ReJoyce: How Andrea Joyce Changed the Face of Sports Broadcasting

How do you define the word “hero”? Does a hero have to be six feet tall, with perfect hair and a red cape trailing in the wind? Of course not, you say. A hero can be anyone who has made an impact on the person that you yourself are aspiring to be. Heroes can be parents, athletes, actors, singers—anyone who possesses qualities that we wish to see reflected in ourselves.

blog5

Joyce is a proud U of M alumna herself.

You’re probably thinking of someone who is your hero. What a great person, you think to yourself. So imagine how I felt when I heard that my childhood hero, Andrea Joyce, was coming to speak at the University of Michigan.  

Now you’re probably thinking, Why would this girl’s childhood hero be Andrea Joyce?! I was a competitive gymnast from age eight to age eighteen, and seeing gymnastics televised was always a rare treat because the networks usually give priority to high-revenue sports. But when the Olympics roll around, gymnasts suddenly have the spotlight. And the first person they encounter when the competition ends is Andrea Joyce.

blog 2

Joyce is currently employed by NBC Sports Network.

No matter what happened in the competition, whether the gymnast is devastated or ecstatic, Joyce always knows how to coax out an interview more interesting than those full of responses like “I just wanted to do my best” and “I worked really hard to get here” from the teenage competitors by asking questions that make the girls think; questions like “Do you think your performance was enough?”. Unapologetic and tough, she’s there to get her job done. When she spoke at Michigan this past week, she said this about her career: “You’re there, and you mean business, and you’re only there for business.”

But the underlying theme through everything that Joyce had to say was that her job and the incredible work she’s done has been that much harder to achieve because she is a woman. When she first went on the air at the beginning of her career in sports broadcasting, she said that male viewers called the station to say that they’d been taping her segments, waiting for her to make a mistake, and were surprised when she never did. Social expectations of women at the time, when women were not prominent in broadcasting, dictated to male viewers that she would be sub-par at her job. Professor LaVaque-Manty’s essay “Equality and Excellence in Modern Meritocracy” (in the book The Playing Field of Eton, University of Michigan Press, 2009) speaks of how women are often treated as if their sex is a disability—and this “‘spoiled identity’ is the person’s social identity, how others see her. One of the things people don’t expect of ‘defectives’ is excellence.” Few people were expecting excellence of Joyce before she took the air, and I’m sure that few people would use the word “defective” in any context to describe Joyce.

In 2006, Joyce and her husband, newscaster Harry Smith, switched jobs for the day as a part of a series on CBS where spouses switch places for a day. Although Joyce’s career is as demanding as her husband’s, the article described her career like this: “besides running the household [she] is a sports reporter for NBC.” This implies that her primary job is to run the household and her career is a hobby of sorts, something she does “besides” being a housewife. But what moves me the most is how Joyce doesn’t seem to be fazed by the expectation that her sex will get in the way of her professional performance. In her own words, “You have to be better than you think you need to be.” At the end of the day, you have to be better than others think you need to be.

In an age where undeserving celebrity can be gained through a few well-worded tweets, girls deserve to be aware of the strong women who have opened the doors for them in all walks of life. Maybe girls are “supposed” to be overly emotional, apologetic, and timid. But this is the time to reverse those stereotypes. Joyce has no patience for whatever society is “expecting” of impressionable girls. As she says, “When you make a decision that there’s something you really want to do…you have to attack it.”

Advertisements

3 comments

  1. prvalera · November 3, 2014

    I really like your article and completely agree with your opinions! Women can be successful in the working world just like men. What really surprised me was that male viewers actually called Joyce to tell her that they had not expected her to succeed. They expected her to be “sub-par”! The fact that she not only exceeded their expectations, but that she has never made a mistake really proves that women are just as functional and hard-working as men. Even though society has progressed since the 20th century, the sexism in society and the workplace has not all been eradicated. I mean there are women can do the same jobs as men but still get paid less!
    Additionally, the article about Joyce switching careers for a day with her spouse was worded offensively to Joyce and working women as a whole. Telling the world that her career is a hobby completely wipes away all of the hard work that she has done to make it this far.
    All the women that have a family at home and a career need to be recognized for their effort. They are working twice as hard as men. They face sexist remarks, attitudes, and views at work and then have to come home and care for their families in the evenings. All girls and women can achieve their goals no matter what they’re up against if they work hard enough.

    Like

  2. mollygrant41 · November 4, 2014

    I also went to this event and completely agree with your description of Joyce. As a swimmer, I agree that when the Olympics roll around, gymnastics and swimming are some of the sports that are given a lot of coverage. Andrea Joyce is the perfect person to talk with following such a big event. When she gave the story about Jordyn Wieber following her disappointing competition, it really revealed how Joyce does her job purely for the love of athletics and the appreciation of athletes. I think that Andrea Joyce is a hero to all women and other groups who we consider to be inferior. Her motivation to persist even when she was doubted really proves that it is work ethic and passion that trumps gender, disabilities, etc. I enjoyed reading about when she switched jobs with her husband. I think what people don’t realize is that her husband did an equal amount of child caring and house keeping. She was talking about when their kids were young, they made their schedules so one parent was always home. I think that by assuming it is a woman’s job to run the house, people are actually insulting those males who take pride in their family. I am now a big fan of Andrea Joyce!!

    Like

  3. lbongi · November 4, 2014

    Reading this really makes me wish I attended the event. I know very well who Andrea Joyce is, and for you to choose her as one of your role models speaks to your character and personality quite substantially. There is no doubt that mainstream media is evolving into a beauty pageant. Networks target an audience that is predominantly male, and they hire their broadcasters to appeal to that audience. Joyce breaks the stereotypes. She’s not a 20-something year old blonde with a broadcast journalism degree. She asks the questions that people want to hear — but don’t realize they want to hear it (if that makes any sense). She is excellent at her job, almost freakishly good at times. I respect that you consider her your hero, but I’m wondering if the reason is fair. I don’t think Joyce would like to be thought of as one who “broke the gender norm,” but rather one who “was excellent in her profession, one of the best (in either gender) of all time.” I don’t think it’s fair to make her accomplishments so special just because she is a woman. Although that the way society treats it, if she was a man, I feel her accomplishments would be equally as recognized. Just some food for thought. I liked your article a lot, I hope she comes back to speak in the future.

    Like

Comments are closed.