Traverse City Record-Eagle

Sports Columnists

September 19, 2010

James Cook: Locker room for opposite sex

The locker room is a different type of place — and often not one for the opposite sex.

Take the scene after Thursday's Frontier League Championship Series Game 2 between River City and Traverse City as an example.

There I am interviewing River City manager Steve Brook after the game.

Standing in the entryway to the coaches' locker room, several Rascals players began removing towels, gyrating and trying to distract Brook during the interview, laughing the whole time. Then an assistant coach comes shuffling in with his pants around his ankles and proceeds to stand off to the side, mooning Brook as he answers my questions.

Brook mildly chastises the players, who don't stop. Then he closes the door. The other coach is still standing there, proudly naked from the waist to ankles, chuckling — and still mooning.

That's how at least some athletes act in a locker room with a guy who's a complete stranger standing there.

Is that the type of place for a self-proclaimed "hot" female reporter? The word "reporter" in Ines Sainz' case also deserves quote marks.

Sainz stirred up the locker room controversy last week when she showed up for a New York Jets practice and was reportedly harassed by Jets coaches and players while on the sidelines and in the locker room.

Sainz — pronounced like "signs" — got exactly what she intended: The story became about her, not the supposed story she was there to do on New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez.

Has anyone seen this Sanchez story anywhere? But the stories of her gallivanting about the locker room or sidelines — usually dressed as skimpily as she can get away with — sure are everywhere. She's not there for her knowledge of sports; she's there because she's a former Miss World contestant who's not afraid to flaunt what she has. She even describes herself as "the hottest sports reporter in Mexico."

This is the same woman who once proposed to Tom Brady at a press conference and measured football players' biceps at Super Bowl XLIII. At best, she's the TMZ of the sports media. At worst, she's mocking the sport she is supposedly reporting on.

The Jets, for their part, reportedly weren't much better, with coaches calling for drills that took their players directly into Sainz's path near the sideline and at least one defensive player and one coach volunteering to participate in the receiving drill. In the locker room, there were reportedly cat calls and staring in the direction of Sainz.

I've covered Detroit Lions practices in the past, and the Lions don't let reporters close to the locker room. You have to chase down players and coaches as they leave the practice field before they get in the building. At Red Wings training camp, the media wait outside the locker room to get player interviews, which are sketchy because with the new locker rooms at Centre ICE the players can go out the back door and dodge reporters if they want.

Almost 20 years ago, when I was starting out as a sports writer at Central Michigan University, among my first beats were women's field hockey, volleyball and softball. Even then, as a 19-year-old with virtually no experience, I did not even think about asking to go in the women's locker room. It just wasn't an option — and still isn't.

I wait (and sometimes wait and wait some more) for the players to go about their business before getting interviews. That's just the way it is, even on deadline.

But not for Sainz, who trotted into the Jets' inner sanctum. Surprisingly, she was initially shocked that 61 sweaty men fresh out of practice would say anything when a beauty pageant contestant barged in.

Her opinion later changed, and she claimed she wasn't harassed. But in the meantime, she managed to get more talk time about her than the Jets, the supposed Super Bowl contenders who laid an egg in their opener against Baltimore.

Mission accomplished.

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