THE NEW “SPORTSWRITERS ON TV”
The last quarter of the 20th century didn’t do much for the image of the American sportswriter.
Walter Mathau and Jack Klugman were brilliant in creating a humorous caricature with their portrayals of Oscar Madison in Neil Simon’s classic “The Odd Couple”, giving sportswriters the image of lovable slobs who’s bank accounts were constantly depleted in support of their efforts to cash in on their sports prowess at the betting window. In 1985, long before the sports cable television industry flexed it’s, now, massive muscles, an experiment in sports television debuted in Chicago. “The Sportswriters on T-V” came with all the stereotypes secure, the fedora hat, the smoking cigar and the open collar more prominent on the set than the necktie that would eventually give the sportswriters a more civilized look.
Blending the inner city, Brooklyn-ese “Dees, dems and does” of the era with more eloquent insights that came from their access to the various beats, such veterans as Bill Jauss, Bill Gleason and Rick Tegarden engaged in round table discussions of sports not unlike those that could be heard on any barstool in any neighborhood pub, under the guiding hand of moderator Ben Bentley. It was an inside look at the smoke filled press rooms of the dingy arenas of the early days of the profession.
Sportswriters have come a long way since those days, often covering their assignments in ties and jackets, and cable sports television has taken quantum leaps. Now CBS, through it’s CBS Sports Network, is taking a bold step, bringing the “Sportswriters on T-V” genre full circle.
Over the years I’ve enjoyed the company of, and compelling conversation with, many female sports reporters in press rooms and press boxes around the world and the guys with the fedoras and cigars have nothing on the women who absorb a beat and lay it out in layman’s terms that make for easy, entertaining and informative reading or discussion. Anyone who’s ever engaged Leslie Visser, for years the belle of the national basketball beat, Lori Riley, Donna Tomelleo, Linda Cone, Christine Brennan, Jackie McMullen or any of the hundreds of women sports reporters in pre game conversation, or picked their brains for in game insights, knows that for far too long they suffered from their own unfair stereotype. To paraphrase the PGA Tour, “These girls are good”.
This fall CBS Sports Network will complete the facelift of “The Sportswriters on T-V” with a sports discussion show called “We Need To Talk”, featuring Visser, Tracy Wolfson, Allie LaForce and Amy Trask. If you want an angle on sports that comes no holds barred with no issue left unturned, this show is sure to have it. For any true sports fan this will be must see T-V.
With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.