I have decided to analyze the live tweets that occurred during the Oregon-Stanford college football game on Thursday night. It was a huge game for both teams, but the reason I was interested in this game was not because of the two teams playing or the stakes of the game, but for the tweets that I saw by people about the sideline reporter for the game, the lovely Sam Ponder. Ponder is a very attractive woman, as most sideline reporters are, and I was definitely curious to find out what type of tweets I would see during the game, particularly when Sam Ponder was on screen.
In order to find these tweets, I typed in “Sam Ponder” in the Discover tab on Twitter, and all of these tweets came up that mentioned her. Since my analysis was more focused on her and not the game, I figured it would be best to capture the tweets that had been posted right after she came on screen right before kickoff. What was also beneficial to me was that her husband, NFL quarterback Christian Ponder, had a game that night in Minnesota, so the tweets not only mentioned her, but also her husband, usually in an insulting way.
Unsurprisingly, the main people that professed their feelings towards Sam and her beauty were young, white men who seemed to be in their 20s. These tweets demonstrated everything we talked about in class: male dominance, white privilege, objectification of women, and, in the case of insulting Christian Ponder, male masculinity and competition. There are several insights these tweets give to the game: First, people are only focused on her looks, not the context of what she is saying. As someone who watches football often, I have always wondered why they have sideline reporters at all. Whether it is a guy or a girl, their consistent annoyance of coaches by requesting interviews at halftime or in between quarters only seems to agitate rather than inform, and, in the case of attractive reporters like Ponder, people don’t even focus on what they are saying, only how attractive they are. Second, the tweet by the girl that I have demonstrates once again the value of physical qualities that are placed on women. The father “complementing” his daughter by saying she has eyebrows similar to Ponder’s and her “tears of joy” that followed are both disheartening, and, once again, demonstrate a tweet that has nothing to do with the actual game. The final key insight these tweets give is the insults directed at Sam and her husband. The one tweet referring to her as looking like a “whore” reflects the idea, at least in my mind, of men refusing to accept rejection. Since she is attractive, but married, and married to someone who isn’t a superstar quarterback, men are jealous and instead insult her and her husband. In addition, the tweet that talked about Christian not deserving Sam is typical of male masculinity: since he is not a superstar quarterback, and plays on a bad team, Christian should not be married to a “dime piece” like Sam. Apparently the only qualities good-looking women, who also like football, look for is super stardom and success on the gridiron.
Sadly, throughout the game, I didn’t really see any resistance to these type of comments. It was more of the same: guys talking about how hot she is, and/or how much her husband sucked, and the occasional tweet about Sam “winning” since she didn’t have to watch her husband play. The tweets weren’t limited to men though. I saw many tweets from girls about the size of their girl crush on Ponder and how much they loved her jacket. In case you were wondering, there were no tweets about what she was actually reporting or about the action in the game. I think as I finish this analysis I am more confused about the role of sideline reporters than ever before, but one thing that is clear to me is the fact that ESPN knows what they are doing from a business standpoint. They consistently hire attractive women who fit the “mythical beauty norm,” knowing it can attract audience members who might not give a crap about the game. Hey, anything to bring in profits.