Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Women Scouts in the NFL

Over at ESPN, Jeff Davis makes the case for more women in the NFL scouting corps. Hard to argue with him. As I've said before, every institution benefits from diversity. More points of view are better for everyone, and while different genders don't guarantee meaningfully different points of view, it's a decent proxy. So, at the very least, any kind of formal or informal bar on women in any role in the NFL (outside of maybe playing, given the physical demands of the game) is indefensible and, ultimately, counter-productive for the NFL.

In fact, I'd say that the scouting corps has a uniquely pressing need for diversity. Scouting corps are, by and large, the exact sort of conventional-wisdom-spouting old-boys-clubs that resist every kind of major change in the game, whether it be broad scale reform or just hiring an athlete from a slightly different background. All too often, scouts are former players (of dubious skill or prestige) or long-time hangers-on. Generally speaking, they're way too focused on their subjective assessments of a players' "mental make up" or their narrow definition of "proper form" to understand the things that actually lead to success.

After all, the current NFL scouting corps says ridiculous things like this:

"I just don't know if football is that important to him. He was raised by women, which bothers me. I mean, how tough can he be? It's not his fault, but it's still reality."

On the micro-level, I'm confident that any woman working as a scout would dispel that bullshit right away. More importantly, at the macro-level, if scouts come from different backgrounds, it's a lot less likely that they will, as a group, be as beholden to the same outdated thoughts and resistant to new ideas. Which is not to say that any random woman is naturally more progressively-minded than the current NFL scouts. Just that different kinds of people are far less likely to think similarly.

Of course, there are many fine, open-minded NFL scouts out there already. They're willing to re-examine their own assumptions, and know that the game is changing- as is our understanding of it. They're not all in the smoke-filled backroom. But the good ones need their numbers bolstered. Greater diversity, and specifically, more woman is no guarantee of doing that- but it's a good place to start.

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