This just in: Popular social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook are fertile ground for reaction – both positive and negative – when the Minnesota Vikings are playing. It’s become part of the game-day experience for a large percentage of NFL fans in general, and Vikings fans are no exception.
“Justin Jefferson is amazing!”
“The refs are in on the fix!”
“Why did Mike Zimmer use a timeout there?”
“Dalvin Cook is a beast!”
It’s always a mixed bag of joy and pain with Vikings football.
Such was the case during (and after) their loss in Tampa on Sunday, only the emphasis was unquestionably on the side of pain. The primary target of said social media vitriol, in this case, was none other than Dan Bailey, who had a historically awful game, missing three field-goal attempts as well as the only PAT he was allowed to attempt. In fact, by the time you read this, there’s a decent chance he’s no longer on the team. Yep, it was that bad – an off-the-charts case of the kicking yips that started a week ago against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Criticism of Bailey is fair and comes with the territory. He’s a professional placekicker that makes really good money and has only a few things on his to-do list: kickoffs, kicking field goals and extra points. That’s it. That’s the playbook. To his credit, he’s had a really good NFL career. However, when you fail to the extent that Bailey has the past two weeks, almost costing your team the game against a really bad Jacksonville Jaguars team one week and being arguably the player most directly responsible for the loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers the following week, even Bailey knows he’ll be roasted.
As Zimmer told reporters after the game in reference to Bailey’s issues, “At this point in time, we’re not really worried about feelings anymore.”
Thus, the torrent of social media critiques and jokes that were being tweeted and booted via Facebook straight through the uprights suggesting Bailey be released or left behind in Tampa when the team flew home to Minnesota were fair. The suggestions that the Vikings re-sign Blair Walsh or were wrong to give up too early on Daniel Carlson? Right on the mark. Drilled those barbs right down the middle. By the way, what is it with Zimmer and kickers? That’s a topic for another day – a topic that takes a back seat to the other reactions that developed from Bailey’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.
You see, if you thought Bailey had a crappy day, those social media cowboys who thought it would be a smart idea to lace their insults of him with misogyny had, by far, a worse day. Every attempt to be critical of Bailey by invoking some form of “that girl in college would even be better than Bailey” sailed far right. Yes, oddly enough, they all seemed to miss the mark wide right. Weird.
For those that somehow missed the story, Bailey’s unfortunate game came 24 hours after sports history was made: a woman scoring points in a Power 5 college football game for the first time ever. “That girl” was the least offensive of the variations I saw among the tasteless, small, hateful, sexist attempts at connecting Saturday’s big news to Bailey’s struggles. We get it, you think “kicking like a girl” is bad or saying “even a girl would be better” is a great insult. Prejudice on full display.
For the record, her name is Sarah Fuller and she kicks for Vanderbilt.
Again, that’s Sarah Fuller. Say her name. Know her name. Celebrate what she did. She’s got talent, and she deserves every one of the accolades being thrown her way. Hopefully, someday soon a woman kicking a football through the uprights won’t be a rare occurrence. However, her accomplishment obviously threatened a lot of men – like the guy who commented on my first-quarter tweet in which I suggested that Vikings go for two-point conversions after Bailey missed his PAT with, “We’d be better off with that girl kicking in college.”
I could have responded, but I didn’t deem such thinly-veiled misogyny worthy of a response that might only garner a few views. I figured that maybe rant-tweeting or an extended Facebook post might be a more effective retort. Then I saw more and more comments about “even that college girl” would be better than Bailey. What? Even a girl would be better? Sick shot, bro! No, it’s not a joke. It’s not clever or funny in any way to say stuff like “even a girl” would be better, you weak, tiny, Neanderthal. Whether it’s implied or stated outright, the sexism is apparent.
Then I quickly remembered, “Hey, I write for Zone Coverage. I can take this issue to a bigger audience and share it through a larger megaphone than my paltry social media following allows me to do.” And so, I hopped up on my ZC soapbox and started typing.
I was going to share links to examples of some of the ignorant comments I saw, but there are too many and, besides, I didn’t want to be in any way responsible for such content getting any more clicks than necessary. And the comments in support of such posts often compounded the hate, either ignoring the misogyny or doubling-down on it. I went back and forth on sharing some examples here but ultimately decided against it. Having said that, if you want to challenge the sexism out there in the wild, I encourage you to do so. It’s not hard to find, unfortunately.
I’m not naïve enough to think this kind of sexism — be it implied or overt — wasn’t still an issue. Of course, it’s still an issue. Having grown up in and around sports, I’ve encountered “boys being boys” or “locker room talk” more times than I’d care to remember. “Kick like a girl, run like a girl, hit like a girl…” it’s all the same sexist crap. Women in sports and sports media – as well as every other walk of life — face it, see it, hear it, deal with it every day. I can’t even imagine what that’s like.
The fact that this kind of rhetoric came spilling out of small minds within the sphere of Vikings football provided me both reason and opportunity to address it in this space. Thus, a post-game article was born that has nothing to do with X’s and O’s or play-calling or playoff possibilities – an article that had the full support of the powers-that-be at this fine site, I might add.
Guess what? Women play sports — sometimes (gasp!) the same sports that men play. Women referee sports, coach sports, write about sports, do play-by-play or analysis of sporting events, own and manage sports teams, even run entire leagues. Get used to it.
We’ll get back to “football stuff” later this week. This needed to be repeated now. This took priority.