The sports media voices of Title IX: Lesley Visser

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Credit: Allsport, via ESPN.com, and a column by LZ Granderson about the lack of women dong TV play by play (linked here).

A former Boston Globe writer who make the successful leap to TV work at CBS and ABC, Lesley Visser was voted No. 1 Female Sportscaster of all-time by the American Sportscasters Association, and became the first woman in the Pro Football Hall of Fame media wing in 2006.

She’s in a league of her own.

Visser said she got somewhat emotional when writing out her thoughts on how Title IX shaped her professional career at an important moment in her college life:

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I wanted to be a sportswriter from the time I was 19 years old, as a junior at Boston College. I won a Carnegie Foundation Grant that was given to 20 women in the country “who wanted to go into jobs that were 90 percent male.”

As you know, sportswriting was 100 percent, but my passion outweighed the hurdles. I went to the Boston Globe, named by Sports Illustrated as the No 1 sports section of all time — 1975-80, I was there until the mid-80s — and I don’t have to tell you what pressure that was. Peter Gammons, Will McDonough, Bud Collins, Bob Ryan, no Google, no Internet, no cell phones. Just you and your brain on deadline.

I remember Billie Jean King beating Bobby Riggs in September of my junior year — 1973. I believed it was the seminal moment of the women’s movement. She once said she had to do it because Title IX had just been passed. Her victory was everything — gender equity, financial equity, leadership, guts. (As a personal aside: Billie Jean has given only one “Outstanding Journalist Award,” and she gave it to me, as important personally as being the first woman in the Pro Football Hall of Fame)

Billie Jean didn’t just give me a chance, she gave every woman in this country the chance. The Globe made the first woman to cover the NFL as a beat, and when the credentials came (in 1976), it said — get this — “no women or children in the press box.” There were no ladies rooms, because, of course, there were no women!

I’m indebted to my mentors, because a career like mine could not have happened without Vince Doria (at the Globe), Ted Shaker at CBS (who made me the first and only woman to handle a Super Bowl presentation in 1992), and Les Moonves and Sean McManus of CBS, who just re-upped a 58-year-old woman in network television sports. Each of these men took as great, or greater risks, than I did — they had to navigate the same culture.

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