June 20, 2005
John Molori's Media Blitz 6/20
BY: John Molori
MEDIA BLITZ By John Molori THIS WEEK:
- Visser’s victory
Visser is a true media trailblazer
A lot of media types fancy themselves as original or groundbreaking. Very few back up those claims with fact. Consider CBS Sports’ Lesley Visser one of the very few. Visser is being honored by The 2005 Tradition, an annual gathering of Boston sports’ best and brightest at The FleetCenter.
“I am stunned by the honor,” says Visser, a Quincy, MA native whose career began as a sportswriter at The Boston Globe in 1974. “This is the type of event that I would cover, not be honored by. I grew up idolizing Bob Cousy and I worked with Mike Eruzione. I owe everything to Boston. When I was a kid, other little girls went out on Halloween dressed as Mary Poppins. I went as (former Celtics great) Sam Jones.”
Cousy, Eruzione and the rest of the 1980 US Olympic Hockey team, along with several other sports luminaries join Visser as this year’s honorees on June 21. Visit fleetcenter.com for more details.
Visser was one of the first sportswriters to make the leap to television when she joined CBS in 1984. She went on to become the first and only woman to host a Super Bowl postgame show, the first woman on “Monday Night Football,” the first female Super Bowl sideline reporter, the first woman to work a Final Four broadcast and the first female NFL analyst.
All this came from humble beginnings. She states, “In 1974, a media credential actually said that no women or children were allowed in the press box. There were no ladies’ rest rooms in press boxes. The Boston Globe really took a chance hiring a 19 year-old Boston College junior.”
Visser did not shirk her role as a trailblazer for women in sports broadcasting. “I had great trepidation at first, but it is so honorable to be a good role model. Now, you see too many sideline actresses, not reporters. I knew sports.”
Visser says that African-American players treated her especially kindly because they knew what it was like to overcome stereotypes and break new ground. “I got letters from people who said that they wouldn’t read my stuff just because I am a woman,” says Visser. “The draft board actually sent me a draft notice. They thought Lesley was a man’s name because no woman could be a sportswriter.”
At The Globe, Visser learned from the likes of Peter Gammons, Bob Ryan, Bud Collins and Leigh Montville. “They were all so great to me,” she states. “I remember going with Gammons to see Bonnie Raitt at a coffee house in Cambridge. Those were great times.”
Visser’s transition to television was seamless. She says, “CBS came to me and said, ‘We know you know sports. We’d like to teach you about television.’ I still consider myself a writer, only now I am speaking on deadline. People who move to television and stick are authentic. The ones who are not authentic come and go.”
After spending seven years at ABC (1993-2000), Visser returned to CBS. “I was at ABC at the end of their glory years, but it was great,” says Visser, who stood alongside the likes of Walter Cronkite and Carol Burnett in celebrating the 75th Anniversary of CBS in 2003.
“I have such respect for CBS. It’s where I started and probably where I’ll finish. (CBS Sports President) Sean McManus doesn’t demand loyalty, he creates it.”
You could say that sports television emulated the wrong part of Lesley Visser. She is a student of sports as well as a very attractive woman. Sports television executives seem to have adopted only the latter quality with some recent hiring trends. Physical beauty goes a long way, but knowledge and depth are even more essential.
Visser points to Fox’s Pam Oliver, ESPN’s Suzy Kolber, The Globe’s Jackie MacMullan, USA Today’s Christine Brennan, Sally Jenkins of The Washington Post and HBO’s Mary Carillo as positive examples of women in sports media.
“I would never sit in judgment of anyone,” says Visser. “Hey, Playboy once offered me the opportunity to pose and I declined. It’s not just a gender thing. I wouldn’t want CBS to replace (sideline reporter) Armen Keteyian with a Chippendale dancer.”
In 1975, Visser met then-Red Sox announcer Dick Stockton before the fabled Game 6 of the World Series. At the time, Stockton’s broadcast booth assistant was future ESPN star Chris Berman. Visser and Stockton have been married for 25 years and remain two of the best and busiest people in broadcasting.
