OK, I’m having trouble sorting out my reactions to this letter in the hometown daily.
The reader is upset that the paper ran a story on a local hometown Olympic athlete who has decided to take some time off training to have a baby.
Here’s the money quote:
Goucher is a fine athlete and, I assume, a good person. I have always wished her the best in her athletic pursuits. But it appears that as far as certain News Tribune reporters are concerned, mileage refers to more than simply what she does in training. Well, I’m sure we’re all looking forward to weekly updates on her hormonal levels plus exclusive ultrasound pictures upon successful conception. Inquiring minds want to know.
He goes on to snark that there is collegiate track and field going on which apparently he believes the paper isn’t covering adequately. No doubt that is the primary motivation behind the letter. I know from following the paper and working in that sports section way back in the Paleozoic era that such complaints are very common. (And that isn’t to say they aren’t sometimes just.)
And full disclosure: The DNT’s sports editor is a great guy whom I am fortunate to call a friend.
But I certainly think it’s a newsworthy story that somebody who is an international-level local athlete and plans to remain one decides to take time off training to try to have a baby. In fact, with respect, I think that’s a much bigger story – and will generate much more reader interest – than who won the indoor Div. II shotput event.
What I’m also wondering is whether this subtly has something to do the fact that she’s hoping to, you know, have a baby. Maybe I am just seeing things, but the dripping sarcasm about ultrasounds and hormone levels wasn’t necessary if the intention was merely to criticize the story.
I mean, if you can open up the sports page and read about so-and-so’s strained groin or fractured tibia or anterior cruciate ligament or blood doping or a hundred other medical stories, why, assuming it’s a legitimate story, would something about an athlete’s hormone level be so out of line?
And sports pages run personal stories all the time about athletes – their struggles to overcome adversity, comebacks from injuries, their charitable work, their legal problems.
We live in an increasingly anti-natalist, anti-child culture. I wonder if that was seeping in a little here.
Update: I want to clarify something that wasn’t clear. For all I know, the letter writer has 10 kids, and I am not accusing him of direct, intentional anti-natalism. I just wonder if some cultural assumptions didn’t play into the tone. There’s a reason a story about a young, successful athlete stepping away to have a baby – even when hoping to come back – feels a little transgressive, and it has nothing to do with the newsworthiness of the story.