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?

(page 2)

My point is not to denigrate Collins or Steele. My point is to highlight how much television executives value "pretty" over everything else. In time, it is certainly possible that both Collins and Steele will develop into outstanding broadcasters, but almost none of us are right out of college.

No one is network-worthy the day after we don our caps and gowns. We have to learn our craft and hone our skills in the Rhinelander's and Eau Claire's of the world first. We have to get our early mistakes out of the way (because we all make them) before being shoved out onto the stage for all to see.

Many years ago a television consultant told me that my chin was too weak, my hair was too thin, and acne scars from my youth were too deep to ever make it on television. Unfortunately, to a certain extent he was right. That was the reason I decided to concentrate on a radio and writing career. It is easy to hide behind a touched-up still photo, after all.

That is the case for most journalists; only a select few have both the looks and chops to pull off being a respected on-camera personality. Certainly no one will ever make the charge that I got on television because of my looks.

The same can be said of Lesley Visser, although she never had anything to apologize for in that area either. Her brains and charm demanded that she be respected in her field. Combining her looks with her talent demanded she become a fixture in our living rooms.

However, just as father time was catching up to her and the winds of change began slowly blowing out the Andrea Kramer's and Bonnie Bernstein's in favor of the younger models they once were themselves, Visser apparently decided to try fight the clock.

She lost.

But here is the real tragedy: we all lost. We lost one of the most competent reporters in sports as she fell into the pressure of trying to capture time. We lost the graceful aging of one of the most gifted and intelligent performers the medium of television has ever known.

You could ask why have we lost her if she is still on television covering major sporting events? It's simple. We lost because her appearance has become jolting in its transparency. We lost her because the first reaction (in an unscientific poll of people that I asked) about her is not the content of her words, but the obvious plastic surgery that she has undergone.

We all age. Father time will get everyone eventually. The calendar is supposed to insure we all get wrinkles and gain a little weight here and there. And no matter the gender, if you have substance that is what should win out over everything.

In journalism, experienced men are revered. Tom Brokaw, Bob Scheiffer, and Mike Wallace are some of the most respected television journalists still alive today, and they are all well beyond traditional retirement age. For crying out loud, even Andy Rooney worked into his 90s.

In sports, portly Chris Berman has enjoyed a great deal of popularity. Aged baseball broadcasters such as Vin Scully and Bob Uecker are deities in their home cities and thought of as both local and national treasures. Dan Patrick falls into the mode of television star with the perfectly coiffed hair, but he regularly pokes fun at himself because of it.

But who are the most popular female sportscasters? Right now, Erin Andrews is the national gold standard. And while Andrews has model-good looks, she has also worked hard on her craft and does her homework. In Milwaukee, Trenni Kusnierek and Jen Lada are the most recognizable female sportscasters, followed by Stephanie Sutton and Jessie Garcia.

Thankfully, they all have substance that backs their good looks up.

Kusnierek has worked television at the local and national level and now co-anchors Milwaukee's signature sports radio program on WTMJ-AM. Talk baseball with her some time. You won't walk away unimpressed.

As for Lada, I had the honor of spending three Packers seasons on the same television desk as her on the Fox 6 Blitz!. Like Kusnierek, she knows her stuff. Lest anyone tell you that Lada is spoon-fed her material by a producer in an earpiece as the show goes on, I can personally attest that she comes into that broadcast with six or seven pages of hand-written notes that she took herself from that day's Packers game.

While you might not always agree with her viewpoints, I assure you they are hers and hers alone, not some magical Oz' from behind the curtain you cannot see.

My hope is that we will evolve as a sports consuming public to the point that today's female sportscasters are allowed to earn a few wrinkles and resist the urge to try to find the fountain of youth in a scalpel. For as much as we want to stay 28 forever, life just doesn't work that way.

Wrinkles are okay. Crow's feet around the eyes only prove that you have seen a lot of things. Credibility of experience should be respected and even honored.

Unfortunately in the case of the brilliant Lesley Visser, while time was supposed to just stand still, it is only now magnified.

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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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