Sunday media extra: What they’re saying about Beth Mowins’ ‘MNF’ Chargers assignment

Beth Mowins and Matt Millen work a recent Raiders’ exhibition game in Dallas.

Let’s just call it what it is: Beth Mowins is the right person at the right time at the right network to write some history. A ready-for-prime-time player. Status quo, you’ll rightfully be shaken.
As she prepares to call the Chargers-Broncos game as the second half of ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” upcoming doubleheader — and in addition to the story we have posted about her in our Sunday column — we asked several broadcasters in the business who have a vested interest in seeing Mowins succeed talk about their thoughts leading up to this moment:

AL MICHAELS
The ABC and NBC prime-time football play-by-play man since 1986
“This chance is well-deserved. When I’ve listened to her in the past, it’s clear that she is extremely well-prepared. The irony in her MNF debut is that’s she’ll be the veteran and Rex Ryan will be the ultimate rookie calling his first-ever game. I think it’s terrific that women in my business are getting more and more opportunities. I’ve worked with three — Lesley Visser, Andrea Kremer and Michele Tafoya — who I’d put up against any reporter covering the NFL. I’m rooting for Beth to do a terrific job. Just hope she gets a good game to cover and not something like 41-3.”

ANDREA KREMER
Chief correspondent for the NFL Network, NBC sideline reporter on “Sunday Night Football” and HBO “Real Sports” reporter
“I was at a symposium at the University of Maryland last year on a panel that included John Skipper, the ESPN president. At one point, I turned to John and said: ‘What’s it going to take for a woman to call play-by-play in an NFL game?’  He predicted it would happen – and needless to say, I think it has been a longtime coming, but I’m thrilled she’s getting the opportunity she deserves. I hope I’m not naïve in saying this, but her ascending to this role has an ‘Oh, by the way, she’s a woman’ aspect to it. Her role is magnified by the fact they’ve picked a novice analyst – that’s huge. This isn’t a D-game where she’s breaking in an analyst. She is being put in a position to succeed and is highly qualified. Plus she has a voice that really cuts through.”

Jessica Mendoza, center, with Beth Mowins, right, and Michele Smith at the 2014 College Softball World Series. (ESPN)

JESSICA MENDOZA
ESPN “Sunday Night Baseball” analyst the last two seasons
“The fact that I got into (prime-time MLB) baseball a few years ago and she still hasn’t crossed into the NFL until now… I’m surprised it’s finally happened in 2017. She’s always been the right person for this. I know her like family. When ESPN first considered me as a softball analyst in 2006, I was an Olympic athlete with zero interest in TV and just trying it out. They flew Beth into a studio to work with me in Charlotte, N.C., because of all her softball experience, and here’s my first introduction to all this. We ran through the game, and they hired me the next day. And maybe 85 percent of all the softball games I’ve done since then over the last 11 years have been with her – all that from the beginning.
“I remember a spring training baseball game when she did the call with John Kruk and we talked then about getting into the men’s sports TV field. That was six years ago. We wondered what it would be like to even do a game together.
“She has been a huge influence for me. I’ve always looked up to her. She’s no BS – she won’t rah-rah you. But she’s always been there for me, telling it me it won’t be easy. But some of the best things in live never are.”

LESLEY VISSER
Ground-breaking reporter at CBS, ABC and ESPN and first woman to be an NFL analyst (on radio), only woman in the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a broadcaster with an autobiography coming in December entitled “Sometimes You Have to Cross When It Says Don’t Walk: A Memoir of Breaking Barriers”

David M. Russell/CBS

“Beth is a goddess –I’m serious. To have the courage and the skill to defy what many people are saying and thinking, to be singular in her talent … she is all that. When I was the only woman covering the NFL, waiting in the parking lot after games, seven years before provisions for equal access, people thought I was crazy, but I loved the game and the challenge, and I’m sure Beth feels the same. She is talented, honorable, kind, and her time has come – champagne all around.”

