Today is January 29 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you cross the street when the sign says, ‘don’t walk’? Sometimes navigating the chaos and practicing the art of living well involves, well, not doing the right thing. As the oft quoted axiom goes “sometimes doin' the right thing ain't doin' the right thing." While navigating the chaos and practicing the art of living well, sometimes you may have to cross the street when the sign says, ‘don’t walk,’ and at that point in time, doing the right thing is not doing the right thing. (Of course, you want to make sure no cars are coming!) How comfortable you are crossing the street when the sign says, ‘don’t walk’?
Lesley Candace Visser had to cross the street when the sign said ‘don’t walk’ to become the first female NFL analyst on TV, and the only sportscaster in history (male or female) who has worked on Final Four, NBA Finals, World Series, Triple Crown, Monday Night Football, the Olympics, the Super Bowl, the World Figure Skating Championships, and the U.S. Open network broadcasts. Visser, who was voted the No. 1 Female Sportscaster of all-time in a poll taken by the American Sportscasters Association, was elected to the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association's Hall of Fame in 2015.
When Lesley was 11, she told her mother that she wanted to be a sportswriter. The job didn’t exist for women in 1964, but her mother—instead of suggesting she become a teacher or a nurse—replied, "Great! Sometimes you have to cross when it says, 'Don’t walk.'"That answer changed Lesley’s life. Even though no one had done it before, it gave her the strength and self-confidence to try—permission to cross against the light. Her mother’s advice would eventually become the title of Visser’s 2017 autobiography Sometimes You Have to Cross When It Says Don't Walk: A Memoir of Breaking Barriers.
When Visser began her career, press box credentials often stated "No Women or Children allowed" but she did not let that stop her as she covered sports for more than 40 years, pioneering women’s journalistic presence in men’s professional sports, from inside the locker room to out on the field. But like so many other pioneers in their field, Visser was not the only woman who crossed the street when the sign read ‘don’t cross.’ Visser witnessed the work of fellow sports journalist Jeannie Morris who knocked down one barrier after another. Primarily based in Chicago, Morris covered various sports, including baseball and football, during a time in which women were not permitted in certain areas of sporting events. As an author, she wrote biographies on Brian Piccolo and Carol Moseley Braun, respectively, the latter of whom she followed as a reporter.
Morris was the first American woman to cover many areas of sports at a time when they had been exclusively reported on by men. The first woman to cover sports in any major American daily newspaper, her early byline in 1968 was required to be, "Mrs. Johnny Morris". Noted as the first woman to broadcast live from the Super Bowl in 1975, she won several television Emmy Awards for local reporting and in 2014 was the first woman to receive the Ring Lardner Award for excellence in sports reporting.
In his December 24, 2020 New York Times obituary "Jeannie Morris, Trailblazing Chicago Sportscaster, Dies, at 85,” Richard Sandomir detailed one example of what Morris had to go through to cross the street when the sign said, ‘don’t cross.’ In the visitors’ dugout in 1972 before a game at Comiskey Park in Chicago, Hall of Fame hitter Ted Williams, who was managing the Texas Rangers, ordered her out and said, “This is my dugout, get out of here, no women in my dugout.” Morris was quick to respond and claim her positing in the dugout telling Williams “This isn’t your dugout. It belongs to the Chicago White Sox, and they said I could be here. OK?” Sandomir noted “Such were the obstacles Ms. Morris faced as a rare woman in sports broadcasting in the early 1970s, before the hiring of women by networks and local stations became commonplace. But she ultimately found great success, becoming a prominent sportscaster in Chicago, and winning 12 Emmy Awards.
Upon reflecting on Morris’ life, Visser said “She was like iron under velvet. She wrote and produced most of her features, which was not the norm. She was spirited, in an easy way, but think of how strong she had to be.” How fitting that Visser used the phrase ‘iron under velvet’ to define the character, grace, and poise Morris maintained as she pioneered women in sports journalism. As you navigate the chaos and practice the art of living, reflect upon your ability to cross the street when the sign says, ‘don’t walk’ but also ask yourself if you can do so gracefully, like iron under velvet. Such an approach may help you practice the art of living well.