Visser Is Ground-Breaking Choice for the Hall of Fame
When CBS Sports reporter Lesley Visser first began covering the NFL for the Boston Globe at age 20, she was assigned to a New England Patriots game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Three Rivers Stadium.
Back then, female reporters weren’t allowed into locker rooms. So she waited in the parking lot to interview Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw, poised with her pen and reporter’s notebook.
When Bradshaw spotted her, he grabbed her pen and pad, gave her an autograph and walked away.
Years later, when Bradshaw and Visser were colleagues at CBS, Visser told Bradshaw about that earlier brief meeting.
Bradshaw being Bradshaw shrugged and with a laugh said, “My autograph was worth more than anything you were going to write for the Boston Globe.”
Visser began her career in sports journalism two years earlier, landing a job at the Globe through a grant from the Carnegie Foundation while a student at Boston College.
Tonight, at a dinner in Canton, Ohio, she becomes the first woman to be honored by the Pro Football Hall of Fame when she receives the Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award.
Previous winners include the likes of Curt Gowdy, Ray Scott, Pat Summerall, John Madden, Dick Enberg, Charlie Jones, Jack Buck, Frank Gifford, Lindsey Nelson, Chris Schenkel, Ed Sabol and Roone Arledge.
“I am humbled by this award,” she said on a conference call with reporters Wednesday. “I grew up listening to Curt Gowdy on cheap transistors and to think that I am going to get an award named after Pete Rozelle is really staggering to me.”
When Visser began covering the NFL, there not only was no access, there were no ladies rooms in the press boxes.
“I am enormously appreciative of people like Pete Rozelle and Paul Tagliabue and people who created equal access,” she said.
“When I started, it was the time of Watergate and it was the time of opportunities for women. I do think we were really authentic. I mean, my scenario was that I had knowledge. I had passion. And it met opportunity.”
Now Visser is not only a pioneer, she is a veteran.
“I can remember the first time I interviewed Peyton Manning, he said, ‘Oh my God, my dad said how you used to interview him.’ ”
Visser said as a kid, one of her favorite players was the Boston Celtics’ Sam Jones.
“On Halloween, girls would dress up as Mary Poppins,” she said. “I would dress up as Sam Jones.”
Now that a woman has been recognized by the Hall of Fame, no doubt others will follow.
Asked who those women might be, Visser mentions reporter Andrea Kremer and Oakland Raiders executive Amy Trask.
“I hope the flood gates open,” she said.
Fox Has Eye on Donahue
Former UCLA football coach and San Francisco 49ers general manager Terry Donahue is close to signing with Fox Sports, sources said. If things work out, Donahue would work six NFL games and one BCS bowl game as a commentator.
Donahue worked for CBS Sports as a college football commentator after retiring as the winningest football coach in Pacific 10 Conference history in 1995. Last year, he became a commentator for the Sports USA radio network, and would still be able to work for that network along with Fox.