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Roberts A Role Model To Many

Jason Barrett

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When Robin Roberts first appeared on air as a small-market sportscaster in the mid-1980s, she was sure she could “feel beer cans pelting the TV sets.”

The only drinks in the air Monday will be respectful toasts for a pioneer in sports broadcasting. That’s when Arizona State University presents Roberts with the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism at a downtown Phoenix hotel.

She is an ideal recipient.

To the dismay of curmudgeons who wanted to take the “broad” out of broadcasting, she persevered. To the delight of viewers who took the time to pay attention, she delivered sports news with an approachable style and professional air.

She paved the way for the underrepresented in sports journalism with asphalt made of integrity and concrete shaped by determination.

She is the personification of her ESPN catchphrase, “Go on with your bad self!”

Many know Roberts, 53, as an anchor for ABC’s “Good Morning America.” My female peers and I remember her most for her work in sports. As we navigated challenging moments early in our careers, her poise and voice of authority on national TV was the nudge we needed to forge ahead.

“My earliest memories were (broadcasters) Phyllis George and Jayne Kennedy,” Roberts said. “I had great admiration for them, but I didn’t want to be stuck talking to the coaches’ wives. I wanted to be Brent Musburger.”

Amen.

For all the advancements women in sports journalism have made, challenges remain. It took until last week for an all-women sports talk show to appear on TV: “We Need to Talk” on the CBS Sports Network. Intriguing concept, dumb title.

Fingers are still wagging over Fox Sports’ decision to remove respected reporter Pam Oliver, 53, from her NFL sideline gig and replace her with Erin Andrews, who is 17 years younger. Many saw the move as confirmation that ageism is alive and well for women in sports broadcasting.

At least we are a far cry from the pre-Roberts era, when networks gave pageant contestants (George, Kennedy) first crack at sports broadcasting jobs.

Roberts pursued the route because she was crazy about sports.

She grew up in Mississippi, the daughter of a Tuskegee Airman. She passed up a basketball scholarship offer from Louisiana State, preferring the more intimate setting of Southeastern Louisiana. After a standout basketball career, she graduated cum laude and followed the path of her sister, Sally-Ann, who worked as an anchor at a TV station in New Orleans.

In 1983, she landed a job as a sports anchor and reporter in Hattiesburg, Miss., making $5.50 an hour. She was giddy.

No one wanted a woman sports broadcaster in the deep South but news was a four-letter word to me,” she said. “I was just so passionate about sports.”

A year later, she took a job in Biloxi and two years after that in Nashville. She was grateful for the opportunities but admits she tired of the hearing station managers say they were “taking a chance” on her.

“Taking a chance? Really?” she said laughing. “I graduated with honors. I was an athlete. C’mon.”

She also was a woman. An African-American one. Doors weren’t exactly flying open in the sports broadcasting world.

While in Nashville, ESPN courted her. A rumor circulated that a rival Nashville station had sent tape of her work to Bristol to get the talented sportscaster out of the market.

ESPN was just seven years old and still figuring out its identity. Roberts wasn’t sold and said no. It came back three years later with better ideas and she made the jump.

That was good news for all of us. It gave her a bigger stage and helped a skeptical audience warm up to the idea of female sports journalists.

Viewers liked her. She was knowledgeable. Prepared.

“People can sniff out an imposter,” she said.

Roberts never was. That’s why she lasted 15 years with the same company in a business that rarely delivers employee longevity. When ABC News and “Good Morning America” came calling, she said, no, several times.

“I love sports,” she said. “It’s part of my DNA.”

Only when close friend and former tennis great Billie Jean King delivered a “Moonstruck”-like “snap out of it'” moment and pushed her toward the bigger stage did she go.

She made the most of it and was promoted from “Good Morning America” reporter to anchor.

To read the rest of the story visit AZCentral where it was originally published

Sports Radio News

Andrew Fillipponi: Peter Burns Made ‘Innocuous Joke’ To Ben Watson

“So wait a minute? Because you believe in Jesus Christ you care about your wife more than other people? What are you talking about?”

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The on-air spat between SEC Network host Peter Burns and analyst Ben Watson continues to be bandied about in sports media circles, with 93.7 The Fan hosts Andrew Fillipponi and Chris Mueller discussing the topic Tuesday.

“I’m on Team Burns,” Fillipponi said.

“Forget who’s team you’re on,” Chris Mueller said. “I think you’ve do have to keep the wives and children out of this.”

“What are you talking about, keep the wives and out of it?!,” Fillipponi asked.

“Do we believe this is work or shoot here?,” Mueller wondered.

“Oh, I think this is real,” Fillpponi added, which Mueller agreed.

“Do you think a close fist from Ben Watson hit Peter Burns?,” Mueller asked.

“No, I think he picked him up by the lapels,” Fillipponi said.

When the subject of Watson’s religion was brought up, Fillipponi then pointed out the absurdity of the situation.

“So wait a minute? Because you believe in Jesus Christ you care about your wife more than other people? What are you talking about?”

“I think he might have a shorter fuse and not taking in humor that Peter Burns was giving out,” Mueller said.

“It was an innocuous joke!,” Fillipponi stated. “It wasn’t a joke! Why is it in bad taste?”

Mueller then added the idea of Watson’s wife texting Burns insinuates there’s an inappropriate relationship.

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Sports Radio News

Craig Carton: Booger McFarland’s Zach Wilson Analysis ‘An Embarrasment’

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Craig Carton

ESPN NFL analyst Booger McFarland raised eyebrows on Monday Night Countdown this week by saying New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson has never been held accountable for his actions because he was a “young man who grew up with a lot of money”. WFAN afternoon host Craig Carton called out McFarland’s comments Tuesday as outlandish.

“It was an embarrasment,” Carton said. “Someone should ask Booger McFarland if his kids — who grew up with amazing wealth — have accountability in their lives or if having a little bit of money in your pocket immediately discounts the possibility to have accountability. He’s an idiot and we learned that last night.”

“It’s funny that Steve Young was on the other side of it,” Evan Roberts noted. “Because a long time ago, Steve Young criticized Chris Simms because he’s the son of a famous quarterback.”

“You don’t have to invent reasons for why Zach Wilson isn’t playing well,” added Carton. “Just watch his tape. He’s not playing well. Maybe he’s just not good!”

Carton later said NFL reporters “will try to make a name for themselves by putting out a story” about quarterbacks who take responsibility for their teams failures, while Wilson wouldn’t accept the blame.

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Sports Radio News

Greg Hill: Ben Watson, Peter Burns Drama Was A Bit

“Be careful when you’re talking about somebody’s wife and their kids. ‘Cause not everybody jokes the same way.”

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Peter Burns and Ben Watson shared an awkward exchange during the halftime show of an SEC Network football game over the weekend, and many are still debating whether Watson walking off the set was serious or not. Count part of the cast of The Greg Hill Show on WEEI as doubters.

“That was a a bit,” Courtney Cox said. “That was absolutely a bit.”

“Yeah, unlike the Chris Rock/Will Smith thing, I assume that was a bit,” Hill said. “I can’t believe that Ben Watson is really angry about that.”

“I dunno, man. There’s been a lot of speculation that it isn’t,” Jermaine Wiggins added. “There are people who are very sensitive about you clowning on them or joking with them. Especially with joking about their wife. Some people can’t handle jokes like that.”

After a back-and-forth with Cox about the legitimacy of the joke, Wiggins concluded by saying for some folks family is off limits.

“I’ve learned something in my 47 years on this Earth: be careful when you’re talking about somebody’s wife and their kids. ‘Cause not everybody jokes the same way.”

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