Lesley Visser has been one of the pioneers for women in sports media. She joined the Boston Globe in 1974 during an era when the paper had Bob Ryan covering the NBA, Peter Gammons on MLB, Will McDonough on the NFL and Bud Collins on tennis. After covering college basketball, horse racing, the NBA, MLB, tennis and other sports, she became the first woman to be a beat writer covering the NFL.

In 1984, she started working for CBS and then joined the network full-time in 1987. While mostly known for covering the NFL and doing features on the NFL Today, Visser also covered college basketball, the U.S. Open, horse racing and the NBA.

In 1990, she became a panelist on the NFL Today joining host Greg Gumbel, Terry Bradshaw and Pat O’Brien. She was the first and only woman to host the Super Bowl Trophy Presentation, an assignment that has been handled by Bob Costas, Dan Patrick, Mike Tirico, Bradshaw and Jim Nantz.

In 1993, Visser joined ABC Sports and ESPN. She became the first female sideline reporter on Monday Night Football in 1998 and left in 2000 to return of CBS where she has covered the NFL, NCAA Tournament, tennis and horse racing.

In 2001, she became the first female NFL analyst by joining Monday Night Football on Westwood One Radio.

And in 2006, she became the first woman enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame when she was honored with the Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award.

This week, Awful Announcing interviewed Visser at the NFL on CBS Media Day in New York and talked with her about women on television and other subjects. Here’s is an excerpt from that interview.

Awful Announcing: Nice to finally meet you!

Lesley Visser: We are so overdue for this! And do you know how far I go back? Because I was the first woman to cover the NFL as a beat and because the Boston Globe as you know was the Murderer’s Row of talent there with Gammons, Ryan and Bud, and it was so foreign … this is 1975, that I actually got a notice from the Draft Board because of course, I’m writing under “Lesley Visser” and of course that had to be a man, right? That’s how far I go back. The Draft Board said, “You have not reported,” so I have been through a lot of cultural moments.

AA: Today, we see a lot of women in sports broadcasting. You were one of the first female sideline reporters and we see women in that role today. Do you want to see women do more on television to host and do play-by-play?

LV: I’ll tell you this who just myself is a reporter and I’m sort of Ground Zero for that position …. look … CBS … all credit to (CBS Sports Chairman) Sean (McManus) and (CBS Sports President) David (Berson) and (Vice President of Production) Harold (Bryant), I mean we have great women at CBS. We have Tracy Wolfson, we just hired Jenny Dell.

This is what gratifies me. I’ve been a beat writer, I’ve been a columnist, I’ve been a feature reporter, I’ve been a panelist on The NFL Today, I’ve done the sideline thing. So having done all those jobs gratifies me that a young woman now can say I want to do that and it does exist.

There was a time when it was strange to be a black quarterback. I love it now that it’s natural for anyone to say, “I want to do that,” and yes, I think that if a woman wants to host or if she wants to do anything, she can.

AA: Over the last 20 years, we’ve seen more women on the air, but what is it about this nastiness especially in social media when a woman comes on and as was the case on WEEI when Erin Andrews was called a b**ch. Why is it some people are so negative when they see women on the air?

LV: I think it’s only some. And it is my experience that with social media and the Twitter characters, there’s not enough time for a sense of humor. And I do know the way I have made it through four decades now, is that I’ve tried to say, “OK, what’s a lighter perspective here,” because everyone is trying to deal with it. So I do think women are accepted in reporting on sports.

I know that having a sense of humor is vital. I will tell you as the only woman in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and I always tease Michael Irvin about this that that was a huge day (for me to get in), and people were knocking me down to get to Michael Irvin and he didn’t get in until the next year (laughs). But if you don’t have a sense of humor, you’re really going to be in trouble. And I look at it as everyone has an opportunity now. Think of this as a country of opportunity.

The entire interview with Lesley Visser can be heard on the Fang’s Bites podcast which will be out later this week.

About Ken Fang

Ken has been covering the sports media in earnest at his own site, Fang's Bites since May 2007 and at Awful Announcing since March 2013.

He provides a unique perspective having been an award-winning radio news reporter in Providence and having worked in local television.

Fang celebrates the four Boston Red Sox World Championships in the 21st Century, but continues to be a long-suffering Cleveland Browns fan.