A babe reporter walks into a locker room. Catcalls ensue; jock straps fly; penises shrivel. She doesn't understand the words, but she understands the sexual tension. It's palpable when an attractive woman appears. Palpable. Players call it campdick.
Campdick refers to the disproportionate excitement a player feels when he sees a woman, any woman, during training camp, a time when women are rarely seen and 80 grown men are sequestered with one another for 14 hours a day. Campdick.
Campdick is what caused some Jets players to get super-dorky giddy when Ines Sainz walked onto their field and into their locker room. Campdick is what made head coach Rex Ryan and assistant coach Dennis Thurman supposedly throw footballs in her direction. They did it for their own campdick and the campdick of their players. Campdick as team bonding ritual. On teams whose practices are open to the public, players scout the crowd for women to ogle and whisper about. Look at HER! I love her! Campdick.
The mere presence of a woman in the sacrosanct isolationist chamber of the NFL is so rare that when it happens players behave like pubescent boys. Fidgety, clownish, extra loud, macho, metaphorically itching to retreat to the bathroom with dad's Playboy and a box of Kleenex. So it wasn't strange that that Ines, beautiful Ines, brought out the wankers on the Jets.
For starters, football players have no idea how to talk to women. For many of the young and unmarried in the NFL, interactions with the opposite sex tend to occur while partially clothed in the locker room or while partially sober at bars. Naked or drunk. Many players never learn — and aren't taught — how to have a professional, non-sexual relationship with a woman.
On top of that, the locker room isn't the real world. A different moral and social code applies. There are things you can say and do and imply in a locker room that might get you locked up outside, that would make my mother squirm. Ideas about women are the most glaring. The way women are discussed in the locker room is crude, yes. It's chauvinistic, yes. Childish, yes. Inevitable, yes. With no professional women present to hold players accountable for how they speak, players say whatever brutish nonsense is on their brains. It is often funny, of course; the locker room is one big comedy club. Sex gets the most laughs, so sexual discussions are common. When you're around it daily, and no one else is around it, you understand that it's harmless. But when it leaks out of the room and into the public space, into the media, context vanishes.
Ines Sainz was not harassed. Her beauty embarrassed these men, and their response was awkwardness, which made everyone feel weird and start talking about the strange dynamic of women interviewing naked men. Now everyone is chiming in, exploring every corner of the argument. The news cycle once again prevails, and the only result is to further enable the talking-head idiots and their out-of-touch analysis. It's all pretty stupid.
The relationship between male athletes and female reporters is actually rather unremarkable. Most players know that women reporters in the locker room are there to do a job, and they treat them professionally. The women reporters know they are there to do a job, too, and they do theirs professionally. Every once in a while players spot a cockwatcher, but it's rare, and the cockwatchers usually don't last long as journalists. During my years in the NFL, a few women reporters dressed in a way that revealed not only their bodies but their intentions, which in time were satisfied by one or two of the several jerks who exist on every team. Clinton Portis is right. People like to have sex. But the percentage of players or journalists crossing the line in this awkward arena is so small as to be utterly insignificant.
What is significant is that actual relationships between players and women — journalists, bakers, candlestick makers — isn't especially evolved. If the NFL were smart, it would stop posturing about giving a damn and actually give a damn. The workplace-conduct training ordered up by Roger Goodell the other day is fine. But players sit through a lot of lectures already, many of which go in one earhole and out the other. How about creating more opportunities for players to interact with women inside and outside the team? Or encouraging teams to hire more female media-relations employees or other women who'd interact with the players on a daily basis? Otherwise, the list of Ineses will continue to grow, and so will all those campdicks.
Nate Jackson played tight end for the Denver Broncos from 2003 to 2008.