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In Sports Commentary

This is the Lesley Visser most of us remember. (Photo: CBS)

In Sports Commentary

As recently as two years ago, Visser remained young looking despite being in her late 50s.

In Sports Commentary

Visser last weekend at the NCAA Tournament was almost unrecognizable. (Photo: CBS)

In Sports Commentary

Big Ten Network and NBA TV's Melanie Collins was hired right out of college.

In Sports Commentary

Collins has been both a sportscaster and entertainment presenter in the two years since she graduated from Penn State.

In Sports Commentary

Collins worked as a model prior to graduation.

In Sports Commentary

Samantha Steele also was hired straight out of college by network executives looking to "pretty up" their broadcasts.

In Sports Commentary

While Steele's work ethic has been praised, there is no question she was selected over other candidates because of her model good looks.

Is television the root of all evil?


I was shocked at what I was looking at.

A once familiar face stretched out beyond recognition in what one can only assume is a final fleeting attempt to look young again.

Lesley Visser is one of the most respected sports journalists in history. She paved the way for other female broadcasters, particularly (but not limited to) sportscasters who rely on brains before beauty, and showed you can certainly have both. After all, television was her second career. She began as a sportswriter with the Boston Globe at the age of 21 and spent 14 years there laying the foundation for one of the most storied sports journalism careers in history.

To be sure, Visser has no one to apologize to and nothing to prove to anyone as a journalist. After all, she is the only sportscaster – male or female – to have worked on the national broadcast crew for the Final Four, NBA Finals, World Series, Triple Crown, Wimbledon, The Olympics, the Super Bowl and the U.S. Open tennis tournament. She remains the only woman to have ever handled the Super Bowl trophy presentation.

In other words, in the world of sportscasters, Lesley Visser is a rock star. In the world of being a female role model for young women wanting to go into her profession, she has no peer. In fact, she is the only woman to be awarded the prestigious "Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award" by the Pro Football Hall of Fame, having received the honor before such broadcasting giants as Jim Nantz and Chris Berman.

The accolades go on and on; the brilliance of a pioneer into what is traditionally a male-dominated field and breaking down the door with not a sledgehammer but rather a Mack Truck.

But I didn't recognize Visser when I saw her interviewing coaches, players, and celebrities at the NCAA Tournament this year. Tragically, she, like so many before her, is experiencing the false promise of eternal youth in a plastic surgery scalpel that derailed horrifically off the tracks.

What was once a vibrant face with as much credibility as personality, as much charm as substance, and as much knowledge as savvy, had become just another casualty to what society allegedly demands.

A quick internet search of "Lesley Visser plastic surgery" only references a terrible accident that she suffered in 1993 that required surgery on her face and hip. But that was almost 20 years ago. That doesn't come close to explaining the face of the stranger that was staring back at me during the NCAA Tournament.

But inasmuch as this is about Lesley Visser, it is more about how we are delivered our sports news. Visser is only the latest television performer to use the most desperate of measures to please television executives that do not respect viewers enough to place substance over style.

I have spent much of the last five years on local television here in Milwaukee; mostly as a guest and a panelist, but occasionally as a presenter or host. And believe me, no one will ever mistake me for George Clooney. But on programs like the Sports 32 Roundtable, host Dennis Krause and producer Tom Kurtz only care that you know what you are talking about rather than what you look like. That substance over style (I would like to think) is what has made that show one of the most watched nightly programs by sports fans in Wisconsin.

Because the executives in charge respect the intelligence of the audience enough to value actual content, the show has been a hit.

Unfortunately it seems Roundtable is the exception rather than the rule. And for every Lesley Visser wannabe, there are 100 blonde swimsuit models right out of college who think that because they can string two sentences together that should give them the network jobs that seasoned veterans are getting pushed out of.

Melanie Collins is one example. A former swimsuit model, Collins was plucked right out of Penn State University and put on NBA TV, the Big Ten Network, NASCAR.com and PGA.com. Her credentials?

She's hot.

Samantha Steele is another. Like Collins, a lithe blonde stunner, Steele graduated from Liberty University in 2009. By the fall of that year she was already working the sidelines for Fox Sports' Pac-10 and Big 12 college football and basketball games. Her credentials?

Guess.

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Talkbacks

sandstorm | March 29, 2012 at 9:01 a.m. (report)

crazy. and very ironic. you spend an entire piece breaking down her looks while talking about how they shouldn't matter. it's Visser's face, thus Visser's decision. just as you decided to be bald. if you respect Visser you would respect her choice and not whine about it for two pages.

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