Says Visser, “Everyone knows Dick. It’s nothing for Magic Johnson, Joe Torre or Gregg Popovich to come over to us and embrace Dick as a friend. We find time together. We go to Europe for three weeks, just to take off and relax with some good books.”
Visser counts Villanova’s 1985 NCAA Tourney upset of Georgetown and 1989 coverage of the fall of the Berlin Wall as her most memorable stories. She would someday like to cover the Tour De France and aptly puts sports in global terms saying, “Sports is history. It is the great passport.”
As the only sportscaster, male or female, to work a network broadcast of the Super Bowl, World Series, NBA Finals, Triple Crown, Olympics and World Figure Skating Championships, Visser’s contributions to broadcasting go beyond the boundaries of gender.
Joe Torre once said of Visser, “She doesn’t demand respect, she commands it.” Even a reporter as credible and trustworthy as Lesley Visser never spoke words so true.
This week, Brian Oates will be hustling around as a marketing executive for the Champions Tour Bank of America Championship at Nashawtuc Country Club in Concord, MA. When the tourney is complete, Oates and some special friends will continue hustling for an even greater cause.
In 2003, Oates and Jay Monahan, who works for the PGA Tour in Boston, attended the funeral of friend Rob Stevens. Stevens succumbed to cancer, leaving behind a wife and three young children. In addition, Monahan’s mother successfully fought breast cancer.
With these stark inspirations, Oates and Monahan founded "Golf Fights Cancer" (GFC), a non-profit organization of golf professionals and average golfers committed to using the sport to raise funds for cancer research.
GFC has collaborated with New England golf courses in organizing fundraising events to benefit cancer-related agencies. 100% of the proceeds raised are distributed to these organizations. “Golf Magazine” has jumped on board by offering a one-year subscription with every paid greens fee at participating courses during June.
“I am just in the background,” says the ultra-professional Oates, a former marketing executive with the Boston Bruins. “This is about a community of golfers getting together to make a difference.” For more info on GFC events, courses and donations, visit GolfFightsCancer.com.
Chris Price, Boston Metro: Price brings a vast knowledge of all sports and a palpable passion to his writing and guest shots on WEEI with Ted Sarandis. A rising multi-media star for sure.
Mike Adams, WEEI: In recent weeks, WEEI has paired Adams with Bob Halloran, Lenny Megliola, Jon Wallach, Chris Price, John Dennis and Gerry Callahan. In each case, he has been superb and has brought out the best in his co-hosts.
James Murphy, AM 1510: Murphy, a respected hockey writer, has hit a home run with his new “E-4” baseball show (Saturdays, 2:00 p.m.) with Brian Malone. What Murphy and Malone lack in on-air savvy, they make up for in knowledge and interesting guests.
Glenn Ordway impersonators, WEEI: Several “Whiner Line” callers are doing a bad copycat impression of Ordway, painting him as non-committal on issues. The impression is lousy - it sounds more like an effeminate Cary Grant, and inaccurate - Ordway seldom waffles on key topics.
U.S. Open, 7NBC: Golf is not a made-for-television sport. Bad golf is even less attractive. Tiger Woods missed putts like the Olsen twins miss meals. Retief Goosen conjured up memories of Jean Van de Velde and longtime PGA underachiever Michael Campbell was smugly arrogant in victory.
Best Damn Sports Show, Period, Fox Sports Net: This unique mélange of sports and show biz has had its moments, but with new co-hosts Rodney Peete and Rob Dibble just slightly more interesting than mortar mix, it’s time to put this tired dog to sleep. How bad is it? I actually miss Tom Arnold.
John Molori's columns are published in The Providence Journal, The Boston Metro, The Lawrence Eagle-Tribune, The Salem Evening News, The Newburyport Daily News, The Gloucester Times, Patriots Football Weekly, Boston Sports Review, New England Hockey Journal, TheRemyReport.com, PatsFans.com, BostonSportsReview.com, BostonSportsMedia.com and MethuenOnline.com. Email John at JOMOL3@aol.com.
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