If You Hype it Up, They Will Watch: A Look back at Mo'ne Davis and the 2014 Little League World
The Little League World Series is an odd spectacle. On the one hand, it is little kids
playing the game they love. On the other hand, when people sell tickets and ESPN
televises the games, this is little kids working for free while adults make money.
So I am not necessarily a huge fan of the amount of pressure, publicity, and press
placed on a particular group of 12 year olds. But back in 2014 I was a fan of one result.
In 2014, Mo'ne Davis -- a FEMALE pitcher -- became a star!
Davis was featured daily on ESPN Sportcenter for about a week and a half leading up
to her next contest and had even been featured in personal ESPN commercials to raise
awareness of her upcoming games. She was even featured on the COVER of Sports
The result? Over 34,000 spectators showed up to watch her pitch in Williamsport, PA
(not the easiest or most desirable summer retreats), in the middle of a work week, on a
Wednesday night. Not only that, it was also the highest rated game in Little League
World Series history on ESPN.
What did all this illustrate? Various media outlets made it their goal to hype up Mo'ne
Davis, just as they hype up male athlete’s on a regular basis, and the results speak for
One of the biggest issue facing women's sports is the overall lack of publicity and lack of
coverage. Those who claim, "well I just don't like watching women's teams," can you
remember that last time you even saw a women's team featured on television?
Consistently? Probably not. There are a ton of amazing female athletes out there, but
almost all of them are unknown.
A 2013 study highlighted on smithsonian.com, gives a clear picture of the lack of
coverage female athletes receive. "A recent analysis of 11 years of SI covers shows
that—if you take out the swimsuit issue—women appear just 4.9 percent of the time.
Even when they do appear on the cover, they’re rarely the focus. “Of the 35 covers
including a female, only 18 (or 2.5 percent of all covers) featured a female as the
primary or sole image,” the study explains. “Three covers included females, but only as
insets (small boxed image), or as part of a collage background of both male and female
athletes." In fact, women showed up on more covers of SI between 1954 and 1965 than
they did between 2000 and 2011. A lot more. Those early years of the magazine had
women on the cover 12.6 percent of the time (Smithsonianmag.com)."
The scariest part about the coverage of female athletes? Coverage is getting worse. A
study conducted by a USC Professor, Michael Messner, found that the minuscule
coverage of women's sports has actually been declining even further.
"Messner looked at the three local networks affiliates in Los Angeles and also the ESPN
Sportscenter at 11 o'clock in the evening. The first time [he] did this study was 1989 and
[has] done it every five years since then. The first couple times [he] did it, 1989 and
1993 coverage of women sports on the evening news shows was about 5%. [A] lot of
people back then said that the number would continue to go up as time went by and the
media caught up with this explosion of girls and women sports throughout the country.
Indeed in 1999 it nudged up to 8.7% of all sports coverage. Then in 2004 it went back
down to 6.3% and the most recent data [they] collected was in 2009 and the coverage
on the evening news shows has almost evaporated to 1.6%, the lowest amount ever,
and ESPN is right down there with 1.4% of their Sportscenter coverage
But fear not, it is now clear that this unfortunate fact surrounding female athletes can be
changed. The publicity that sports outlets such as ESPN and Sports Illustrated placed
on one female athlete back in 2014 is proof of an outstanding result.
You can follow the author of this article on Twitter at @lindseydarvin.