10 greatest female sportscasters of all time

November 29, 2011

Erin Andrews didn't make the cut, but she certainly isn't far behind.

As with breaking into any male-dominated field, women who’ve aspired to become sportscasters have been forced to endure sexism, chauvinism, and a glass ceiling that has prevented many of them from reaching their full potential. Even still, they’ve come a long way in a relatively short period of time, as this generation has been the first and most accepting of their presence in the studios, on the sidelines, and in the booth. Since Phyllis George became a co-host on CBS’s popular NFL pregame show The NFL Today in 1974, many other talented women have followed in her footsteps, demonstrating their knack for broadcasting and love for sports. Below are 10 of the best.

1. Lesley Visser

No woman in sports broadcasting has a more extensive resume than Visser. During her illustrious career of almost four decades covering sports, she has reported from the Super Bowl, Olympics, World Series, NBA Finals, Final Four, US Open (tennis), and Triple Crown. She was perhaps most visible on Monday Night Football, where she worked the sidelines, complementing the legendary trio of Al Michaels, Frank Gifford, and Dan Dierdorf. In 2006, she became the first woman to receive the Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award for her “longtime exceptional contributions to radio and television in professional football,” one of the many firsts she has accomplished.

2. Hannah Storm

Fans of the NBA are certainly familiar with Storm, who hosted the NBA on NBC from 1997 to 2002, and ESPN’s NBA pregame show for the past five years. Her other hosting duties have included the Olympics, World Series, Wimbledon, Notre Dame football, and now, Sportscenter. She holds the distinction of being the first play-by-play woman for the WNBA, a league that has ushered many other talented women into broadcasting. A respected interviewer, she has sat down with important people such as President George W. Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and Senator Barack Obama.

3. Gayle Gardner

According to a Sports Illustrated interview with Gardner in 1991, she got her first job because she hired herself and second job because someone died — as a female attempting to enter the field in the 1970s, she needed all the help she could get. Working her way up the broadcasting ranks, she was hired by ESPN in 1983, where she anchored Sportscenter. She joined NBC in 1987, co-hosting NFL Live alongside Bob Costas and Ahmad Rashad, and Major League Baseball: An Inside Look, NBC’s pregame show for its baseball Game of the Week coverage. In 1993, she became the first woman to deliver television play-by-play for an MLB game, calling a matchup between the Cincinnati Reds and Colorado Rockies.

4. Andrea Kremer

With two Emmy Awards in her trophy case, Kremer remains one of the most high profile women in sports broadcasting. You name it, she’s covered it — including two decades-worth of Super Bowls. Before the 2011 NFL season, she served as the sideline reporter for NBC’s Sunday Night Football, working with Al Michaels and John Madden or Chris Collinsworth. Earlier in her career, she gained experience on HBO’s Inside the NFL and several ESPN programs, including Sportscenter and Sunday NFL Countdown. She has been recognized by several respected publications, including the Los Angeles Time, as an ace interviewer, a component of her skill set that has enabled her to ascend to some of sports broadcasting’s most prominent positions.

5. Robin Roberts

A standout basketball player during her heyday at small Southeastern Louisiana University, Roberts, more than anything, desired to launch a career in journalism. After she graduated, she bounced around the South as a sports reporter and anchor before landing a job at ESPN. When she wasn’t hosting Sportscenter or calling major women’s basketball games, she was contributing to ABC News and Good Morning America. In 2007, she made it public that she was battling breast cancer. Showing her courage and strength, she continued to work on Good Morning America after her surgery and through her chemotherapy treatment, wearing a wig to cover her cleanly shaven head.

6. Mary Carillo

Carillo’s tennis career highlight was winning the 1977 French Open mixed doubles with John McEnroe, her future colleague at NBC. Her knees couldn’t withstand the stress from the professional tennis circuit, however, and she immediately started a new career in broadcasting in 1980, joining the USA Network. Primarily covering tennis, she has worked for ESPN, HBO, Turner Sports, CBS, and the aforementioned NBC, notably offering her insight on Wimbledon and US Open telecasts. Although she has routinely been named the sport’s best commentator by respected tennis publications, she has demonstrated her talent in other areas, covering the Olympics and working as a correspondent on HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.

7. Michele Tafoya

Few sports broadcasters are as versatile and dedicated as Tafoya, which was most apparent on Christmas Day 2006 when she covered both the Lakers-Heat game and Jets-Dolphins game on Monday Night Football. The NFL and NBA were her two highest profile assignments during her almost decade-long tenure at ESPN, but she also was given an opportunity to express her opinion on Pardon the Interruption and ESPN radio’s Mike Tirico Show. Currently, she serves as the sideline reporter for Sunday Night Football, a position she assumed this season after previously reducing her workload to spend time with her family.

8. Phyllis George

George was the first highly visible female sportscaster. The former Miss America worked with legends Brent Musburger, Irv Cross, and Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder, conducting personal interviews and providing feature stories on newsmakers from the NFL. Her warm, comforting style was appreciated by the athletes with whom she chatted, enabling her to secure one-on-ones with guys outside of football such as Muhammad Ali and Reggie Jackson. Following her sportscasting career, she continued doing what she does best, interviewing important people outside the world of sports such as First Lady Nancy Reagan and President Bill Clinton.

9. Pam Oliver

During an interview for the book Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN, Oliver admitted to never having a boyfriend while she worked ESPN — yes, she’s that dedicated to her craft. Her brief stint with The Worldwide Leader prepared her for her years as a sideline reporter for Fox, a position she’s held since 1995. Always a good source of information, she never deviates from the game at hand, recognizing that football is ultimately why everyone is tuning in — not something many of her peers inside and outside the booth understand.

10. Bonnie Bernstein

Just 41 years old, Bernstein has a lifetime of broadcasting experience. She secured a job with ESPN at 25, and joined CBS at 28 as the network’s lead sideline reporter during its coverage of the NCAA tournament. From 1998 to 2005, she alternated between feature reporter for The NFL Today and sideline reporter for the network’s No. 2 announcing team. The pinnacle of her career came when she covered Super Bowls XXV and XXXVIII, assuming double-duty as she also worked as a correspondent for CBS Sports/Westwood One Radio. She rejoined ESPN in 2006, and in 2009, joined the The Michael Kay Show in New York.

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