Maybe they should start calling it the National Feelings League.
The millions of Americans who were already amazed by how easily their compatriots can take offense got another look at the new normal on Wednesday when critics piled on NBC’s Chris Collinsworth for an utterly innocuous remark he made on-air during the Pittsburgh Steelers-Baltimore Ravens game.
Collinsworth’s comment was apparently trying to be complimentary about the depth of sports feelings in Pittsburgh, but it was received in some quarters as anything but.
Also Chris Collinsworth was blown away that the women in Pittsburgh had really specific questions about football pic.twitter.com/eskujaRsKn
— gifdsports (@gifdsports) December 3, 2020
“Everybody’s a fan, in particular the ladies that I met,” Collinsworth said. “They have really specific questions about the game. I’m like, ‘wow.’ You’re just blown away by how strong the fans are here in this town.”
In a normal world, the comment would have gone unnoticed. Collinsworth has apparently met some women in Pittsburgh who are fans of the undefeated Steelers (they defeated the Ravens at Heinz Field 19-14). He was impressed by the knowledge of the fanbase.
Now, every aspect of the game is a target for ginned-up controversy and manufactured offense.
And the blowback wasn’t long in coming.
Doug Farrar, a columnist at USA Today Sports, opined that “Such cavalierly sexist comments have no place on any sports broadcast.”
And, naturally, the online outrage followed.
hey @NBCSports maybe school Chris Collinsworth on not being so SHOCKED that so many “ladies” in Pittsburgh ask him so many questions “legit” questions about football when he’s in town announcing the game 💛🖤💛🖤#SteelersNation @sarahhowarthco
— Sarah Markle (@sarahpienyc) December 2, 2020
Chris Collinsworth: Man, even the ladies in Pittsburgh like and know sports! It’s amazing!
— Sheryl (@Serenade_az) December 2, 2020
Not a line from Anchorman, Chris Collinsworth literally just said “you know Pittsburgh is a big football town when even the ladies ask you questions about the team!” @NBCSports
— Caroline M. Wernecke (@CaroWernecke) December 2, 2020
— Sally Ostendorf (@s_osten) December 2, 2020
Now, as social media lynch mobs go, it was a fairly quiet reaction. A midweek NFL game, kicking off in mid-afternoon, is going to have a smaller audience than normal.
But it was apparently enough to draw an apology from Collinsworth.
— Cris Collinsworth (@CollinsworthPFF) December 3, 2020
“What I intended as a compliment to the fans of Pittsburgh, became an insult,” Collinsworth wrote. “I’m sick about insulting any fan, but especially female fans and journalists. I know first hand how much harder they have to work than any of us in this industry. I was wrong and I deeply apologize.”
Can we give the groveling a break?
There’s nothing Collinsworth said that was prima facie offensive to anyone. Of course, there are millions of female football fans, but for anyone to pretend the sport is as popular among women as it is among men is simply denying reality. (They’re probably the same people who will tell you they know lots of women who just love the Three Stooges.)
His actual offense was that he forgot that the United States today is a land of “let’s pretend.”
Let’s pretend that women are as interested in football as men are. Let’s pretend that sex is something every individual decides, so men can use the same bathroom as little girls. Let’s pretend that there’s no difference between male and female athletes.
And let’s pretend a doddering carcass of corruption like Joe Biden is actually presidential material that would benefit the United States and its standing in the world.
But that’s getting a little far afield. Getting back to Collinsworth, there were many, many responses on social media who called out the controversy for what it was.
It’s 2020 so we have to assume women, who haven’t historically played football, know exactly as much as men. Ridiculous.
No need to apologize
— JaviStC (@JaviStCroix) December 3, 2020
This female fan heard your comment during the game and didn’t feel offended at all. Most women aren’t into the game like we are and guys are impressed and surprised when they are. It’s all good Cris👍🏾
— HikerJan (@HawksFanJan) December 3, 2020
But this one, from Pittsburgh sports radio host Colin Dunlap, put it perfectly.
If you were offended by what Chris Collinsworth said in re: women fans in Pittsburgh, you are simply looking to be offended.
— Colin Dunlap (@colin_dunlap) December 3, 2020
“If you were offended by what Chris Collinsworth said in re: women fans in Pittsburgh, you are simply looking to be offended,” Dunlap wrote.
That’s been the story of the NFL for the past five years, since politics and social issues became as dominant in the league’s coverage as its team’s records.
In the current climate, heightened sensitivities are more important than special teams play; hurt feelings in the fan base matter more than injuries on the field.
Chris Collinsworth is far from an ideal sports commentator, but the guy’s biggest fault this week was he thought he was simply talking football.
He forgot he was playing “let’s pretend.”
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.