Visser gets TV scoop on Lewis
By SHARON GINN
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 27, 2001
Ray Lewis wanted to talk about only one thing this week ("Football. Football. Football."), but CBS reporter Lesley Visser said he spoke about more than that during her interview with him, segments of which will air Sunday.
Lewis has been condemned for his seemingly callous attitude toward the families of the two men stabbed to death a year ago, an incident that resulted in a murder charge against Lewis that eventually was dropped. But in her interview with him a week ago in Baltimore, Visser said Lewis showed concern for, in his words, "the two dead guys and their grieving families."
"I think viewers will see something different that they certainly didn't see on the podium," she said. "He showed a recognition that there were two victims, one of which was not Ray Lewis. He did show some self-awareness."
Persuading Lewis to talk one-on-one was not easy, but for Visser such scoops are nothing new. After 24 years covering the NFL -- first with the Boston Globe, then CBS, ABC and now CBS again -- Visser, 47, has many friends on all sides of the business.
She is working her second straight Super Bowl, almost unheard of in broadcasting. The reason is somewhat painful: She was a sideline reporter for ABC's Monday Night Football for two seasons before being dropped in June as part of producer Don Ohlmeyer's housecleaning.
Visser was on her way to Paris to clear her mind -- and avoid the dozens of reporters, many of them friends, who were seeking comment -- when she noticed CBS president Les Moonves on the same plane. He offered her a job on the spot. "It was kind of a tumultuous way to get here, but it worked out great," she said.
Visser is highly regarded for her connections. But she said they also can be embarrassing: She baby-sat for Giants starting fullback Greg Comella when he was 2. (Comella was her college boyfriend's godson.)
"The one thing I really know more than anything," she said, "is you have to have a sense of humor."
LION LOW: He's usually among the more affable and accessable personalities in broadcasting, but new Lions president Matt Millen is doing his best Greta Garbo impression this week. He is working the game for Westwood One/CBS Radio Sports alongside Howard David and Boomer Esiason -- his last appearance as a member of the media, at least for now -- but is saving his commentary for Sunday.
Millen flew into town a day earlier than planned Thursday to introduce new Lions coach Marty Mornhinweg to the media but is doing no one-on-one interviews to discuss anything as benign as making the transition to Detroit's front office. Meanwhile, analysts everywhere are salivating over Millen's vacant jobs -- both with CBS Radio and Fox Sports, where he was the No. 2 NFL analyst behind John Madden (whom everybody figures has to retire sometime).
Millen has had reasons to keep a low profile. Though he is a credentialed member of the media, he reportedly had been considering the Giants' and Ravens' defensive coordinators for the top Lions job, so both teams banned him from practices that were open to the media.
DID YOU KNOW?: Among them, the CBS Radio team has appeared in nine Super Bowls, a record for a broadcast team: Millen four, Esiason one, reporter John Dockery one and reporter James Lofton three.
Today's Super Bowl story lineup