Get It Together Doris Burke, You’re Making the Ladies Look Bad

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.  

Jan 9, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; ESPN broadcaster Doris Burke during the NBA game between the Dallas Mavericks and the Los Angeles Clippers at the Staples Center. The Clippers defeated the Mavericks 99-93. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Topics: NCAA Basketball, North Carolina Tar Heels

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  • Al Lane

    Wow, now I feel kinda odd. I’m a guy who is as chauvinistic and porcine-like as the next guy, and I am about to defend a female journalist against criticism by a female journalist wannabe.

    Doris Burke is a good basketball game play caller and a good analyst. She is not the best at either … and in terms of analyst I agree she doesn’t match Bilas, but then again nobody does (and by the way, Jay Williams, the OTHER Duke color guy calling ESPN games does a MUCH better job that the OTHER Duke guy the Ms. Biddix seems to like, Mike Gminski). But Burke is good … no, not just “good for a woman” … good, period. She IS knowledgeable, she IS articulate and, yes, she IS human, so she makes an occasional mistake, something Ms. Biddix apparently is not prone to.

    But the oddest thing about this by far is that as a UNC fan, and I was one I bet before Ms. Biddix was born, if I was going to make a criticism about Burke at all, it might be that she is a tad bit TOO pro-Tar Heels. In particular, I think she gives McAdoo a little more credit than he has actually earned so far (thought she is spot on in stressing that the biggest shortcoming of his game right now is offensive aggressiveness), and is probably a little more upbeat about the team’s near term prospects than their actual performance to date suggests. I guess I would say that she is still a little too impressed with Tar Heel history, and thinks a little bit too uncritically that it will semi-automatically turn into Tar Heel success in 2013. To be clear, I hope her optimism turns out to be correct … but, again, if there is something that maybe she is doing less of than an analytically admirable job at, it is honestly assessing the 2012-2013 team that we have so far seen play. The one thing she is NOT, is anti-UNC.

    Anyway, obviously I would love to see Carolina get a higher priority in ESPN attention, and I suspect it will if it earns it. But I have zero desire to be #1 on ESPN’s priority list if it means more Vitale. Meanwhile, I am more than happy to see and hear Doris Burke do our games. And if you give me a choice of, say, Doris Burke vs. Len Elmore, or many other ESPN guys, or the likes of Clark Kellogg (part of the CBS #1 team, and obviously very anti-UNC) … it’s Burke, by a slam dunk. She’s a pro, and a good pro.

    • Guest

      I respect your opinion. And thanks for reading. But, I don’t believe I said anything in the article about Burke being anti-UNC. Cheers!

    • mon0goose

      I respect your opinion. And thanks for reading. But, I don’t believe I said anything in the article about Burke being anti-UNC. And it was not intended to be journalism because this is an opinion on a fan site. And I do this as a hobby. I work in politics. Believe me I’ve been called much, much worse. Cheers! And thanks for keeping it heel/

      • Al Lane

        Not to extend this debate further into the realm of silliness, I did not state you charged Burke with being anti-UNC, and did not criticize you for making such a charge. I suggested your criticism of Burke’s overall professional performance was rubbish, and that it was a bit odd to see a woman picking her out for criticism when she is so much better at the job than so many of the men who work at ESPN..

        But had I known you worked in politics, I wouldn’t have criticized you at all. Hearing rubbish from the mouths or reading rubbish from the pens (or laptops) of those who work in politics is so much the norm, that it would be a waste of time to criticize it when it rears its ugly head.

        That, by the way, is written tongue in cheek, since I work in politics, too.

        And should I be charged with sexism for attacking a female contributor (even while defending a female sportscaster), I want to state for the record that I left an even more critical commentary on Matt’s most recent article on Leslie McDonald … which was REALLY rubbish.

        It’s nice to know that writers, though, do take note of their critics, and doubly reassuring to find that politicians do, too. Thank you for taking the time to respond. AL LANE

  • Rollin Yeatts

    Haha! I was wondering if anyone else noticed the Boeheim comment. I was waiting for her to correct herself, too. Burke is ok about 75% of the time. The other 25% is mind-blowingly dumb/overstated comments. Personally, I’m a fan of the Jays, even though they are Dukies.

    Good piece, Monica.

  • David

    I was waiting as well to see if she would correct herself… and no you did not say anything anti UNC. I did think Doris Burke was okay. But that’s just it. When you are a female in a male dominated professions you cannot just be okay. You cannot just be as good as the men. You must go above and beyond what they do. I can understand this because as a young black male I found out in a profession dominated by white men. It is not okay to be just as good as my counterparts. I must be better sometimes 3 and 4 times better send my counterparts. miss Burke should realize this and aspire to be so. No 1 says that it’s fair. But it’s the world we live in. Go heels!

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