MATTHEWS: Sometimes a compliment is just a compliment

Cris Collinsworth before an NFL football game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Green Bay Packers in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

I feel like I’ve written at least one column similar to this one before. I probably have, because the “issue” I’m about to talk about just won’t go away, unfortunately.

Last Wednesday, NBC sports commentator Cris Collinsworth was doing color commentary for the NFL game between the Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers.


Pittsburgh (11-0), who were playing at home, continued their winning streak by defeating Baltimore (6-5) by a score of 19-14. But what arguably got more attention during and after the game was comments Collinsworth made in the second quarter.

Right as the Steelers prepared to kick off the football with about four-and-a-half minutes left to go in the first half, Collinsworth marveled at the passion for the game he’d seen from some Steelers fans who he had talked to before to the game.

“Everybody’s a fan,” Collinsworth remarked as the ball was kicked to the Ravens. “In particular the ladies that I met. They have really specific questions about the game, and I’m like, ‘Wow, you’re just blown away by how strong the fans are here in this town.’”

Collinsworth put a slight emphasis on the word “ladies,” which led some perpetually offended folks out there to believe he was shocked that women could know so much about football.

Predictable outrage on social media ensued.

“Did Cris Collinsworth really just say he was blown away that ‘even the ladies I met’ in Pittsburgh want to talk football’? It’s ****ing 2020, dude. Progress,” commented one Twitter user with a large following.

“Seriously, we’re still doing this?” another asked rhetorically in all caps.

USA Today NFL editor Doug Farrar weighed in on the outcry in an opinion piece: “Sometimes, it’s not the overt sexism in sports — It’s these seemingly innocuous remarks that set everybody back,” he claimed. “NBC’s Cris Collinsworth really needs to think about this.”

DeadSpin columnist Julie DiCaro penned a piece pointing out how she “would love to put Cris Collinsworth’s latest gaffe in the long list of things that have sucked about 2020, but the truth is, women working in sports hear this kind of ignorant tripe all the time, even from men in our industry, no matter what year it is.”

In Collinsworth’s case, it sounded more like a compliment to me than a surprise that women would know so much about the NFL.

Collinsworth ended up apologizing, but for those of us in the real world who have the ability to put things in perspective, his comments about female Steelers fans don’t come remotely close to making that long list of things that have sucked about 2020.

I’m a woman who has watched NFL games going back for as long as I can remember (decades, but we won’t get into specific numbers). I still come across guys from time to time who are surprised by how well I can hold my own when discussing the game. Instead of getting offended by it, I talk about how much I learned watching the games every week with my dad when I was younger. Then I’ll make a “not bad for a girl” joke, and then we move on.

After that, the “issue” usually never comes up again with the people who asked, and generally, my opinions on the game are respected by the same people who seemed so surprised that I knew as much as I did about it.

In Collinsworth’s case, it sounded more like a compliment to me than a surprise that women would know so much about the NFL.

Sometimes a compliment is just a compliment. People who continually get outraged over stuff like this need to stop embarrassing the women of America. The vast majority of us understand there are much bigger issues going on in the world right now than a football commentator paying a harmless compliment to female sports fans.

Find something else to get outraged about, y’all, because this ain’t it.

Media analyst Stacey Matthews has also written under the pseudonym Sister Toldjah and is a regular contributor to RedState and Legal Insurrection