominated profession, it’s not good enough to just be good enough. I’m not saying Burke is unqualified or an idiot. She’s a pioneer in female basketball commentating. Burke’s broadcasting career began in 1990 as a radio announcer for her alma mater, Providence College where she played basketball. She was also the fifth woman inducted into the College’s hall of fame, and the first female to call a New York Knicks game on radio and television. She has the credentials and an impressive resume. But, when you are a female working in a male-dominated profession, you have to be better than the other guys. You have to overcome the boy’s club mentality by working harder, playing smarter and earning respect. Otherwise, the guys might think you are just there to fulfill some sort of affirmative action quota. Burke doesn’t have a great voice or much of a personality on the air. So, she might want to do a better job preparing for games. College basketball fans deserve better. Tar Heel fans deserve better. But, more importantly, every female currently trying to break into sports journalism deserves better. Just because Doris Burke is a female and a seasoned veteran doesn’t mean she gets to stop doing her homework.