Beauty and brains

STEVE MacFARLANE -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:40 AM ET

It's not easy to be a female reporter roaming the sidelines.

Just ask Lisa Guerrero, whose beauty outweighed her live-TV talents two seasons ago on ABC's Monday Night Football -- her first and last.

Or ESPN's Suzy Kolber, who had to guide her interview with a drunk Joe Namath in 2003 beyond the intimate passes Namath was throwing her way.

Monday Night Football hired its first female in 1998, pairing longtime sports reporter Lesley Visser with Eric Dickerson on the sidelines. But replacements Melissa Stark and Guerrero were critically perceived by many as a marketing campaign -- hiring for beauty rather than broadcasting skills.

Michele Tafoya's resume, spanning more than a decade with CBS and ESPN, suggests that has changed.

"All I know is it was a shock for me, a surprise, and it's something you don't even think about," said Tafoya, who became the first female keynote speaker at last night's Fifth Quarter Association's 22nd annual Dino Dinner at the Hyatt Regency Hotel.

"You just say 'yeah, I'll take the job.' "

ABC is now letting steamy intros -- like the one featuring a towel-dropping Nicollette Sheridan seducing Eagles star Terrell Owens -- rather than their personnel decisions, take the heat from critics.

"I was surprised by the backlash," Tafoya said of last season's most talked about segment.

"I was not personally offended by it. I can understand how some people may have been but I have a sense of humour about things like that.

"I thought it was funny."

That incident somehow enticed Internet bookmakers to place odds on whether or not Sheridan would take over for Tafoya as a sideline reporter.

That was news to Tafoya.

"I haven't heard that but I would venture a guess there are Internet sites betting on just about everything out there," she said with a laugh.

"I think she's doing quite well on Desperate Housewives. I don't think she needs my job."

Tafoya can sympathize with her colleagues and has had experiences similar to Kolber's now infamous interview with Namath.

"I felt bad for her," said Tafoya. "I still do because I'm afraid that's what everyone's always going to remember her for."

As for what Tafoya will be remembered for, she hopes it's her talent and not her fashion sense.

"Because it's a prime-time show, it's sort of an entertainment show within a sports event," she said.

"People are looking more at what you're wearing and what earrings you have on and what your hair looks like.

"I think it's women in TV across the board. You sign up for that, you know that going in and you just roll with it."


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