LISA SALTERS
ESPN “Monday Night Football” sideline reporter
“Last time I saw her in Cleveland (for a practice game), I just told her: ‘Crush it like I know you’re going to.’ It’s a little amusing to me there’s even a question about it. You’ll see that it’s even unnecessary to ask about it.”

MICHELE TAFOYA
NBC “Sunday Night Football” sideline reporter who also did “Monday Night Football” at ESPN and ABC
“She has worked a long time on her play-by-play career and has earned this opportunity.  It takes courage to put herself into the spotlight this way.  No doubt there will be detractors.  My hope is that she focuses only on her job and ignores the noise.  Beth’s assignment to this game is another sign that sports broadcasting continues to evolve. … Developments like these cannot be forced.  It would have been unfair to put someone in this position who was unprepared.  Beth is clearly ready.  And I think this will encourage more women to try play-by-play.  I worked play-by-play on college basketball — men’s and women’s — and the WNBA, and it’s a blast.”

Debbie Antonelli, left, works with Beth Mowins on a Duke-Notre Dame women’s college basketball game last March. (Associated Press)

DEB ANTONELLI
ESPN college basketball analyst and the first woman in years to be included in the CBS/Turner coverage of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament last spring
“I remember Beth doing sideline for years, then getting her first chance to be play by play in college football. It’s a validation for her prep, hard work and dedication when no one is watching. Now everyone is watching and she has nothing to prove. This was her dream when she was a little girl growing up in Syracuse on her toy ‘mike that I believe was called “Mr. Microphone”. How ironic is that?
“(As it relates to the NCAA basketball tournament assignment), the outside pressures change because there will be more attention and more scrutiny but the internal pressure and attention to detail doesn’t change. I want to do a great job no matter the assignment. I kept my focus on my responsibilities, my prep, my pregame and stay accountable to my teammates in the booth. If there was negative social media during my broadcasts for the men’s tournament, I am unaware. My focus is on my job and my broadcast team. I love the film breakdown and the practices and that’s how you keep your focus on the job.”

SEAN McDONOUGH
Current lead play-by-play on ESPN “Monday Night Football”
“I don’t think in any way is this a gimmick. She’s earned it on her merits in our play-by-play people profession group, she’s widely regarded as one of the best in our business male or female…I just told her when I saw her in Cleveland (doing a practice game) that, ‘Hey, just don’t do too good a job (laughing)… I’d like to do this for more than two years’.”

KATE SCOTT
Pac-12 Network broadcaster who became the network’s first woman to call a college football game (Northern Arizona at Arizona) last Saturday and has also called San Francisco 49ers exhibition games on radio
“I don’t think I can say this enough. I truly believe, I don’t get to call last Saturday’s NAU-Arizona game down in the desert without her. I don’t get asked to fill-in on the radio side for the 49ers last year without Beth. I don’t get offered the chance to call high school games here in the Bay Area years ago if it weren’t for her. And more than anything, I don’t believe this is something I can do, let alone turn into a career, if it weren’t for Beth (and Pam Ward) taking the baton from Gayle Sierens all those years ago and running with it.
“And that’s another thing I hope folks realize. This isn’t a stunt. She’s earned this. Beth has flat-out earned it. She’s worked her tail off for over a decade. She’s called college games all over the country, done Raiders preseason the last few years, she’s put in the time necessary to prepare for this moment.
“And for someone like me who’s been paying attention since I first heard her back in 2005, it’s incredibly motivating to hear the growth from then to now. To hear how great and polished and ready she is for this. It gives me hope that if I continue to grind and get reps and really come to understand the nuances of calling football, that one day I, too, might sound as natural and meant for this as she does. When I listen to her these days, I don’t hear a woman calling football anymore. I hear a great broadcaster making a game I love that much more enjoyable.”

