I’m not sure I’ve ever started a show with such high expectations as I had going into Pitch. I may not be much of a baseball fan, but sports and feminism are two of my favourite things, and a show that combined the two was obviously going to draw my attention.
I was not disappointed. That pilot was undoubtedly one of the best I’ve ever seen. It was emotional, charming, realistic and empowering, a wonderful portrait of sports culture and what it means to be a woman in that field. It was everything I could have hoped for in a pilot, and more. One episode in, I’m already hooked.
Let’s take a look at what worked in Pitch’s first episode.
Ginny’s story is one you hear a lot from female athletes. Her dad wanted a son good enough to make it to the big leagues, and when that didn’t work out, he turned to his daughter. She grew up playing with boys, having to prove herself every step of the way. It wasn’t enough for her to be good. She had to be the best, better than every boy in competition for her spot, or she would never make it.
There’s a quote that says that a woman has to work twice as hard as a man to be thought of as half as good, and that’s exactly what Ginny did.
It’s not just female athletes who can relate to her position. Any woman who has ever had to work in a male-dominated environment knows just how lonely and intimidating it can be. And one symptom of being the only woman is that you start to think that every failure will be attributed to the fact that you’re a girl. When you’re the only girl in the room, and you’re not as good as the boys, aren’t you proving the stereotypes right? Aren’t you making all the boys in the room think that girls aren’t as smart, as athletic, as boys are? It’s paralyzing. I started playing hockey when I was twelve and I can’t tell you how often I wished I could write “I’M IN MY FIRST YEAR” on my helmet so the boys at camps and clinics wouldn’t judge me.
Ginny did what every woman in that situation is terrified of doing: she screwed up. Badly. And in doing so she let down every young girl in the stands and at home hoping to witness an historic achievement. It’s unfair that there was so much pressure on her, but that’s just the ugly truth of her situation.
I’m already becoming attached to this team. Their dynamic is realistic, entertaining, and something that works well for television. You’ve got Blip Sanders, the nice, supportive guy with mad respect for Ginny who knows perfectly well that the only reason he made it to the big leagues before her is because he’s a man and she’s a woman. You’ve got the manager who doesn’t want anything to do with Ginny and has no interest whatsoever in making sports a more inclusive environment for women. Then there’s Tommy, who thinks that being replaced by a woman is an insult to his masculinity and his athletic abilities. Any girl who’s ever played with boys has encountered plenty of people like him.
And then there’s Mike Lawson, who is basically every self-obsessed white male superstar athlete who gets adored by fans because he comes off as funny and attractive and charming yet deep down is a total douchebag who cares about nothing but his own success. If you watch sports, you recognize him. He’s in every locker room. He’s that guy you’re constantly making excuses for because you desperately want him to be a good person. He totally didn’t mean that stupid thing he said on Twitter, right? And that misogynistic comment about the female reporter? Just a joke. Of course he’s a good guy, look at all the money he donates to charity! And there’s no way to prove those sexual assault allegations anyway, right?
I’m sure Pitch will make me like him eventually. He doesn’t seem like a terrible human being, he’s funny, and I think Ginny needs him. Maybe I’m being judging him too quickly. But he’ll need to grow a whole lot for me to think him worthy of even talking to Ginny Baker.
It’s about more than selling a few extra tickets
One of my favourite moments was when the owner of the Padres decided to keep Ginny with the team despite her terrible start and ADMITTED that it was about more than selling tickets.
You can’t treat Ginny like she’s “just another guy,” because she’s not. She is a trailblazer for women who want an opportunity to play with men, and if you send her down you set everything back. How often do first round draft picks get to stay in the big leagues for way longer than they deserve just because their team’s management desperately needs them to be good? It should be the same way with Ginny. I’m so glad Pitch acknowledged that.
The relationship between Ginny and her dad fascinates me. We see so little of him in the pilot, and he’s always saying the same things, and yet it’s clear that there are so many layers to his character and to his relationship with his daughter.
On the one hand, we know that he was Ginny’s biggest influence growing up. He taught her to pitch. He pushed her relentlessly. Her drive, her perseverance, clearly comes from him. When he died, he became a martyr for her. It’s obvious that Ginny loved him and still wants to make him proud.
But on the other hand, he was abusive. He hit his son so that his daughter would be motivated to pitch well. We don’t know how many times he did it, but it happened once and that’s enough. He projected his unfulfilled dreams onto his kids and withheld praise when they did well. He made his daughter think that she had to make it to the big leagues, had to impress him. And when Ginny screwed up her first shot at success, she felt like a failure. In the end, what she needed wasn’t her dad’s memory, or her relentless desire to please him, it was Mike Lawson’s advice: do it for yourself.
Her dad was far from perfect. He wasn’t exactly father of the year material. But he instilled in her a love for the game that is going to do more for her than his constant pressuring ever could.
- The score in this episode was FANTASTIC.
- I adore Evelyn and I can’t wait to see more of her relationship with Ginny. That whole family is delightful.
- Can we also take a second to appreciate the fact that Pitch has introduced a male/female friendship that’s portrayed as totally normal, in Ginny and Blip?
- Am I the only person who thinks this new manager they end up hiring is going to be a woman? Or is it too early for that?
- Also, can we have a little scene next episode where they fire the old manager? Pretty please? I’d like to see his face when he finds out.
- I love that Pitch featured so many women involved in sports, and especially so many female fans. Eventually, they’ll have to deal with the ugly side of sports fandom – sexist chants in visiting arenas, inappropriate comments, people who want Ginny off their team just because she’s a woman – but it’s great that for her first game there were so many female fans rooting for her.
Pitch airs Thursdays at 9pm on Fox.