SHELLEY SMITH
ESPN reporter
“Beth is one of the most amazing announcers I’ve ever worked with. We were doing a football game together — I was sidelines — and she was off to do four other sports later in the week. I’m amazed at how she juggles it all and stays on top of each team, each sport. To me it’s no big deal to have her call a Monday Night game. I’m sure some will make it one, but it shouldn’t be an issue. Period.”

ANN SCHATZ
Play-by-play broadcaster for ESPN, CBS Sports Network and the Pac-12 Network and the voice of the Portland Thorns FC National Women’s Soccer League team
“To call Beth a true pro is undeniably an understatement. This opportunity has been long in the making … one earned and one to be celebrated. Truth is, Beth’s milestone gig does indeed shine a light on a brilliant sports broadcaster who will also be judged and critiqued differently because of her gender. She knows that. We all know that.  But the key is that Beth will not be distracted or knocked off her perch. She’s too talented, too prepared, too professional. And too damn focused on the job at hand. She is so ready. So dialed in.  I am proud of Beth Mowins and proud for Beth Mowins.”

CINDY BRUNSON
Former ESPN “SportsCenter” anchor doing play-by-play for the Pac-12 Network
“During my 13 years at ESPN, I crossed paths with Beth on several occasions, mostly during coverage of women’s college basketball and softball when I was hosting studio coverage and she was calling games. Beth is a consummate professional and … nce she started calling Raiders preseason games in 2015, I knew it would just be a matter of time before an NFL regular season gig would come her way. Beth’s attention to detail, preparation and ability to weave stories in and around the action is the ideal blueprint for anyone interested in doing play by play to follow – including yours truly.
“I’d never done play by play until I left ESPN. I’d been asked several times to incorporate play by play duties into my SportsCenter and specialty show hosting work schedule, but I always passed because I thought the travel would be too much.  When my husband, Steve Berthiaume got the gig to become the Diamondbacks TV play by play guy and we left ESPN, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do out West. We moved to Arizona right as the women’s basketball conference tournaments and NCAA tournament were getting underway in 2013.  It was the first time I got to watch and listen to Beth do her thing for an entire game without the distraction of hosting halftime shows or preparing to host SportsCenters. The light bulb went on above my head — a kind of ‘see Beth, be Beth’ deal. Luckily for me, Pac-12 Network called and I was able to put my play by play plan into action.
“What’s incredible now, is Mowins is creating that ‘see Beth, be Beth’ template for aspiring NFL broadcasters. Beth is as authentic as the day is long and she has an amazing sense of humor, too.  Her love for what she does comes shining through during every one of her telecasts and as viewers and listeners, we’re lucky to be along for the ride.”

ANNE MARIE ANDERSON
Pac-12/TBS/Fox Sports play-by-play broadcaster
“In 2003 I took over an ESPN regional football sideline package job with the Mountain West that Beth had occupied before me.  She was moving up and on to another position.  I remember distinctly that my analyst mentioned to me that Beth intended to call football play by play.  She was clear in the path she planned to take even back then.
“As I see the social media discussion surrounding her assignment and her gender, I am mildly amused because I guarantee you Beth is not spending any time thinking about the negative comments.  She has work to do and is no doubt preparing her boards, researching and watching film just as any other high level play-by-play person does in preparation for their assignment.
“I don’t look at Beth’s assignment as a ‘victory for women.’ It’s a victory for a hardworking and talented play by play announcer. This is my 28th year in sports television and I have seen many firsts, and many people put in positions to generate buzz.  This is not that – Beth Mowins has simply done the work very, very well, and her calling Monday Night Football to me shows her talent and relentless hard work has been recognized.  As for those who want to suggest otherwise or dwell on her gender … I’d be happy to chat, but I have work to do.”

ALSO:
== Phil Rosenthal of the Chicago Tribune writes: “Before Beth Mowins, there was play-by-play pioneer Leandra Reilly Lardner” with some reaction by Chicago-based female broadcasters.

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